Struggles with unemployment, banks and a housing market slump can’t keep people away from Charlotte — the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday ranked it one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.
From mid-2010 to mid-2011, Charlotte’s population increased by more than 19,600, ranking it ninth in gains in raw numbers among all cities nationwide.
The new statistics aren’t a surprise, said Tony Crumbley, the vice president of research for the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.
“We’ve grown through major recessions,” Crumbley said. “A lot of people didn’t move – people couldn’t move, couldn’t sell their homes – and this type of thing is an indication that people who are able to move are still choosing to move to Charlotte.”
He said the city’s high quality of life continues to attract newcomers.
“You can go to the mountains and you can go to the beach,” he said. “We’ve got it here.”
He also said the relatively low cost of living – which is 93 percent of the national average in Charlotte – helps.
Charlotte’s population now stands at 751,087, according to the Census Bureau estimates.
New York City, which led the country by adding nearly 70,000 new residents, was the only other city among the top 10 located on the East Coast. Thirteen of the 15 fastest-growing large cities (with a population of 50,000 or more) were in Texas.
Despite Charlotte’s numeric increase, several North Carolina cities grew at a faster pace. While Charlotte’s population increased nearly 2.7 percent from mid-2010 to mid-2011, Cary’s population increased 3.24 percent and Raleigh’s population increased 3.1 percent.
“Raleigh is an attractive place for young professionals,” said Jonathan Kozar, a research assistant at UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute, adding that the concentration of universities in that area and the Research Triangle Park are major attractors.
He said Charlotte attracts people with college degrees as well, but that the wealthy of Charlotte have given rise to a service industry that isn’t as strong in Raleigh.
Charlotte newcomers come in all stripes, said Owen Furuseth, UNC Charlotte’s associate provost of metropolitan studies and extended academic studies.
“I don’t think we can pigeonhole it and say there’s one stream coming into Charlotte,” Furuseth said. “It’s a very diverse stream of newcomers, which I think is good for the long-term growth of the city.”
That diverse stream of newcomers includes Latinos, domestically and internationally, which Furuseth said some researchers are calling “Hispanic hyper-growth.”
“It’s no longer just single men, but families who are coming here because of opportunities and quality of life,” he said.
At the same time, the sluggish economy has slowed the Latino influx overall, Kozar said.
Furuseth said a large number of college-educated Asians, both domestically and internationally, have been moving to Charlotte for job opportunities. Retiring African Americans whose families moved north during the Great Migration are another group appearing in Charlotte.
“People are coming back to their roots,” Furuseth said. “They’re coming back because they know (Charlotte) has a vibrant, large African American community they can be absorbed into.”
And there’s a big pull for young people.
“There really are not that many jobs considering the unemployment rate is relatively high,” Kozar said. “It’s not the booming town it was, but it’s still attractive, particularly for young people who are out of college and looking for new jobs. It’s an attractive place to live, and Charlotte won’t lose that.”
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