Every day, Wake County adds 63 people to its population count. Who are they? We find out.
Not only are we one of the best places to live in the nation, but more than five dozen people move to Wake County every day, including live births, according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates.
The Carolina Population Center at UNC-Chapel Hill reports two-thirds of that number—42 of 63—is due to something called “net migration,” more people moving in than moving out.
People move here to study; consider expats and traditional students. And they also move here to work, whether to start a business, relocate with a company or simply to find a new career. Finally, people are expanding their families, citing the low cost of living, good schools, mild climate and Southern hospitality.
“For the past 200 years, Raleigh has approximately doubled every 20 years, and we have a kindergarten class being born here every day,” says Raleigh City Councilman Bonner Gaylord.
Of course there are challenges to consider, says Gaylord. Strains on resources, including schools, hospitals and roads, but the confidence behind the surge is palpable.
Here, meet six new Raleighites that show us what this statistic really looks like.
When pharma giant Merz USA relocated to Raleigh from Greensboro, Amanda Gerber, 27, Senior Manager of Channel Marketing, moved with the company.
“I loved Greensboro, but there’s just so much more opportunity here,” says Gerber, whose husband needed a little convincing. “The main thing about Raleigh in general is that you’re close to the beach, and you’re close to the mountains.”
Gerber thought there was more opportunity in Raleigh and she was pleasantly surprised by the diverse demographics.
“I didn’t realize how much of a mix of people I’d find,” she says. “Everybody here is a transplant for the most part. It’s really nice to meet new people, and the types of things that are going on here—from an activities and a restaurant standpoint—are just phenomenal.”
Gerber moved to Raleigh in mid-October, but she’s planted roots quickly, playing soccer on Mondays, joining the Junior League, and going out with friends to explore city life. She and her husband Joel, a consultant who works from home, love sampling Raleigh restaurants. Their favorites: Bida Manda and Driftwood Kitchen.
Two years ago, Josh Trevino, 40, and his wife visited Raleigh to give it a test run. At the time, Trevino, a pastor in Texas, was thinking of getting into the coffee business with his brother. Could the Raleigh economy support it?
“It just felt fertile,” says Trevino. “Where I came from, not so much; I came from a border town, and it was a little crazy. It just feels like there’s opportunity all over the place—from the new people you meet to things you can do. There’s a lot of hope.”
Trevino now owns Torch Coffee on Lumley Road near the Angus Barn and lives here with his wife and three kids. And that first weekend he visited, he got a dinner invitation from a man he met while attending a service at Vintage Church in Raleigh.
That man was Jim Freeze, now at the helm of Carroll’s Kitchen, opening soon in downtown; it’s a non-profit restaurant that will employ homeless women and work with other agencies to find them homes and resources. Trevino may help Freeze train baristas for the restaurant.
That’s the hope and opportunity Trevino is talking about.
Sung Wook & Jinny Park
Every day is an adventure for Jinny Park, 44. Once her kids go to school and her husband, Sung, 45, goes to his position as a visiting scholar at NC State, she explores the city.
“I like walking and looking at all the houses and the trees around them,” Jinny says. “It’s quite different from what I see in South Korea. The people are usually very kind. When I ask something, they are eager to teach me. Sometimes I don’t understand even though I know the language; I don’t know the culture.”
Sung, who’s studying both computer and electrical engineering at the university, says his family loves Raleigh.
“We are somewhat different because we are trying to experience American life,” says Sung.
Jinny adds: “We want to understand how the people live and what the Americans like. We try to do many activities, as many as we can.”
The Job Seeker
Onte T. L. Johnson
Onte Johnson, 32, left his job in Connecticut at the National Sierra Club to work for a small environmental organization here.
It didn’t work out, but he’s not moving back.
“I was employed here in North Carolina for 10 months,” says Johnson. “Due to unforeseen budget constraints, (my) department was suddenly eliminated.”
But with a master’s degree in public policy and several years of experience, he’s job-hunting and wants to stay for the quality of life Raleigh provides.
“My son was born here,” says Johnson, married with two kids, ages 4 years and 6 months. “The cost of living is a lot lower than what I’m accustomed to. You really get the best bang for your buck here. I’ve doubled my living size for the same price I was paying back up north.”
Johnson’s been job-hunting now for two months and his expertise in a limited and highly competitive field has slowed down the process, but he’s not discouraged.
“I’ve decided to start driving with Uber until something comes along,” he says. “It’s made me have a deep appreciation of the city—always learning something new. Raleigh is my new home, and I love it.”
Basketball player Carlee Schuhmacher, 22, originally from Wisconsin, had never heard of NC State until she was offered a full scholarship to play for the women’s basketball team.
The 6-foot-1-inch starter who played forward and center for the lady Wolfpack came to Raleigh by way of an Iowa junior college in 2014. She’ll graduate in December 2016 with a major in social work after she finishes an internship at the Red Cross in Raleigh.
“I just got an agent last week,” says Schuhmacher, who hopes to play ball overseas in January. Being part of a team really helped her acclimate to Raleigh.
“It’s really cool to move to an area and actually have friends right away,” she says. “You’re living with them, going to class with them; you’re automatically family. “
Raleigh’s given Schuhmacher a degree and a team. But it messed up one thing: her Wisconsin accent.
“My ‘o’s’ were so strong when I got here, and now my accent has combined with a Southern accent,” she says.
The Growing Family
Laura Bonifacio Edmiston
Laura Bonifacio Edmiston, 34, is set to deliver her third child in July. But she still works three 12-hour shifts a week as a nursing supervisor at Rex Hospital. Edmiston is the first of her Filipino family to be born in the states.
“My dad’s job moved us to Raleigh in 1989; I’ve been here ever since,” she says.
Edmiston met her husband Bill, 50, a critical care nurse, working night shifts. Now they juggle two busy work schedules at Rex in an effort to have someone at home with their two active boys (ages 3 and 4). A move to Cary precipitated baby number three.
“This is the best area,” says Edmiston, who now lives in Cary’s Woods of Kildaire subdivision. “Even though you live in one town, you have access to everything with the same drive. We take advantage of Pullen Park, and we use the extensive park systems. We’re a moving family for sure.”