Opinion

N&O forum will give you the news on newcomers

Homes in the 12 Oaks subdivision in Holly Springs under construction in 2016.
Homes in the 12 Oaks subdivision in Holly Springs under construction in 2016. hlynch@newsobserver.com

How we approach growth in the Triangle is the opposite of what Mark Twain said about how we approach the weather. He said: “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

Here it seems everybody is doing something about growth — constructing highrises, raising rents, opening businesses, expanding transit. We keep hearing about traffic getting worse, property values soaring and 65 people a day moving into Wake County, but we don’t really hear much about why people are coming, where they’re coming from and who these newcomers are in terms of race, income and age. These demographic aspects aren’t mere statistics. They are numbers that form a portrait of this region. And they are numbers that foretell what the Triangle will be like 10 and 20 years from now.

Our next forum in The News & Observer’s Community Voices series will focus on the people behind the faceless term “growth.” Demographers, planners and people familiar with two of the Triangle’s fastest growing populations — seniors and Asians — will introduce you to your new neighbors and how they are changing where we live.

The forum — “Hello neighbor” — will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the North Carolina Museum of History. It’s free and open to the public, but you are encouraged to register for a seat at eventbrite.com.

The panelists will be:

• Rebecca Tippett is founding director of Carolina Demography at the Carolina Population Center at UNC-Chapel Hill.

• Sharon Peterson, Wake County long range planning administrator.

• Ken Bowers, planning director for the City of Raleigh.

• Audrey Galloway, AARP associate state director for community.

• Steve Rao, a Morrisville town council member and an executive at Alphanumeric Systems.

Some of what they’ll say may be surprising. Despite all the focus on millennials and how they are changing the Triangle’s downtowns, the general population is getting older. Part of that is the aging of the baby boom generation, but there is also a considerable influx of retirees, some drawn by the climate and lower taxes and others following their children to the Triangle to be close to their grandchildren.

South Asians, primarily from India and working with companies in Research Triangle Park, are a major part of the population of Morrisville and Cary. Meanwhile, the universities bring in many young people from rural North Carolina who choose to stay on. And if you think local natives are rare, you’re half-right. About half the people who live here came from somewhere else.

People come for many reasons, but what keeps them here is a high quality of life.

Randy Kilgore moved to Raleigh’s Oakwood neighborhood nine months ago from the suburbs of New York City. He said, “We love the neighborhood, the community spirit, the urban vibe, the weather, and the diverse food scene.”

That’s a good summary of what’s attracting your new neighbors. We hope you’ll come out Wednesday and learn more about them. And if you’re a newcomer, come by and say hello.

Barnett: 919-829-4512, nbarnett@newsobserver.com

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