Thursday, November 4, 2010

Retirees Moving to NC's Triangle

Going Halfway Back
Triangle Business Journal - by Chris Baysden
Friday, October 22, 2010, 9:29am EDT

CARY – About a year ago, Mark Hellerman and his wife, Roberta, packed up their bags to move out of Plantation, Fla. Hellerman, a native New Yorker, was retiring as a dentist and the couple wanted to start the next stage of their lives together in someplace other than the Sunshine State.

The Hellermans wanted to relocate to a place with cultural opportunities. The couple also preferred to be near a major airport so they could visit their grandchildren, who live in three different states. And after 26 years in tropical Florida, distinct seasons would be a nice touch.

When it came time to make a decision, the Hellermans picked Cary as their new home. And they’re glad they did.

“I like the climate,” says the 62-year-old Hellerman, who also enjoys the cultural offerings available at venues such as the DPAC. “I like the people … I’ve met.”

And how long do they plan to live here? “Till death do us part,” he says.

It’s no secret that North Carolina, and the Triangle in particular, has experienced a great wave of population inflow in recent years. According to U.S. Census figures, North Carolina added more than 1.3 million people over the past decade, growing from 8 million in 2000 to nearly 9.4 million in 2009.

Many of those have been drawn by the prospects of new jobs in the Triangle or in Charlotte. At least that was the case before the recession put the kibosh on growth. But there is a smaller group that includes retirees like Hellerman.

And where did they come from?

Florida was the No. 1 feeder state, with 38,188 moving from the Sunshine State. People moving from Florida to North Carolina often are dubbed “half-backs” because many originally moved down to Florida from northern states only to come halfway back by moving to North Carolina. New York (26,319) and Virginia (22,413) were the second and third largest feeder states.

Wake County attracted 21,106 of those 55-plus who relocated, tops in the state.

The retiree group is what Dan Owens thinks the state needs to do a better job of targeting. “It’s a fast-growing market with people with money,” says Owens, the Charlotte-based director of the National Active Retirement Association. “We have no strategy to appeal to that group.”

Owens’ pitch is simple: Attracting retirees is good for North Carolina’s economy. They’ve had a lifetime to save money, which they now are able to spend on houses, health care, resort activities and all kinds of consumer spending. Plus, retirees don’t have school-age children, so unlike many of the other people moving to North Carolina, the state won’t have to devote resources to educating their kids.

The N.C. Department of Commerce doesn’t have programs that are specific to attracting seniors. Spokesman Justin Guillory says the department markets to all people. “And a lot of those things we do market would be of interest to seniors,” he says.

In the past decade, about 230,000 people age 55 or older have relocated to North Carolina from another state and obtained a driver’s license, according to an analysis of N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles data conducted by Owens.

The Triangle is an attractive location for seniors for several reasons, including its strong health care facilities, universities that provide cultural opportunities and the presence of a major airport. In some cases it is now home to the kids and grandchildren of seniors looking to relocate.

Carla Sevilla, the vice president of sales and marketing for Michigan-based home builder PulteGroup Inc.’s local operations, knows the benefits of targeting seniors as customers. The company’s Carolina Preserve by Del Webb at Amberly retirement community, which is where Hellerman lives, has done very well catering to that demographic.

“If we have an opportunity to do another one, we’d do it in a heartbeat,” she says.

Read more: Going Halfway Back | Triangle Business Journal

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