STORY BY CASSANDRA LING & DESIGN BY CAITLIN PRENOVOST
It’s 10 p.m. on a Friday night, and college students visiting their parents in Cary can’t get an ice cream cone. Everything is closed. For the families, this suburban, early-night lifestyle matches their needs: a high quality of life that offers plenty of jobs, top-ranked schools and a growing economy in a family-friendly environment. The kids may think it’s boring, but it’s exactly what parents want.
From the look of it, Cary is a prototypical small Southern town in the smack dab middle of North Carolina. There are no skyscrapers or overwhelming bustle; it is a simple suburban hub for families and commuters. If you look at the numbers, though, Cary is anything but small.
According to The Cary News, Cary is growing at a rate of 2.85 percent. This may not sound very high, but the overcrowding in schools and rapidly developing landscape demonstrate how the town is evolving.
This community is booming because, according to the website 24/7 Wall St., Cary is the eighth best place in the country to live. Its financial standing, low crime rate, job growth, high-rated schools and affordable lifestyle options keep this Southern town growing.
Cary attracts most of its residents, though, with jobs. More than 700 new businesses registered to do business in Cary in 2014. Research Triangle Park, populated mostly by tech firms and biotechnology corporations, is less than 12 miles away.
With such companies as MetLife and SAS (Statistical Analysis Software) bringing even more business to the area, the number of jobs continues to increase. MetLife created nearly 1,100 jobs this year on its new Cary campus, with more still remaining. Cary’s unemployment rate in 2015 is 3.5 percent, which is the same as it was pre-recession and is considered full employment.
Akash Shah, a student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says his parents moved to Cary from Connecticut because of those job opportunities. “Most people call C.A.R.Y. the Centralized Area of Relocated Yankees,” he says.
“Yankees” aren’t the only people who reside in Cary. Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said at the State of the Town address in 2015 that only 5 percent of residents are actually born and raised in Cary, and that one out of every five residents was born in another country. This town of transplants represents a diverse population, which includes about 22 percent of residents who are over 65, as well as young businessmen and businesswomen starting families.
7th | Cary is ranked the 7th largest municipality in N.C., according to wakegov.com.
Sophia Lin, who moved with her family from Houston, understands why her family chose Cary. “Families who would rather not live in Durham or Raleigh can find a good neighborhood,” she says. “There are constantly houses being built.”
People are starting to figure out what the town has to offer, and Cary will have to learn how to accommodate the growth. With more people moving to Cary to chase opportunities for employment, new and old residents alike are concerned with maintaining top-performing schools and the availability of housing that meets upper- and middle-class standards.
If you’re considering a vacation, Cary is not the place. The town is an economic engine feeding Research Triangle Park, built mainly for families and employees who need a place to call home. Cary, much like the rest of North Carolina, reflects the state’s attitudes toward new industry and a globalizing economy, and its growth is a window into what drives the New South.