Fifty years later, it's a different story. Howard County is now home to about 313,000 people, thanks in large part to the growth of Columbia. The planned community may have brought more traffic and development, but it also brought a hospital, a premier community college, the mall and a concert pavilion. It's also been the economic engine that makes Howard County the best place to live, learn, work and play. Now, trying to imagine Howard County without Columbia is next to impossible.