Maintaining Momentum: RDU Airport & Conclusion

By: Ted Abernathy, Economic Leadership LLC

Maintaining Momentum is a blog series written by Ted Abernathy, a leader in advancing economic development across North Carolina. 

The growth of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) is another example of our strong foundation. Today, airports are the equivalent of ports 200 years ago. A competitive airport supports commerce, allows mobility, and attracts visitors. Very few places without a strong airport have experienced growth in the last decade. Last year, more than 11 million passengers utilized RDU, a record. With over 400 daily flights and new direct flights to the West Coast and Paris, there is reason for optimism.

A strong history and foundation have catalyzed our success, and the data supports our region's continued upward trajectory:

  • Over the past quarter of a century, jobs in Wake County have more than doubled, growing by 114%. 
  • Job growth has been widespread across diverse industries, with even a slight growth in manufacturing jobs since 1990.
  • In 1990, 423,380 people lived in Wake County. In 2016, that number had risen to over one million (1,028,410), approximately 143% growth. Over the next 30 years, among competitor regions, only Austin is experiencing faster percentage growth.
  • Even in years when Wake County has not experienced job growth, the labor force has continued to consistently grow. 
  • In expected annual economic output, gross domestic product growth, again the Raleigh metro only trails Austin among competitor regions. 
  • From 2010-2015, North Carolina was the third fastest growing state for technology jobs, adding 400,000 net new jobs. Wake County's tech sector jobs grew by 49.6%, more than double the state average of 20.6%. 

Maintaining our momentum and enhancing our competitiveness will never be easy, and will never be complete. Maintaining a great business climate, improving infrastructure and mobility options, and growing and attracting a workforce with the skills our companies need is a challenge. Understanding the balance of education, health, housing, safety and amenities that position us to attract new workers takes leadership, vision and courage. Today, just for one day, we can celebrate our home, one of the best places to live, work and play in the world. Tomorrow we must get up, dig in, and find ways to make it better.


For a recap of "Our History & Foundation," click here. For "Jobs & Population Growth," click herehere for Labor Force & GDP Growth, and here for "Tech Sector Jobs & Growth."


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