Chamber: Orange County resilient, future bright

tgrubb@newsobserver.comAugust 27, 2013 

— Orange County’s 137,941 residents are living well, paying slightly less for their homes and making more money per capita than the rest of North Carolina.

The percentage of white and black residents is falling, but more Asians and Hispanics are making for a more ethnically diverse community, said Aaron Nelson, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.

Orange County continues to grow more slowly than its Triangle neighbors, at roughly 1.6 percent per year over the last 12 years, and could add 30,000 or so by 2025, he said. The average closing cost for a home fell slightly from 2011 to 2012 to $319,000.

“The economy and the community are resilient, and the future looks good,” Nelson said Tuesday at the chamber’s sixth annual State of the Community Breakfast at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Friday Center.

The meeting gave residents, businesses and government leaders snapshots of how Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro are faring in several categories:

Housing

• The county sold 1,257 homes last year at an average closing cost of $319,000, a slight drop from 2011, when 1,126 homes sold for an average of $325,000.

• Roughly 40 percent of the county’s 55,597 housing units are in Chapel Hill, 16 percent are in Carrboro and 5 percent are in Hillsborough.

• Renters now live in 61.5 percent of Carrboro homes, 52.4 percent of Chapel Hill homes and 35.9 percent of Hillsborough homes. In 2011, the greatest number of renters – 38 percent – paid $750 to $999 a month for housing. About 52 percent paid 35 percent or more of their income for housing.

Employment

• About 43,000 people commute into Orange County for work, 40,000 commute out of the county, and 21,000 work locally. In 2011, 67 percent commuted alone but shaved about a minute off their travel time.

• Orange County’s unemployment rate is the state’s lowest at 6 percent. About 4,800 residents are still looking for work.

Economy

• Roughly 6,300 Orange County families received government food assistance in 2012. In 2011, the poverty rate in Orange County and Carrboro was roughly 17 percent; in Chapel Hill, it was 22 percent. Without college students, Chapel Hill’s poverty rate is less than 10 percent, Nelson said.

• The share of residential vs. commercial property tax revenues remains steady at 13 percent and 87 percent, respectively.

• The county generated $1.175 billion in taxable sales and collected $56.14 million in sales taxes during the 2012-13 budget year. Orange County had $1.68 billion in consumer retail demand in 2012, compared to $950 million in total retail sales, Nelson said.

• Orange County ranked 12th in the state for ABC liquor sales. Wake came in at 20th, Durham at 25th, Chatham at 48th, and Alamance at 53rd.

• Visitors to Orange County spent $161.6 million in 2012 and paid $11.85 million in local and state tax revenues. The tourism industry created 1,650 jobs in 2012, said Anthony Carey, chairman of the Chapel Hill-Orange County Visitors Bureau.

Education

• Four-year high school graduation rates held steady or gained slightly among minority students. The dropout rate is 1 percent in Chapel Hill-Carrboro and 2.5 percent in Orange County.

• Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools still provide roughly 27 percent of students with free or reduced-price lunches, a common measure of poverty. In the Orange County Schools, roughly 42 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunches. Students facing economic challenges still lag behind their peers, Nelson said.

• Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools come in second to only Asheville in the amount of spending per student across the state. Chapel Hill-Carrboro spends about $11,000 per student, compared to nearly $12,000 for Asheville schools.

• Orange County Schools students fared slightly higher than their peers statewide with 85 percent passing end-of-grade reading and math tests. Nearly 95 percent of Chapel Hill-Carrboro students passed those tests. About the same percentage of local and state low-income students – 53 percent to 54 percent – passed those tests.

Health

• Rates of teen pregnancy and illnesses from cancer and heart disease continue to fall. However, heart disease and cancer remain the leading causes of death and, along with diabetes, affect black residents at a higher rate than white residents. Orange County suicides happen at a slightly higher rate than they do statewide.

• Infant mortality rates rose slightly among the county’s minority residents, to 9.6 for every 1,000 live births. There continues to be a higher incidence of childhood asthma and female breast cancer, Nelson said.

• Roughly 20 percent of Orange County adults are obese, compared to 19 percent in Durham and higher percentages elsewhere in the state. However, more Orange County residents (16.3 percent) smoke than do their counterparts in Wake (14.1 percent) and Durham (12.4 percent) counties.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service