By: Michael Haley, Executive Director, Wake County Economic Development.
Which metro economies are best positioned to survive and thrive in a post-pandemic world? Adam Kamins, Director of Economic Economic Research at Moody’s analytics recently posed this question in an article for Area Development.
Kamins claims, “the places that boast the best prospects in the years to come will be those with a strong workforce and the ability to capitalize upon changing preferences.”
For these reasons, and many others, we believe Wake County is well-positioned to be among the winners in the post-pandemic recovery.
One way the article identifies communities poised to grow is by comparing population density and the share of adults with a college degree. “Fast-growing tech hubs in the West and South lead based on this metric.” Raleigh and Austin metros are specifically mentioned as two rapidly growing areas that “could prove even more attractive in a new, post-COVID-19 world.”
We know this to be true, as our region (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) ranks the #4 most educated city in the United States according to WalletHub, with 46.5% of adults 25 years and older having a bachelors degree or higher.
The nation’s largest metros have been affected by an outflow of population due to the pandemic, and “increased net outmigration is likely in the medium term.” There is also concern that “the perception of cities among today’s young adults and teenagers may be colored by the impact of COVID-19.” This would further accelerate growth of less-densely-populated metros like Raleigh that have the appeal of high-quality jobs and high quality of life.
Additionally, many workers and firms have adopted remote work policies, enabling workers to make location decisions based on an entirely new set of personal considerations. Metros with large tech sector employment are especially desirable for remote workers. The Raleigh metro, along with peers such as Austin, Denver and Portland are the leading metros meeting these needs, and all three have among the largest share of remote workers already.
There is also a commiserate impact on businesses leaving large metro areas as “many firms are beginning to reconsider whether an address in a large city justifies the cost.” For instance, the Raleigh metro has experienced the impact of fintech firms leaving large metros like NYC and growing locally. MetLife, Credit Suisse, Fidelity Investment and IHS Markit are just a few examples.
This assessment aligns with that of Dr. Michael Walden, Reynolds Distinguished Professor at NC State University. In WCED’s 2021 Economy & Business, Dr. Walden noted that “families and firms who decide to leave highly-dense cities where the virus quickly spread can easily be attracted to Raleigh’s cutting-edge economy, moderate costs, exciting amenities, and pleasant weather.” Dr. Walden also notes that “Raleigh is rated as one of the highest in the nation for potential remote working making the Raleigh metro positioned for economic success in 2021.”
Due to Wake County’s strong fundamentals—talent, diverse economy, education / higher education ecosystem, and quality of life—the community is positioned well to succeed in 2021 and beyond.