... see how we grow

January 3, 2012 

Despite the crises in the national and state economies, North Carolina can count itself, so to speak, as one of the fastest growing states. That's direct from the U.S. Census Bureau, which should know. In the 15-month period that ended in July, the state gained 121,000 people and the population now ranges somewhere above 9,600,000.

That continued growth might seem surprising, given the state's 10 percent unemployment rate, but with mountains and ocean and research universities and brighter prospects ahead, perhaps it was to be expected. One could consider as well that in a host of magazine research and academic reports, North Carolina locales continue to rank near the top among the "best places to live."

There are other reasons for this optimistic news. The state's 58 community colleges have been at the forefront of job training for those seeking not just jobs but entirely new lines of employment, and they've been geared up for a while, as a large loss in manufacturing jobs hit the state even before the Great Recession came along.

Those jobs will not return, but it's hoped that ultimately they'll be replaced by higher-paying, high-tech jobs that will speak to the needs of the modern economy.

And here's an important notice for state and local government. Population growth is fine, but it seldom pays for itself. It typically requires more investment in services for new residents. In a time of severe budget-cutting by state lawmakers, it would be wise to remember that dividends come from investment, not from pulling in like a frightened turtle waiting for a crisis to pass.

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