Census numbers show we’re just doing OK in Rowan

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, May 24, 2016

When the U.S. Census last week released population statistics for municipalities last week, the results for Rowan were about what we expected. Rowan is doing better than a good portion of cities and towns in the state, but not as well as our southern neighbors.

Immediate neighbors growing more quickly than most Rowan municipalities include the usual suspects —Concord and Mooresville. Kannapolis is growing at a rate higher than any other Rowan municipality. Perhaps surprisingly, Statesville saw a growth rate more like Mooresville than Salisbury.

While lagging behind our neighbors may be discouraging, things could be worse. Salisbury and smaller municipalities in Rowan have either remained flat in population or grown slightly in recent years. About 40 percent of North Carolina’s municipalities, however, lost population in the latest census estimates. That loss only represents a one-year period, but it’s proof of a trend that’s not isolated to North Carolina. Across America, a large portion of young people are leaving small towns and migrating to more populated areas to find jobs.

Meanwhile, large municipalities are growing at respectable rates. Charlotte grew at about 2 percent in the latest census statistics. Raleigh grew at 2.5 percent, and other municipalities in Wake County are grew at even larger rates. Winston-Salem and Greensboro aren’t growing quite as quickly, but certainly aren’t shrinking?

Rowan’s municipalities are stuck in the middle. We’re on a major interstate corridor, in the middle of two of North Carolina’s largest metropolitan areas, and growing at a minuscule rate.

Should we be satisfied or distressed that some of neighbors have outgrown us as many others are shrinking?

Neither are acceptable answers.

The council members that represent Rowan’s municipalities and other elected leaders should be actively pursuing new business. Until new business comes, we should support and help grow companies that are already here.

Government doesn’t create jobs, but the right policy decisions can create a climate that attracts business.

Rowan County commissioners certainly play a role in growing municipalities and have adopted the “if you build it, they will come” mentality. They’ve decided to invest in speculative buildings in Granite Quarry and built hangars at the Rowan County Airport. Salisbury chose Fibrant as its method to grow business, and it’s unclear whether the city’s investment has paid off. Kannapolis has been the beneficiary of growth that’s inching north from Charlotte. The city has also developed a massive downtown redevelopment plan.

Smaller municipalities often don’t have the resources to invest in massive economic development projects, but are certainly responsible for and capable of making the community an attractive place to live.

By uniting and working toward the same goal, we can ensure none of Rowan County’s municipalities fall behind while at the same time preserving each town’s unique character.