TEASER Tri-Cities Aberdeen Southern Pines and Pinehurst

(File photographs/The Pilot)

Moore County holds the top spot for “micropolitan” areas in North Carolina for the fourth consecutive year, according to the 2021 Economic Strength report published by Policom.

Instead of looking for boomtowns or the latest “hotspot,” Policom, a Florida-based consulting firm, measures 23 different economic factors that determine how an economy has behaved over an extended period of time.

Economic strength is evaluated on the basis of the area’s long-term tendency to grow in both size and quality. By definition, a micropolitan area has an urban center of at least 10,000 but fewer than 50,000 people.

In the report issued in late January, data stretching from 2000 to 2019 (most current data available) placed the Pinehurst-Southern Pines micropolitan in the No. 1 slot for North Carolina and 53rd out of 543 micropolitan areas across the country. Statistical areas are “named” after the largest city or cities in the area, but it is generally accepted that Aberdeen is included in the study numerically, if not by name.

The second and third ranked micropolitans in North Carolina are Kill Devil Hills located on the Outer Banks, and the mountain town of Boone, respectively.

“We are an anomaly. The two key sectors that drive us are tourism and healthcare,” said Pat Corso, executive director of Partners in Progress, Moore County’s economic development arm. “When you look at our goods and services, we are a hub. We attract substantial interest for relocation, not only for retirement but people looking for a better quality of life. We have that and we have it in spades.

“We have three unique historic communities in our southern end that can accommodate a broad spectrum of economic opportunities,” he added.

To our north, the city of Sanford is also attracting plenty of new economic development investments.

Site Selector Magazine recently ranked “Brick City” fifth in the nation for top micropolitan areas, and the only North Carolina town to make the top 10 list.

That ranking listed nine active projects, including expansions by Audentes Therapeutics and Kalyani Group's Bharat Forge, which is investing $170 million and creating 460 jobs at its first U.S. automotive-parts factory.

Moore County tied for 55th place in Site Selector’s rankings, which was not a bad showing, Corso said.

“They are focused on a world we are not part of — industrial parks and commerce parks. Lee County has two of them and we have none. That is our failure,” Corso said. “I was never able to convince our county commissioners to do this even on a small scale.”

Moore County has never been on a fast burn, he added, waiting for a large company ready to roll into town and create 400 jobs at a clip. But we’ve had significant investment such as the more recent announcement of the United States Golf Association’s plans for Golf House Pinehurst and FirstHealth of the Carolinas Cancer Center.

“We tend to trend up in terms of our economy because ours is steady and it has remained steady for 30 years or more,” Corso said. “That Policom has recognized us for four consecutive years as the top micropolitan in North Carolina indicates that we are in the right place and right where we need to be. We are very relevant as a community.”

To view the complete 2021 Policom Economic Strength rankings report, visit

(1) comment

Patricia Bryan

And as John Nagy said, "harder to find a parking place." However I think there are areas, such as Morganton Road when all the building along it is complete, that you will sit in traffic just as if you had found a parking place. I now allow an extra 15-20 minutes to get places I used to go, though only go out once a week if I can help it. We left an area in 1988 in Montgomery County, Maryland, where a two lane road took me a half hour to go 2 1/2miles on and the County Council only said "at least you moved."

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