WCH In the News

Analysis: South’s Population Growth Can Lead to Prosperity if Local Governments Support Entrepreneurs


Original article courtesy of Daily Yonder.
by James H. Johnson, Jr., Jeanne Milliken Bonds and Wendell M. Davis

November 30, 2022



Multiple Southern states with large rural areas are now popular destinations for both migration and business development.

Newcomers driving population growth constitute an increasingly diverse pool of talent that will propel these economies forward.

In North Carolina, state commerce officials have successfully recruited six major firms that will create an estimated 18,000 new jobs by 2030, earning North Carolina the reputation as the best place in the country to do business.  Other Southern states placed in the ranking, including Virginia in third, Texas and Tennessee, fifth and sixth respectively, Georgia at number 10, followed by Florida at number 11.

The South has been attracting the largest share of net population growth in the U.S. over the past five decades (see the graph at the top of this article).

The South is the dominant region for population gain from all regions of the country, with the Western region lagging much further behind, using the latest data from the Census Bureau, April 1, 2020 – July 1, 2021. Significant increases occurred due to increased migration patterns during Covid-19 outbreaks, when pandemic refugees left the larger cities in the Northeast to spread out in the more rural South.

The Southern states’ share of the growth over the past decade, ending in 2020 , is shown in Figure 3, where five top migrant states – Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia – garner 79% of the growth to the South. Those same states ranked in the top 11 best places to do business.



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James H. Johnson, Jr. is William Rand Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Jeanne Milliken Bonds is a Professor of Practice, Impact Investment, and Sustainable Finance, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a former mayor and was previously with the Federal Reserve.

Wendell M. Davis is a retired chief executive officer from local government and former chief financial officer in higher education. He is currently the managing principal and owner of Sixty-Revolutions (SR/365) LLC, a management consulting practice focused on helping organizations develop best practices. 

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