Back to December 2009 home page


Top 10 depends on who counts 

Population rankings may not be so much about dollars as sense — a sense of pride. It’s nice to be able to say yours is one of the 10 largest cities in North Carolina, but because more than one government agency estimates population, 11 cities legitimately can claim that distinction. The U.S. Census Bureau says Greenville is No. 10, with 79,629 people in 2008 to 11th-place Jacksonville’s 76,233. But the N.C. Office of State Budget and Management puts Jacksonville 10th — with 81,873 residents versus Greenville’s 81,092.

Greenville’s growth of late has been fueled by East Carolina University and a major medical center, while Jacksonville, home of the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune base and New River air station, has benefited from an increase in military personnel and their families. Eastern North Carolina will gain about 11,477 Marines and sailors by 2012. Including family and other newcomers drawn by the military, the increase will mean about 61,000 new residents in Onslow and six nearby counties.

Of course, that growth is a two-edged sword. Businesses benefit, and the military economy is more recession-resistant, says Jim Reichardt, director of Jacksonville Onslow Economic Development. But the influx requires additional infrastructure, including schools, roads and utilities. Still, he welcomes Jacksonville’s spot in the top 10. “Any time there is something positive, it’s good.”

State demographer Jennifer Song says the difference between the state and federal estimates is due to timing and different methodology. Her population estimate for Jacksonville is higher because she used more recent figures for service personnel living in barracks. One reason states do their own estimates is they can get data that is more recent than that used by the feds. The gap between the two estimates should narrow in little more than a year when the 2010 census figures for cities and towns are released. The state will use that data as a base for its 2010 estimate.

Wanda Yuhas, executive director of the Pitt County Development Commission in Greenville, doesn’t mind sharing the No. 10 spot with Jacksonville. “If we were losing population, we would be concerned. As long as we’re stable or growing, we’re not concerned about the ranking.”

A poor showing

One of Rocky Mount’s nicknames is “The City on the Rise,” and according to one national magazine, it has almost nowhere to go but up. Forbes named it one of the nation’s 10 most impoverished cities, based on 2008 U.S. Census Bureau data, including per capita income, unemployment and the percentage receiving food stamps and public health care. Boosters say the magazine used old statistics that don’t paint an accurate picture of the city today. Earlier this year, Forbes ranked Rocky Mount 119th among the 179 best small metro areas for business and careers and seventh in the cost of doing business.

PLYMOUTH — Montreal-based Domtar will convert its paper mill to produce fluff pulp, bleached cellulose fiber used in disposable diapers and other products. The changeover will be completed by the end of 2010 and allow the company to keep about 360 of the 500 jobs.

BEAUFORT — The U.S. Department of the Interior plans to spend $487,000 to repair cast-iron stairs at the Cape Lookout Lighthouse near here. The staircase at the 150-year-old landmark has been closed since it failed a state inspection in spring 2008. Officials hope repairs will be finished in time for the 2010 tourist season.

GOLDSBOROPiedmont Natural Gas will build an $85 million pipeline to supply gas to a power plant Progress Energy is building near here. The pipeline is expected to be operational by summer 2012, with the power plant beginning production a year later.

KINSTONBoeing won’t make its 787 Dreamliner at the N.C. Global TransPark. The Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer will build a factory in Charleston, S.C., where it will hire at least 3,800 within seven years. North Carolina officials say they still hope to attract other Boeing projects.

JACKSONVILLENorth Carolina’s Eastern Region hired Mark Sutherland as director of its Military Growth Task Force. The task force is helping the region plan for the addition of nearly 25,000 Marines and their dependents by 2011. Sutherland had been a program director with Fredericksburg, Va.-based consultants Marstel-Day.

ROCKY MOUNTProvidence Bank accepted $4 million from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. CEO John Barker says the bank, chartered in 2006, will use the money to expand. It has $140 million in assets.

ELIZABETH CITY — Changing the name of Elizabeth City State University would cost $867,000, according to a study committee. Proponents say a switch could help name recognition, recruiting and fundraising.