People are moving to North Carolina, but opting not to live in downtown areas, data shows

Samantha Kummerer Image
BySamantha Kummerer WTVD logo
Tuesday, February 28, 2023
People are moving to North Carolina, but not to downtowns
Nearly 4.2 million households and businesses changed their postal address to North Carolina between 2018 and 2022.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- During the past five years, new businesses and residents have flocked to North Carolina.

Nearly 4.2 million households and businesses changed their postal address to North Carolina between 2018 and 2022, according to an ABC OTV Data Team analysis.

The analysis reviewed change-of-address forms submitted by the United States Postal Service to track the inbound and outbound movement across the country. While the data represents households or businesses rather than population; it does give insight into the movement of people throughout the country before, during, and after the height of the pandemic.

While nearly 4.2 million changed their address to a North Carolina location, millions also left the state. Overall, the state reported a net increase of around 70,000 households and businesses.

The metro area around Raleigh reported the second-highest net growth in the state; behind Charlotte.

"Raleigh is one of those places where when you look at it, it really just draws you in. It's so pretty with all of the nature around but then you also can get that city feel without actually being in a huge city," said Raleigh resident Morgan Duerden.

When Duerden wanted to leave Texas last year she was considering three main places.

"We really were looking at a ton of different places. We had our top choices Nashville, Tennessee, was one of them, and then Raleigh and Virginia, and really ultimately, Raleigh was our No. 1 choice," she said.

The wider Raleigh area gained nearly 40,000 households and businesses between 2018 and 2022.

Derrick Thornton, a Wake County Realtor with Coldwell Banker Advantage, said about 40% of the homeowners he works with are from out of state.

"Surprisingly, a lot of times I've had situations where people really just looked on a map and said, 'Hey, where's a good place to move or it's a popular place? And they landed on here,'" Thornton said.

This was very similar to Duerden's approach, but while she chose Raleigh, she said she never considered living downtown.

"That wasn't on the top of my list to live at; there were a couple of reasons. One, yes, the prices are high," she said. "Also, the land you get for your money ....I love being able to have a backyard and being outside when it's nice. And I just feel like downtown you don't have that opportunity," she said.

The data shows that while the wider Raleigh area is growing, the areas closest to the downtown actually reported a net loss in addresses.

The 27606 ZIP Code in southwest Raleigh reported a net loss of about 8,000 households and businesses during the past five years.

Conversely, ZIP Codes in Fuquay-Varina and Wake Forest are seeing huge net growths.

"The areas that were the hottest, are still remaining the hottest even now but one thing that has changed and shifted is that people are more willing now to look in other towns or other areas one because of affordability," Thornton explained.

He said many people want bigger yards, more space and remote jobs allow them to search beyond city limits.

This trend of downtown areas seeing net losses but the wider metro area seeing growth is also playing out in Charlotte.

Elsewhere, like in Durham and Fayetteville, the postal service data showed large losses in both the downtown and surrounding areas.

The Fayetteville metro area reported the largest net loss in the state with about 24,000 more businesses and households moving out than moving in.

NC Chamber president and CEO Gary Salamido said while the state has lost businesses through the years, he doesn't think it is caused by anything about the state.

"We're so competitive for those ones that did, it wasn't anything about North Carolina, it was just perhaps where an executive is going to live or perhaps it was just some other cultural issue that they were comfortable with, or perhaps they just got a better bid from some other state," he said.

He said where the state continues to grow depends a little on what type of businesses the state attracts.

"It really depends on the industry. Those that are in the financial services, technology, pharmaceuticals, on the research side, they want to be in more urban settings. If they're manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, they need a more non-urban setting," he explained.

Salamido said going forward to keep the state on the upward growth trend, the biggest challenge is going to be ensuring there is a strong reliable workforce, something Gov. Roy Cooper recently spoke about.

"All of the states are competing, all the states are in the same place. Are we going to be the state that can not only address the needs of a company today but do they have a reliable pipeline for the future? Can they see how we're going to continue to produce the talent?" he said.

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