Attracting young people to the Hickory area is a major goal of Catawba County leaders. Recent data on community aging trends highlights the daunting task facing elected leaders.
The spring edition of the Bulletin of Economic Indicators, a publication of the Western Piedmont Council of Governments, included data on population projections for various age groups between 2020 and 2040.
Projections show that the Hickory region will reach a growth rate of 6.2% by 2040, adding nearly 23,000 people to a total population of nearly 388,000.
Most of this growth is expected to be at the upper end of the age range.
While the Hickory Metropolitan Statistical Area’s youth working-age population (those aged 18-44) is projected to grow 5.5% by 2040, the 65+ age group is projected to increase by 35%.
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This figure covers the entire Hickory Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Catawba, Caldwell, Burke and Alexander counties.
The report also highlights the variations across the region when it comes to young and old population trends.
The demographic shift for working-age youth is expected to range from a loss of nearly 10% in Alexander County to a gain of 13% in Catawba County.
Meanwhile, population growth ages 65 and older is expected to range from 18% in Burke County to more than 54% in Catawba County.
Taylor Dellinger, senior data analyst for the Council of Governments, said there are things that can be done to get the region to buy into the aging projections presented in the data.
He pointed to the number of jobs open in the community, which currently exceeds the number of workers available. While housing costs have risen, Dellinger said, costs in the Hickory area remain lower than neighboring cities like Charlotte and Asheville.
Dellinger also said a focus on improving quality of life through urban revitalization and creating new amenities in parts of the Hickory region will also put the region in a better position to beat those projections.
“At the end of the day, the numbers from the state demographer are a projection, and a lot can change in 20 years,” Dellinger said. “It will be interesting to look back and see how close these numbers are to reality in 2040 and how policy decisions that are made now or in the last couple of years will impact the population numbers there. ‘coming.”
Kevin Griffin is the Hickory City Reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.