More than 1,600 people moved out of Harford County between July 1, 2006 and July 1, 2008, according to the state's analysis.

Goldstein said more rural parts of the state such as the Eastern Shore experienced a similar growth pattern during the boom and crash years.

"When the recession hit, that migration was severely reduced or even shut down, so this pattern is not unique to Harford," he said.

Growth in a recession


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Despite the 2007-2009 recession and the sluggish national recovery, Harford County has still attracted home builders, and the median household income has increased from $69,549 in 2006 to $76,645, according to the state's latest population analysis.

"We're growing steadily, but again, at a lower rate," Rooney, of the county planning department, said.

Also, while school enrollment countywide dropped by more than 1,200 students from 2007 to 2013, according to Harford County Public Schools data, development in selected areas of the county, such as greater Bel Air, has continued to where some schools were considered over capacity.

The county can curtail development in school districts where the student population exceeds 110 percent of a school's state-rated capacity, such as the Hickory Elementary School attendance area in recent years.

Development has been cleared for the Hickory Elementary district as of the fall of 2013, as the enrollment is at 105 percent of capacity for the current school year and is projected to decline below 100 percent of capacity by the 2016-2017 school year. Last year, the Hickory district was under moratorium for new subdivision approvals.

"All 33 elementary schools in Harford County currently meet established adequacy standards," county planning officials stated in an amendment to the county's 2012 Annual Growth Report.

The county's 18 middle and high schools also meet the "adequacy standards," according to the report, meaning they are within the 105 percent enrollment threshold.

Rooney said the BRAC process, which lasted from 2005 to 2011, brought about 8,000 new workers to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Harford County's largest employer and one of the largest employers in the state.

He said other major commercial entities such as a Kohl's distribution center in the Edgewood area have also helped bolster job and population growth.

Rooney noted the other amenities in Harford County have kept people interested, including the "excellent" public school system, the proximity to Baltimore and the I-95 corridor, the opportunity to live in a rural or urban setting, as well as "relatively reasonable" housing prices.

"Compared to Baltimore County, I think we're still affordable," he said.