Booming Johnston County is NC's fastest growing: 'I think they bypassed Raleigh this year'

Josh Chapin Image
Thursday, April 6, 2023
Booming Johnston County is NC's fastest growing
"I think they bypassed Raleigh this year and came on here": Feverish highway expansion, population boom make Johnston the hottest county in the state.

JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Census data from 2020 shows Johnston County grew more than any other county in the state.

It's on pace to have one of the top five largest populations as well if the growth continues.

"I think they bypassed Raleigh this year and came on here," said Yvette Hogan, who lives in Four Oaks now but is looking to move to a new home in Smithfield. "I think it's good because it shows growth potential so that should be great and our hospitals are booming and growing so that's great and adding on."

Johnston County has grown between four and six percent annually according to Chris Johnson, director of Johnston County Economic Development.

Chris moved to the county in the 1990s and said there were 80,000 people. Now they're on pace for 300,000 soon.

He said connectivity is key and should get even better when 540 is completed when I-40 is widened from four to eight lanes and Highway 70 is transitioned to I-42.

Johnston County will then be one of the few counties to have three interstates going through it.

The county also has local employers like UNC Health, Grifols and Caterpillar to keep people living and working in the community.

Johnson said he is trying to keep more folks in the community doing it all and that means attracting more big companies.

The county is still more affordable than Wake but not as affordable as it was.

"Raleigh has grown so rapidly and it's hard to get that walkable neighborhood at affordable prices so we're seeing families who need additional space come out this way," said Hilary Kennedy, a local real estate agent. "In Wake County, you're spending about $215 per square foot. Out here, it's about $180 a square foot."

Kennedy said she's seen people move to Johnston from Wake County as well as from other parts of the country.

It's also a more balanced market.

"We have more inventory available and inventory that consists of a lot of new construction as well," she said. "Buyers are having more flexibility when it comes to closing costs and getting things.

If the pace continues Johnston County could easily become the fifth-largest county in the state behind Wake, Mecklenburg, Guilford and Forsyth counties.