During the 1580s, 20 years before English colonists famously settled in Jamestown, the “Lost Colony of Roanoke Island” mysteriously disappeared off the coast of what was to become North Carolina. Other than the legend, the only existing remnant of this early settlement in the Americas is Dare County along the Outer Banks, named for Virginia Dare, the first English child born on this side of the Atlantic.
Despite the tragic unknown fate of those original colonists, people kept coming to North Carolina, and they still do in significant numbers. The 14th fastest growing state in the nation, North Carolina posted a population growth rate of more than 5% between 2010 and 2015. It is now the ninth most populous state with roughly 10 million residents. Approximately 69% of North Carolinians are white, 21% are black, 8% are Hispanic, 2% are Asian, 2% are multiracial and 1% are American Indian. As of early 2016, the median household income was $46,334 – roughly $7,000 less than the U.S. median – with approximately 17% of residents living below the poverty line.
North Carolina attracts transplants with its varied topography, thanks to the Appalachian Mountains in the west, the rolling hills in the central Piedmont region and the coastal plain and beaches in the east. Adding to the quality of life, the state enjoys a generally mild climate, a wide variety of recreational opportunities and relatively affordable real estate. In early 2016, the statewide median home value was $159,396 – roughly $24,000 less than the national median – while the median rental price was $927. In Charlotte, the state’s largest city, the median home value was $188,033, while in Raleigh, the state’s capital, it was $223,046.
Originally a tobacco-farming state, North Carolina is still the leading producer of tobacco and cigarettes in the U.S. It also remains a top producer of household furniture and textiles. While all of these manufacturing industries have shrunk dramatically and greatly reduced their workforces, they remain important influences in the state. Surprisingly, the textile industry is even growing again, with nine textile manufacturers announcing plans to expand or build plants in North Carolina in 2013.
Most of North Carolina's job growth, however, is attributable to its burgeoning technology, science and education sectors. The evolution from a rural agrarian state into a high-tech center began with Research Triangle Park, created in 1959 between the hub cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill and in close proximity to nearby Duke University, the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University. More than 200 corporations, including such giants as IBM, Cisco Systems, Glaxo Smithkline and Biogen, maintain facilities employing roughly 50,000 people at what is now the country’s largest research park with more than 7,000 developed acres.
Another such center, the 350-acre North Carolina Research Campus just outside of Charlotte, is focused on health, nutrition and agriculture research, while the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem has taken over empty warehouses that were once owned by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Yet North Carolina's modern economy encompasses more than science and technology. Home to Bank of America, Charlotte is a major banking center, second only to New York in the number of financial companies headquartered there. Plus, the state has become an attractive filmmaking location. The coastal city of Wilmington, home of EUE/Screen Gems Studios, has hosted more than 400 film, television and commercial projects since 1985, including Iron Man 3.