North Carolina beyond the Connected Age: The Tar Heel State in 2050

North Carolina beyond the Connected Age: The Tar Heel State in 2050

North Carolina beyond the Connected Age: The Tar Heel State in 2050

North Carolina beyond the Connected Age: The Tar Heel State in 2050


For years, North Carolina has been one of the nation's fastest-growing states, bringing tremendous change to the state's people, industries, jobs, places, environment, and government. Much of this change resulted from the information and technology revolution, which connected the state more fully to the country and the world. But we are now moving beyond the connected age, argues Michael L. Walden, to a new era of living, production, and work, and North Carolina faces not only unanswered questions about the past but also new challenges and opportunities visible on the horizon. What will these new transformations mean for the state's people, places, and prosperity?

In this book, Walden lays out these looming economic issues and offers predictions of future trends as well as multiple policy options for taxation, infrastructure, and environmental issues. While the future cannot be perfectly predicted, Walden's expert analysis is mandatory reading for policy makers, business leaders, and everyday people seeking to prepare for upcoming changes in North Carolina's economy.


North Carolina was a different place in the 1970s. Its population was smaller, younger, whiter, and less educated than it would be at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Although changes were under way, the “Big Three” industries of tobacco, textiles, and furniture still dominated the state’s economy. the major trade agreements that would open these industries to international competition—and shrink them in the process—were still to come. Although the standard of living for the state’s residents lagged the nation, North Carolinians had made great strides since World War ii, and a middle-class lifestyle was now a reality—or a realistic dream—for most households. Most North Carolinians still lived in small towns and rural regions. the future metropolitan giants of Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham were on the cusp of their growth spurt.

By the beginning of the twenty-first century all this had changed. Pushed by both domestic and international migration, the state’s population had almost doubled. It had become more diverse racially, ethnically, and culturally. in some big cities, it was difficult to find a native-born North Carolinian. the “Big Three” of tobacco, textiles, and furniture were shadows of their former selves, having been replaced by the “Big Five” of technology, pharmaceuticals, food processing, banking, and vehicle parts firms. Over 60 percent of the state’s residents lived in urban counties. Metropolitan areas were ascending, small towns and rural areas struggling. Several counties had lost population. in contrast, the state’s two racehorse economies of Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham were adding new households at record rates from both within and outside the state. Charlotte became the nation’s second largest banking center, acquired two major league sports franchises, and hosted the 2012 Democratic National Convention. the Raleigh-Durham metro region saw its technology center—the Research Triangle Park—develop to become the model for similar endeavors around the nation and world. But the economic dream had faded for many, with the percentage of households classified as middle class dropping by half in thirty years.

These trends were not unique to North Carolina. Indeed, most southeastern states experienced similar patterns. However, North Carolina was traditionally . . .

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