New Hanover County
offers coastal living and a moderate year-round climate, which continually attracts new residents to southeastern North Carolina. According to the Bureau of Census for 2000, the coastal counties of New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender grew nearly 35 percent overall, surpassing the state's 21.4 percent growth rate. Growth for the Wilmington metropolitan statistical area (MSA), which includes parts of these counties, was 36.9 % -- 14th highest in the nation.
In the last decade of the 20th century, the Lower Cape Fear region's economy remained, like the weather, moderate and relatively stable. This stability, according to local business and economic leaders, helped the area to be somewhat less affected by state and national economic trends. Despite both good and bad economic periods in its history, the Greater Wilmington area hasn't experienced the excessive highs during more prosperous eras nor the drastic lows during recessions as other demographically similar regions.
During the early years of the 21st century, the trend in economic growth has continued. Overall economic growth for the three-county region rose 9.7 percent over 2004 to $8.5 billion, and was projected to rise 7 percent in 2005 and another 7 percent in 2006 to $9.7 billion according to William W. Hall Jr., Director of the Center for Business & Economics Services at UNCW. For the twelve months ending May 2005, retail sales were strong in the three Cape Fear coastal counties; Brunswick County was up 11.5 percent with sales reaching $1.2 billion, Pender County was up a whopping 22.9 percent to $360.2 million and New Hanover County was up 11.2 percent to $3.9 billion.
Despite a growing trend toward year-round tourism in southeastern North Carolina, the rise and fall of economic activity throughout the year, especially during the summer months, is a fact of life for coastal counties. Employment trends have been difficult to predict during recent years because of rapid population growth, new companies entering the marketplace and other factors. However, on a historical basis, both the labor force and the number of people employed peak during June through August and bottom out during the December to January period.
Although manufacturing continues to be an economic force in the region, statistics compiled by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Cameron School of Business indicate that the bulk of today's employment opportunities are in the services sector. This is a broad category that includes such diverse occupations as physicians, government workers, real estate brokers, educators, service-oriented business, hotel staff and restaurant employees.
Major Companies of Southeastern North Carolina and New Hanover County:
International Paper - Wood Products & Paper
Campbell Soup - Food processing
General Electric - Aircraft Engines & Nuclear Energy HQs
Corning Telecommunications – fiber
Kordsa USA - Tire cord
Smithfield Foods - Food processing
Verizon Wireless - Customer Service Center
Ritz-Craft Modular Homes
LL Building Products
FCC - Automotive clutches
Elkay-Southern - Stainless steel sinks
Fort Bragg - Military Installation
Pope Air Force Base - Military Installation
Progress Energy - Energy Provider
Wal-Mart Distribution Center
Del Laboratories - Hygiene Products
DAK - Americas Resins
Georgia-Pacific - Wood products & paper