US Census: Raleigh-Cary fastest growing metro area

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

RALEIGH (AP) ó Residents living in the Raleigh area now have proof they have a slew of new neighbors: The city and its Cary suburb make up the fastest growing metropolitan area in the country, according to federal statistics released Thursday.
The combined population of North Carolina’s capital city and its family-friendly suburb increased to 1.1 million people between July 2007 and July 2008 ó a 4.3 percent jump, according to the U.S. Census Bureau data. The Austin-Round Rock metro area in Texas ranked second with a 3.8 percent increase.
Local government leaders in Raleigh and Cary attribute the growth to top hospitals, universities and Research Triangle Park, a sprawling business complex with more than 170 research and development companies and more than 50,000 employees.
But they also say the state’s increased job layoffs and slumping economy will likely cap the growth. Statewide, unemployment reached 9.7 percent in January and marked the highest rate since the recession of the mid-1980s.
Cary will end the fiscal year with a budget surplus and no job cuts, but officials anticipate new budget constraints in July, said town spokeswoman Susan Moran. She said “everything is on the table” as the town prepares to postpone road projects, reduce services and cut employee pay.
“Cary is not immune from what’s happening not only in the country, but in the world,” Moran said. “We’re weathering the storm better than most, and our focus is on impacting our citizens as little as possible.”
With more than 134,000 residents, the town has quickly become a place for families, as more than half of households have children under 18 years old.
“People want to be in North Carolina because of the climate,” she said, adding that the region offers abundant education and economic opportunities. “From there, they want to choose a community like Cary. It’s safe, it’s attractive, it’s diverse.”
In neighboring Raleigh, City Manager Russell Allen said the economic outlook is more bleak. With an annual budget of $640 million, city officials were bracing for a budget gap of between $18 million and $22 million. He said vacant government jobs will be eliminated and services and programs will be reduced.
Allen said the number of incoming residents within city limits over a 12-month period has dropped, according to city statistics. About 9,000 new people are expected to have moved into Raleigh from June 2008 to July 2009. Historically, that number is between 12,000 to 15,000.
“We are continuing to grow, but we’re not growing at the same rate,” he said. “We see it in the number of building and inspection permits, or the new water and sewer connections, and the garbage collection. We know that the growth rate has gone down.”
But with 11 of the 100 fastest-growing counties nationwide being in North Carolina, Allen predicts Raleigh and Cary will fare better during the downed economy than other parts of the country.
“It’s a great place to invest. We hear that from people who move here, who live here,” he said. “It’s close to the beaches, close to the mountains. This whole area is seen as an attractive, innovative place to live.”