SP, Pinehurst Hot Spot for Retirees in the South
BY TED M. NATT JR.
Pat Corso was not surprised by new survey results that show the Southern Pines-Pinehurst area is the most popular retirement destination in the 13 Southern states outside Florida.
"We've done a great job of creating awareness," said Corso, executive director of Moore County Partners in Progress. "The difference now is that it's not only about golf, because we have become a very cosmopolitan community with cultural activities, recreational activities and proximity to urban centers, among other things.
"To be successful moving forward, we have to continue to have that kind of diversity."
The Business Journals, a division of American City Business Journals, recently reported that the top 13 retirement destinations in the South are all in Florida, with Sebring coming in No. 1.
Even though Southern Pines-Pinehurst was 14th in the regional standings, being the top-rated non-Florida site is "great news for us," said Patrick Coughlin, president and CEO of the Moore County Chamber of Commerce.
"I think that's awesome," Coughlin said. "But I think one of the things that may be an underlying theme here is what retirees look like today. The face of retirees has changed, especially if you look at the community and the influence of Fort Bragg."
While the area still attracts the traditional retiree of 60-something years old, Coughlin believes an increasing number of 40-something soldiers are retiring after 20 years in the military and starting a new career here.
"We have the Special Operations command at Bragg, and a lot of those soliders retire at a relatively early age," he said. "We will continue to attract the traditional people who are truly retiring from work, but we're seeing a much broader spectrum of retiree today."
In Pinehurst, for example, there were relatively fewer residents age 65 and older in 2010 (38 percent) than there were in 2000 (42 percent), according to U.S. Census data.
Further evidence that the village is trending to a younger population can be found in the percentage of people age 50 and older, which fell from 64 percent in 2000 to 58 percent in 2010, and the percentage of people age 19 and under, which increased from 12 percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2010.
"I think this data reinforces the need to invest in (the) Moore Forward (initiative) ... to keep the trends going in the right direction and to accelerate them," Tom McPherson, a serial entrepreneur, said in a recent email to Corso.
Caleb Miles, president and CEO of the Pinehurst-Southern Pines-Aberdeen Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said attracting retirees is "a process."
"Most everyone we talk to who retires here was a visitor first," Miles said. "They may have come with a group of golfers, or as part of a meeting or convention. Generally, there's a positive reaction to that experience, and that leads to inquiries about a future place of residence."
Miles added that the timing of the survey was "real interesting," because the CVB is working with the Moore County Home Builders Association and Moore County Real Estate Brokers to develop a "lifestyles" website as part of Moore Forward.
"Step one is some research, and that's what we're working on right now," he said.
The website will target four markets: traditional retirees, military personnel, professionals who work in the Triangle, and returnees, or people who grew up in Moore County and moved away for college or jobs.
Corso said he hopes the website will help the county leverage its success in attracting retirees.
"Can we do as good a job in the other three target markets?" he said. "We're moving that way. Our intuitive efforts are validated by statistical trends. Being recognized again as a top retirement destination has implications in that we can build off it."
The survey, which was released earlier this month, is based on a six-part formula developed to gauge the relative popularity of 233 Southern metropolitan and micropolitan areas among people who are 65 or older.
The formula is designed to identify those markets that have sizable and growing populations of senior citizens.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or tnatt@the pilot.com.
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