Leave it to a historian to remind us how important it is to participate in the next census.

America will be undergoing its next census count in 2020, with preparations and work already well under way. All of us should fully participate.

The census is important for a wide range of reasons, and despite most of the headlines being centered around political interests and arguments, the count goes far beyond that.

Politicians debate who should and shouldn’t be included in the census because of the fight for power and representation. Many of the arguments are worthy of debate, many aren’t.

However, an accurate count also influences many other fields of interest, such as determining where health care dollars might be better spent, where highway funding could make a greater impact, where new restaurants and retail stores might locate in growing metropolitan statistical areas, where retirees are trending with their lifestyles, and so much more.

Alabama’s very beginning depended on a positive census count.

Steve Murray, director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, explained that during Thursday morning’s monthly Business Over Breakfast organized by the Opelika Chamber of Commerce.

“The 1818 Census was important for statehood,” Murray said, as Congress set a mark that must be reached before it would move the territory into becoming a new state, which finally occurred in December 1819.

Alabama is celebrating its bicentennial throughout the year, with a climax event planned for Dec. 14, the actual anniversary date, in Montgomery.

Just as an accurate census was important then, it remains so today to better solicit federal dollars and numerous other benefits from both private and government resources.

So, when the census-takers come to you…make it count.

Troy Turner is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He previously served as the news editor in New York for the nation's second largest newspaper company, and as the senior editor at several other news entities around the nation. He is an Auburn alum.

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