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Census Shows NC Still Growing

The 2010 Census numbers are out for North Carolina.  It’s no surprise – we’re still growing. There are now 9-point-5 million people living in the state – an increase of 18-point-5-percent. Metropolitan areas including Charlotte, Raleigh, Winston-Salem and Wilmington witnessed tremendous growth this past decade.  Experts say the latest numbers show North Carolina is becoming increasingly more urban and metropolitan. 

The 2010 Census shows the biggest communities in the state – have gotten bigger since 2000. And the capital city of Raleigh and surrounding Wake County is one of the top examples of this tremendous growth.  Numbers released yesterday show the city of Raleigh grew by 46-percent and now has more than 400-thousand residents. Wake County swelled by 43-point-5 percent. Jim Johnson is the director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center at Kenan-Flagler Business School at U-N-C. He’s also co-author of the report – “Six Disruptive Demographic Trends – What Census 2010 Will Reveal.” Johnson says the parts of the state that experienced major growth are MAGNETS for growth.

" Major universities, major employers, major hospitals. We know that we are a destination in NC for retirees. It’s the mix and combination of things that exist in our urban and metropolitan centers."

And when it started getting tight in Raleigh – the county grew.  Just take a look around – houses, schools, malls and other businesses where groves of trees once stood. A group of women are exercising after work in the Apex Community Center – behind the town hall.  None of this was here in 2000. The new facility opened in 2001. Lauren Simmons is in the dance class.  She’s a planner for Apex and moved here in 2008 from Florida.

"I knew that I would have to look outside the state for employment opportunities and I really wanted to live in a metro area. And as a planner you can really work in a variety of communities with your degree so I was pretty happy to end up here in a growing metro area with a lot of opportunity."

Brendie Vega is also in the class – and is also a planner for Apex.  She moved from Michigan. She says being a planner for the city of Detroit was depressing.

"I was very jaded and felt like I needed to be in a growing population.  And so I actually looked at Phoenix and I looked at the Raleigh area and decided that the Raleigh area was closer to home."

Dianne Khin is the planning director for the Town of Apex.  She moved to Apex in 2000. And because of the growth – she doubled the number of planners – from two to four. Khin says from 1990 to 2000 – Apex grew by 300-percent. The town expects final 2010 numbers will show they still grew by 75-percent this decade. Khin says Apex is a REAL town now.

"It’s just the amount of shopping centers that we have – we had nothing back then.   It was like a couple of grocery stores and a couple of pharmacies and that was really it.  Now you can really shop for anything you can imagine that you would want to buy."

And she remembers when there was only one sit-down restaurant – Daniels – which she says is still here and still good.

Latest census numbers show the fastest growing ethnic group in the state continues to be the Hispanic and Latino population – growing by a whopping 111-percent.  That ethnic group now makes up 8-point-4-percent of the population. Whites make up close to 67-percent of the population and Blacks are 22-percent.  Johnson says all demographics experienced growth in 2010.

"All groups are flocking to North Carolina – immigrants, Hispanics, the elderly, African Americans in large numbers and whites. Snowbirds from New York, half-backs from Florida, we are the place, we’re the destination."

And thanks to national rankings in publications like Money, Forbes, Site Selection and the New York Times – people will be flocking here for a while. 

Click for more on North Carolina's U.S. Census figures

Leoneda Inge is WUNC’s race and southern culture reporter, the first public radio journalist in the South to hold such a position. She also is co-host of the podcast Tested and host of the special podcast series, PAULI. Leoneda is the recipient of numerous awards from AP, RTDNA and NABJ. She’s been a reporting fellow in Berlin and Tokyo. You can follow her on Twitter @LeonedaInge.
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