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Robust growth continues for most – but not all – places in Charlotte region

Charlotte added more residents last year than all but 10 cities in the country, according to new census estimates. It added 15,656 residents and has a population now of 842,051.
Charlotte added more residents last year than all but 10 cities in the country, according to new census estimates. It added 15,656 residents and has a population now of 842,051. Observer file photo

Charlotte and most of its surrounding communities continued to experience strong growth last year, new census estimates released Thursday show.

The city’s growth rate was 1.9 percent between 2015 and last year, according to the estimates. Charlotte’s population now stands at 842,051, after having gained 15,656 residents.

In fact, Charlotte added more residents last year than all but 10 cities in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (Phoenix was tops in the country for sheer number of newcomers, census records show, with 32,113 new residents.)

Take a step back to the 2010 census, and Charlotte saw a growth rate of 15.1 percent through last year.

That’s among the biggest growth rates in North Carolina for the state’s largest cities. Only Cary, Huntersville and Durham saw a higher rate during that time, for places with 50,000 or more residents.

And Charlotte remains by far the most populous site in the Carolinas, with Raleigh a distant second at 458,880.

Both cities continue to be growth engines that lead to spillover growth in other regional towns, said Bob Coats, the governor’s liaison to the Census Bureau.

Laura Simmons, a demographic expert at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, said a strong economy, good quality of life and even stories about newcomers to Charlotte can influence people to come to the area.

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Charlotte’s growth of 15.1 percent since 2010 was more than double the state rate. John D. Simmons jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Around the Charlotte region, some communities grew at a much faster pace than others, mirroring a statewide trend of uneven growth.

That includes places like Harrisburg, Huntersville, Mint Hill, Charlotte, Cornelius, Indian Trail, Davidson and Concord – they all more than doubled the state’s 6.4 percent growth rate since 2010.

Waxhaw led the region in growth at a rate of 44 percent since the last census.

Coats says he has colleagues who live in the Waxhaw area, drive 15 minutes to a light rail station then commute into Charlotte, highlighting the allure of transportation infrastructure and lower taxes outside the city.

Meanwhile, Monroe, Mount Holly, Gastonia, Kings Mountain and Lincolnton all had a growth rate below the state average.

Coats noted that while annual estimates are important, it’s also crucial that communities start looking ahead to plan for an accurate count with the 2020 Census. He recently met with officials in Charlotte and Concord to talk about that need.

Other highlights of the new data include:

▪ Nationally, 10 of the 15 fastest-growing largest cities were in the South last year. A city outside Houston called Conroe grew by 7.8 percent between 2015 and last year, well above the national rate of 0.7 percent.

▪  And just three places behind Conroe stood Greenville, S.C., with an annual growth rate of 5.8 percent that was fourth biggest for cities of 50,000 or more, the only Carolinas city in the top 15.

▪ The nation’s biggest city remains New York, with 8.5 million residents.

▪  Charlotte retained its rank as 17th largest city in the country, trailing behind Fort Worth, Texas, but ahead of Seattle. Raleigh is the 41st biggest.

▪  And Charlotte continues to have more residents than several states: Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska and North Dakota.

Adam Bell: 704-358-5696, @abell

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