New post-pandemic Census data shows rapid growth in and around Triangle

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Thursday, March 14, 2024
New post-pandemic Census data shows fast growth in and around Triangle
The Triangle's growth continues to outpace much of the country, and it turns out some nearby counties are growing even faster.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The COVID pandemic led to many changes in where people live and where they work. Now, we're getting a better look at new updated Census info that shows the recent population changes.

The Triangle's growth continues to outpace much of the country, and it turns out some nearby counties are growing even faster.

New census data post-COVID showed Wake County, as well as Harnett, Lee, and Chatham counties, growing rapidly between 2022 and 2023, and Wake County is still North Carolina's most populous county.

But within the general area, Franklin and Johnston counties had the highest growth rate in the state in the last three years, growing more than 12%.

The Triangle East Chamber of Commerce thinks that's because Johnston County is getting a flood of new people locally and from out of state.

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"I think it's definitely a combination of both. People from Wake County who work in Wake County are attracted to Johnston County because of the more affordable housing prices. But then we do have employers here who recruit people, and those people are moving to Johnston County specifically," said Maureen McGuiness with the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce.

She said biotech companies such as Novo Nordisk are making a footprint, and so are new shops and food halls.

But that does mean growing pains -- including traffic.

"We have been primarily an agricultural community, and our roads are agricultural roads and now you see more traffic. And so you have people saying, well, why don't we have a stoplight on that road? Well, traditionally, it's a farming road. We don't need a stoplight on that road. So the increase in population, our roads haven't caught up to that yet," McGuiness said.

ALSO SEE: Chapel Hill building boom creating traffic, parking headaches for small businesses

In downtown Selma, old storefronts that were sitting empty are booming with new businesses, most of them only popping up within the last couple of years.

At Coffee on Raiford, owner Zena Rose's labor of love was a project she brewed during the pandemic.

"Well, we just had a lot of faith, and yeah, we just went with it full blast. We believed in it," she said.

She gambled on a big population boom in launching her business.

"If you want to invest in Selma, now's the time to do it because East Field development was coming and North State Food Hall and all that. And it was going to be a good opportunity because Selma was going to start popping," she said.

County leaders said they are promoting a smart growth plan to make sure the rapid growth doesn't take away from the historic charm.


For Selma natives such as Tammy Braglin, who opened Story Keeper Bookstore seven months ago, it's been the best of both worlds.

"I think with a bunch of new families that are moving in, young families moving in with children, school-age children, high school kids, we're seeing a lot of growth as new businesses that are coming in that are attracting younger families coming in. And it's just been fun watching that," Braglin said.

Being near I-95 also helps the county with tourism with more people passing through and boosting places such as Selma.

According to the census report, among the only counties in North Carolina to lose population during the same timeframe were mostly areas east of Interstate 95 in the northeastern part of North Carolina that have been seeing a decline in industry for the past few decades.