Brunswick among nation's fastest-growing counties

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SOUTHEASTERN N.C. | Once again, Brunswick County is among the nation's fastest­growing counties, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Brunswick County had a 10.6 percent growth rate in population between 2010 and 2014, from 107,431 people to 118,836, according to Census data. Nationwide, Brunswick's growth rate ranked 50 out of the top 100 counties for the four­year period. The list only includes counties with at least 10,000 people.

"We've been on this trend for a while," said Brunswick County Manager Ann Hardy.

 As a resident, Hardy sees the results – new businesses and restaurants opening up and new homes across the county.

"We're very fortunate to have a lot of folks coming from diverse areas – mainly the northeast – where we've got a lot of retirees coming to take advantage of the many leisure pastimes we offer as well as the great weather," Hardy said.

Brunswick is second among North Carolina counties that landed a spot on the nationwide list – Wake County was in the 46th spot – though Brunswick bested Harnett, Mecklenburg, Hoke, Durham, and Union counties.

Jim Bradshaw, executive director of the Brunswick County Economic Commission, hoped the news would boost efforts to snag new industry or business.

"When you get this type of publicity it helps us when we'retryingtorecruitlargerretaildevelopmentinthecounty," he said.

Apart from the nationwide list, Pender County had the 10th highest growth rate among North Carolina counties during the same period, according to the Carolina Population Center at UNC­Chapel Hill.

Pender's growth rate was 7.8 percent. Thepercentageiscalculatedbythechangeinpopulations between 2010 and 2014 in each county.

New Hanover County was not among the state's top 10 highest growth counties.

Regional growth

Overall, New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties grew by nearly 8,000 people in 2014, according to the Census Bureau.

The growth in the three counties last year represents 12 percent of North Carolina's total population growth of 95,047.

Based on the number of people born and that move here from elsewhere, New Hanover County is among the top 10 growth counties in North Carolina, according to an analysis produced by the State Data Center. That analysis compared all counties.

The other counties on the growth list surround other cities – Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Winston­Salem and Asheville.

New Hanover and Brunswick counties are also among the top 10 counties in the state with the largest number of outsiders moving in, according to the center's analysis.

Wilmington Chamber of Commerce President Connie Majure­Rhett reacted positively to the new figures.

"It's always good to be growing," Majure­Rhett said Thursday. "We certainly need to add to our worker base here."

Although she views the growth as positive, a larger population brings other issues involved in supporting the growth, she said.

More people means more traffic on the area's congested roads, for example. Continued growth could mean increased property tax revenue for local governments, but it also places more demand on services.

Growth elsewhere

South of Wilmington, the Myrtle Beach, S.C., metropolitan area was the second fastest­growing in the country last year, according to the Census Bureau.

After the 2010 U.S. Census, the federal government moved Brunswick County into the Myrtle Beach metro area – a change local officials protested.

Lookingintothefuturepastthe2020 Census, it is possible further growth in northern Brunswick County could prompt federal officials to return Brunswick to the Wilmington area, Majure­Rhett said. "Hopefully, we'll get Brunswick back."

Nearly half of North Carolina's total population growth last year was in the Raleigh and Charlotte areas, according to the data center.

Mecklenburg County passed the 1 million benchmark last year by about 12,000 people, according to Census figures. Raleigh's Wake County is not far behind with more than 998,000 people.

Yet the center points out North Carolina's growth is "not consistent across all counties" – 49 of 100 counties actually shrank. Columbus County, for example, lost 241 people.

By Julian March

Julian.March@StarNewsOnline.com

Published: Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 11:15 a.m.

Last Modified: Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 11:15 a.m.

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