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Editorial: Rowan’s growth sustainable

There are a number of areas where Rowan County and its municipalities lag behind the rest of the state, but population growth is one area where locals should feel some sense of satisfaction.

In areas such as health outcomes, for example, our community ranks below average, according to recent county health rankings. However, all signs point to posistive changes in population for local communities. Our county’s growth is not as large as neighboring areas  — Cabarrus and Iredell counties — but Rowan and its individual communities have not lost population in the previous six  years, according to the U.S. Census estimates released last week. That’s better than a large portion of communities across the state.

While population is not the most important indicator of a community’s economy, it’s generally safe to say a community that’s climbing in population is a more desirable place to live than areas seeing the opposite.

In our case, some local towns and cities are beginning to see new housing developments. Local business are adding jobs and new companies are moving into the community. As a whole, Rowan County saw a growth rate slightly more than 1 percent from 2010 to 2016. All towns and cities also saw some increase in population.

U.S. Census data compiled by UNC’s Carolina Population Center shows Rowan is one of 53 counties in North Carolina with net migration in —more people moving in than moving out. Other data compiled by the Carolina Population Center shows Rowan is not one of the 30 counties projected to lose population from 2010 to 2020.

The local population growth, as shown by Census statistics, is not impressive, but it’s sustainable. In 1990, Rowan County’s population was 110,605, and it’s now about 140,000.

It’s better to aim for sustainable growth that maintains the character of a community than to look toward the rapid changes in Cabarrus County with envy. The population of Concord, for example, grew by an estimated 10,000 people from 2010 to 2016, according to Census estimates. As a whole, Cabarrus County grew from 98,935 residents in 1990 to more than 178,000 in 2010.

While our community reaches for economic growth, we should recognize the sustainable population gains we’ve seen. We should strive to continue that trend as growth travels north from Charlotte.

Most of all, we should be thankful for our community’s geographic location between two metropolitan areas —Charlotte and the Piedmont Triad. More rural communities are seeing declines in population at remarkable rates — literally watching their towns and cities die out.

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