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DCMetroRaleigh

Census: 8.4 Million North Carolinians

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Friday, December 19, 2003 12:00AM EST

8.4 million Tar Heels

Population rises 101,682 in a year

By MICHAEL EASTERBROOK, Staff Writer

Newcomers from other states and abroad helped push North Carolina's population to 8.4 million in July 2003, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Thursday.

The state's population grew by 101,682 from July 2002 to July 2003, making it the 12th fastest-growing state in the country, the same ranking as the previous year. North Carolina's 1.2 percent growth rate was slightly higher than the national average of 1 percent.

"Even though we've been in an economic downturn, North Carolina has a pretty positive image and remains a migration magnet," said Jim Johnson, a demographer at UNC-Chapel Hill.

More than 56,000 people moved to North Carolina during the 12-month period, according to the Census Bureau's annual survey.

About 25,000 of them came from other states. But an even larger number -- more than 31,000 -- traveled to the state from outside the country. The survey didn't show which countries they came from, but most of North Carolina's foreign-born population is from Latin America.

Migrants from abroad made up 31 percent of the state's population growth, up from 29 percent in the previous 12-month period ending July 2002 and 22 percent in the period before that.

Many came for job prospects, Johnson said. Others traveled to North Carolina to be with friends and family who had settled in the state.

"The people who migrated here before become the bridge or link for other people coming," Johnson said.

One of the newcomers was Julian Gonzalez, who moved to North Carolina from Colombia to escape a civil conflict simmering there for nearly four decades.

Before fleeing, Gonzalez worked as a business consultant in Cali, Colombia's third-largest city. He sent his wife and three children to North Carolina after leftist guerrillas abducted hundreds of people in his hometown in 1999 and 2000. Gonzalez wasn't able to come until July.

"If it wasn't for the insecurity in Colombia, we wouldn't have left," said Gonzalez, 50, who lives in Raleigh.

As in previous years, births outpaced deaths, a statistic known as a population's natural increase. However, the state's natural increase dropped from 48,923 in July 2002 to 45,187 in July 2003. It wasn't immediately clear why.

The Tar Heel State remained the 11th most populous, behind New Jersey and ahead of Virginia.

Nationally, the population grew by 2.8 million people to 290.8 million in July 2003. Nevada had the highest growth rate, followed by Arizona, Florida and Texas.

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When places such as Huntersville all of a sudden have a dozen or more hispanic stores & restaurants (some in upscale places) you know there must be a huge influx of people from down South. (and I mean way down South :P )

Been to Monroe lately? LOL! I once heard that there was a billboard in Mexico City that stated Monroe, NC was the place to move to...and so they have.

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Here is GA story: 8.68 million, we passed NJ! Woot!

I still wish we had another signficant metro in GA besides Atlanta though. Still wish Savannah would boom.

State moves ahead in growth

Georgia is fifth-fastest in adding residents

By CHRISTOPHER QUINN

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Remember the recent economic slowdown, testified to by two years of faltering state tax revenues and jobs losses?

It was just the "pause that refreshes," according to University of Georgia economist Jeffery Humphreys. Georgia is up and running again, recovering faster than most other states with gains in jobs and people.

Georgia added 454,621 residents between July 2000 and July 2003, according to census estimates released Thursday. More than 140,000 moved in over the last year.

That makes Georgia the fifth-fastest-growing state and ninth-largest in population, with an estimated 8.68 million people, edging out New Jersey.

Don't expect the population boom to stop, Humphreys said.

"It's a combination of economic and family reasons," the economist said.

Georgia is creating jobs. Its beaches and mountains, as well as metro Atlanta's amenities, are attracting legions of retirees. And recently arrived residents from other states and countries are spreading the word, encouraging family members to join them.

The new Georgians are finding jobs in Atlanta's recovering service industries, particularly health care, and business and financial services, Humphreys said. Still, economists warn it could take several months for Georgia to reach pre-recession employment levels.

"The one thing that is missing is manufacturing. Those jobs just are not coming back," Humphreys said.

The region's home-building industry suffered little during the economic downturn. Interest rates were low, and all those new people had to have someplace to live.

But most weren't looking for upscale houses, said David M. Smith, a developer and president of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association.

"There was some slowdown in homes costing $500,000 and above," he said. "But we didn't see a slowdown in the affordable sector."

Humphreys predicted Georgia could move higher in the national rankings if it continues to grow at the current rate, at least until it encounters major growing pains.

"Transportation and water problems could slow growth, especially during the end of the decade," the economist said. "It may impinge upon growth as we move out in the next year or two."

Charles "Chick" Krautler, director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, said the region should have enough water to continue its growth rate until 2030, when the metro area's population is projected to hit 6 million.

Cities may experience temporary moratoriums on expansion because they fall behind in providing water or wastewater treatment, Krautler said, but those shortfalls can be fixed with time and money. Traffic congestion may be harder to fix.

Some in the business community are warning of the potential impact of gridlock on the local economy.

Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, said a recent poll showed traffic congestion is the greatest concern of its 4,000 business members.

"It's serious enough that we are making it our No. 1 priority," he said. "If we are going to maintain our quality of life, we have to get in front of transportation and land-use issues before this gets away from us."

But Georgia and metro Atlanta apparently still are viewed as pretty nice places to live.

Krautler summed it up: "Like Wayne Hill [chairman of the Gwinnett County Commission] likes to say, if everything is so bad here, why do so many people keep moving here?"

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