Coastal region has an opportunity

Published 1:44 am Tuesday, January 9, 2007

By Staff
If you hadn’t noticed, North Carolina is becoming a popular spot to live.
North Carolina had the highest inbound migration of any state last year according to a study done by United Van Lines, the nation’s largest mover. For every 100 people who moved, 64 were moving into the state vs. 36 percent who were moving out of the Tar Heel state.
Oregon was second with 62.5 percent, followed by South Carolina (60.6 percent), Nevada (59.9 percent) and Idaho (59.3 percent). The company handled 227,254 moves last year and has tracked the data since 1977.
On the outbound scale Michigan and North Dakota tied for the most outbound migration. Nearly two-thirds of all moves in both states — 66 percent — were people heading out. Other states with high outbound migration were New Jersey (60.9), New York (59.5) and Indiana (58.2).
The findings announced by Carl Walter, vice president of United Van Lines, did not seek to determine reasons for the migration patterns, according to a story released by the Associated Press. But Walter said the study is used by real-estate firms, financial institutions and others for business planning and analysis.
Growth is a double-edge sword. More people means more traffic and greater demands on the environment. The entire matrix of a community can change and the bigger the growth, the bigger the change. On the plus side, growth also brings in revenue and political clout. Money aside, newcomers bring a wealth of new ideas and new energy to a community.
The Inner Banks has seen its share of growth, but not nearly as much as some other areas of the state. Between 1990 and 2000, the Northeast Partnership, a group of 16 counties that includes Beaufort, Hyde, Martin and Washington, saw growth of 8 percent. The state as a whole grew by 21 percent. Growth in Research Triangle Park skyrocketed by 35 percent, from 1.1 million people to nearly 1.6 million in just 10 years. As of July, the state was home to an estimated 8.8 million people, a 10 percent increase in just six years. Compare that to just 5 million in 1970.
Raleigh is just one example of the massive growth in the state. Last summer, the metropolitan area passed the 1 million mark. A generation ago, in 1970, the region was home to 540,000 people. A generation from now, in 2020, the area will be home to 2 million people, larger than present-day Charlotte, San Antonio, Orlando and the New Orleans regions.
You don’t even need to look all the way to Raleigh. Pitt County saw an increase of 9,000 residents just between 2000 and 2005. Beaufort County grew by 1,100 people.
Slower growth in coastal North Carolina doesn’t isn’t a bad thing if you think about it. While the region has seen an increase, the headaches caused by rapid growth haven’t been nearly as bad as those in other regions. The question is: How long will the region remain a slow-growth area before people catch on to the great reasons to live here?
We have a window of opportunity here. We know growth is coming, but still have time to take steps to shape our future. We will grow, and that is good, but we can control how and where we grow and avoid the mistakes that other areas have not. It’s a big task and we will need good leaders with a vision for the future. Growth unchecked may kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Nobody wants to look around 20 years from now and see the quality of life we came here for no longer exists.
Eastern North Carolina’s political clout will be diminished as it becomes a smaller slice of the population pie, but our needs and our voices can’t go unnoticed. It is time that we embrace the times are changing. We should try to hang on to the best of old traditions while maintaining an open mind to new ideas.