In many ways, North Carolina is a tale of two states: You have the urban areas of Raleigh and Charlotte that are showing rapid population growth and the rural areas, particularly in the northeastern part of the state, that are losing population.
This year’s Ag Development Forum set for 9:30 a.m. Feb. 6 at the Holshouser Building on the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh as part of the Southern Farm show will focus on North Carolina’s changing population as it pertains to rural areas. Discussion will focus on which parts of the state are growing the fastest and the impact rapid population growth will have on infrastructure and traffic challenges and needs.
At the forum, Michael Cline, state demographer for the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management, will speak on North Carolina’s changing demographics. James H. Trogdan, III, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, will discuss transportation issues in rural North Carolina.
The need for improved broadband internet connectivity in rural North Carolina will also be addressed.
It is vital that all of North Carolina prosper, not just the big cities. The rural parts of the state are beautiful and offer a less hectic pace that many would prefer, if only there were more jobs available to both attract and keep people.
North Carolina is still mostly a rural state; 80 of the 100 counties are rural. The rural population of North Carolina is second only to Texas. More people are moving to the state for work with 15 of North Carolina’s 100 counties showing population gains between 2010 and 2018. At the same time, 43 counties saw a net loss of people.
In the 21st century, improving the prosperity of rural North Carolina should not be an insurmountable challenge. If jobs, affordable housing and access to both quality health care and reliable broadband internet were readily available, many would prefer the slower pace of rural North Carolina.
It will take a concentrated effort, but it can be done. A strong selling point is the quality of life rural North Carolina offers. All of North Carolina should prosper, not just the fast-growing cities of Raleigh and Charlotte.