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Where do Mecklenburg’s newcomers come from?

Tryon Street near the intersection of Trade Street in Charlotte. New York, South Carolina and Florida were the top three states for people who relocated to Mecklenburg County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Tryon Street near the intersection of Trade Street in Charlotte. New York, South Carolina and Florida were the top three states for people who relocated to Mecklenburg County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

The Charlotte area attracted newcomers from New York, Florida and Georgia but swapped equal number of residents with South Carolina, according to newly released U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

From 2009 to 2013, Mecklenburg County netted about 15,600 people a year, data show. On average, around 67,700 came to Mecklenburg County and 52,100 left.

Mecklenburg netted about the same amount during the last study between 2005-09.

The Census Bureau’s migration data show how residents move between counties and metro areas during the course of a year.

Charlotte has an image of being a golden city with a lot of economic opportunity.

Mary Newsom, the associate director of Urban and Regional Affairs at UNC Charlotte

Outside the state, South Carolina, New York and Florida were the top three states for people who relocated to Mecklenburg County, even though South Carolina gave about an equal number of residents than it took from the Charlotte area.

Charlotte has had the image of a boom town, even when the unemployment rates are a little higher than the national average.

“Even though the unemployment rate has been a little high here at times, people don’t care about the decimal points,” said Mary Newsom, the associate director of Urban and Regional Affairs at UNC Charlotte. “Charlotte has an image of being a golden city with a lot of economic opportunity.”

Maria Lehodny, a business consultant and a recent transplant from Portland, Ore., moved to Charlotte with her family after getting a job offer from her former company. Fewer than 100 people a year leave Oregon for Mecklenburg County, data show.

“The city is really making an effort to grow, and people here are willing to work hard for it,” Lehodny said.

She’s had to go through some cultural changes after living on the West Coast.

“There are still times when I have to pinch myself and realize that I’m living in the the South,” Lehodny said. “It’s fantastic here, and sometimes I believe in my heart that I’ll live here until I’m old and gray.”

The draw of the suburbs

While there was an influx of people from South Carolina – about 5,500 a year – about the same amount left Mecklenburg County for across the state line.

Some stayed within the Charlotte area but moved to suburban counties. Among the list the list: York County, S.C., with a net gain of 150 and Union County at 1,500.

“People like the lower taxes, bigger houses and the school system in Union County,” Newsom said.

During 2014 Mecklenburg County surpassed the million resident milestone, making it the first county in the Carolinas to hit that mark.

Helping to drive that growth was the cost of living in Charlotte, which is lower than it is in Charleston and Atlanta, according to to CNN’s cost-of-living calculator.

“House costs are lower and residents can get more value for their dollar in Charlotte than in other big cities,” said Chuck McShane from the Charlotte Chamber.

*This story was updated at 10:30 Sept. 1.

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