1 million and counting in Mecklenburg Co.

1 million and counting in Mecklenburg Co.

1 million and counting in Mecklenburg Co.


by MARK WASHBURN / The Charlotte Observer


Posted on September 13, 2013 at 6:57 AM

Today, you’re one in a million.

That’s the calculation of Andrew Bowen, research wonk of the Charlotte Chamber, who figured that Mecklenburg County would welcome its 1 millionth resident sometime Thursday.

Based on annual growth rates from the Census Bureau, Bowen has calculated that Mecklenburg adds 72 new residents a day through people moving in or having babies vs. the people who move away or die.

As the figure ticked toward a million, Bowen did the math and declared that Sept. 12, 2013, would be the day. Statistically speaking, anyway. Nobody’s counting heads.

In joining the ranks of million-member counties, Mecklenburg arrives at No. 42, bottom of the list, behind St. Louis County and ahead of suburban New York’s Westchester County.

“People are coming here for a reason,” says Bowen. “It’s a great place to live and raise a family. It’s near recreation.”

And jobs. People love to come for jobs. In the first six months of the year, new job growth in Mecklenburg was 6,999.

You couldn’t get it up to a simple 7,000?

“I did everything I could,” says Bowen. “I couldn’t get one more.”

Mecklenburg County was formed in 1762 when King George III was still collecting the taxes. It can be reliably said that not much happened on the growth front until the 1850s, when the railroads came through. That was the spark that set us on the track to a million.

In the decade of the 1850s, Mecklenburg grew 25 percent, to 17,374. In the following decade, despite the disruption of the Civil War, Mecklenburg surged nearly 40 percent to 24,299.

“It’s been growing steadily since the railroads came,” says Tom Hanchett, historian at the Levine Museum of the New South. “It’s both a blessing and a stress. Our big challenge is creating a true community in this city and county.”

More people means more demand on schools, highways and other services. Traffic is a common complaint, particularly for those who commute from Mecklenburg’s margins. Among the artifacts in Hanchett’s museum, fittingly, is an orange road construction barrel (the devices were actually invented here).

But for a day, let’s put growing pains aside and just celebrate our bigness.

“A million is a figure that gets you noticed on the national and international stage,” says Hanchett. “It’s an important milestone for this region.”

An aspirational place

Let’s review our bragging rights.

• Fulton County, Ga., has a big town called Atlanta. Fulton County only has 949,599 residents. Keep in mind that Georgia counties are itty bitty things, but we’re still more populous.

• Our cross-state rival, Wake County, counts 952,151 residents. It has a city called Raleigh, which is a suburb of Cary. Wake is expected to actually pass Mecklenburg in population in the next five years, but Wake County cheats. It is a bloated 857 square miles; Mecklenburg is a svelte 546.

• Mecklenburg’s median annual income is $55,994, about the same as the nation’s most populous county, Los Angeles, at $56,266.

• United Van Lines does an annual study of the most popular destinations for its moving vans. Mecklenburg is No. 8.

• Livability.com likes us, too. It ranks Imaginon as the nation’s No. 1 children’s library.

• Our average commute to work is 25 minutes, only two minutes more than the state average. Yes, this number includes people from Matthews.

• A study by UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute of the 65,000 newcomers to Mecklenburg in 2010 found that 65 percent moved here from outside North Carolina. About a third of those moved from elsewhere in the South, about a fourth came from the Northeast, and a fifth moved from another country entirely. This explains why at any game, so many people are cheering for the opponents.

Who was No. 1 million?

Bowen’s population noodlings do not set an exact hour that we crossed the 1 million mark.

It could have been the people with that moving van down the street, or maybe the couple that rented that apartment nearby. Or even the stork.

By Thursday afternoon, Carolinas Medical Center reported a harvest of 28 new babies at its Mecklenburg campuses and Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center registered 14.

Novant’s hospitals play a soft lullaby over the intercoms whenever a new Mecklenburger arrives, and it played one for A’Marie Danyale Nelson, who arrived at 3:16 a.m. at 7 pounds, 4 ounces. She’s a candidate for Miss One Million.

A’Marie is a native of Mecklenburg, a rare breed – less than half our population was even born in North Carolina. Her mom, Charissa Tucker, 26, is a more typical resident. She came from Atlanta in 2008 because her family had moved here. She went on to get a degree at Central Piedmont Community College in business.

So which is better? Atlanta or Charlotte?

“They’re kind of the same to me,” said Tucker.

We thank Tucker for her 20 hours of labor, which brought A’Marie into our circle. Per her father’s wishes, she will be raised as a devout L.A. Lakers fan.

So welcome, A’Marie. You’re definitely one in a million.



32% How much Mecklenburg County’s population rose between 2000 and 2010. State average was 18 percent; national was 10 percent.

1,684.58 Number of people per square mile in Mecklenburg. The state average is 177.18, and the national average is 81.32.

52% Portion of Mecklenburg population who are women.

35 Median age of women.

33 Median age of men.

13% Percentage of Mecklenburg residents who have master’s, doctorate or professional degrees. Statewide, the average is 9 percent, and nationally, it’s 10 percent.

2,300,000  Population of Charlotte’s metropolitan statistical area, which includes surrounding counties. That ranks 23rd in the nation. Raleigh’s MSA is 47th at 1.2 million.