By Jeffrey Schaub

Sonoma County (KCBS) — For increasingly cramped residents of the Bay Area and beyond, the still relatively cheap and open spaces of Sonoma County have a big appeal. And the numbers prove it.

For the first time ever the Sonoma County population hit the half million mark, making it one of the fastest growing counties in California. The county is up 16 thousand people in the last five years.

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Some driving factors are the fact that new post-recession jobs are plentiful and families can find homes that seem reasonably priced compared to what people are paying in San Francisco and the South Bay.

Cynthia Murray, executive director of the North Bay Leadership Council says Santa Rosa is leading the growth. “It is probably going to be the largest city in the North Bay and therefore it will become a hub for various things where most kinds of businesses want to locate,” said Murray.

Right now, people who identify as white make up the largest part of the population at 67%. Hispanics are the fastest growing group. They account for a quarter of the population boom.

The Press Democrat reports, the area is also attracting people from outside the state. Nearly three fourths of the area’s newcomers were from other parts of the United States. Only one in four were from another country, according to the Press Democrat.

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A baby boom related to the area’s economic uptick is also a factor.