Like much of Moore County around it, Pinehurst Resort is becoming younger.
“We’ve definitely noticed the shift in demographics in Moore County", says Tom Pashley. Pashley, 49, moved to Pinehurst in the late 1990s and, after a series of roles with Pinehurst Resort, became its president in 2014.
“Younger families are moving to the area and adding a new vitality to the community,” he says. “In response to this trend, Pinehurst Country Club has successfully created new events and activities targeting families. But we’ve also added a wide variety of programming to appeal to a wide audience.”
The resort’s swimming facility added a kids’ pool, water slide and game room in 2015. A new pub, The Deuce, is open behind the 18th green of Pinehurst No. 2. The Cradle, a new 9-hole short course, rests at the doorstep of the famous Resort Clubhouse.
A historic 1895 steam plant, once slated for demolition, and a 1900s trolley that toted Pinehurst visitors from the Seaboard Railway Station are repurposed and thriving. The steam plant now houses Pinehurst Brewing Company owned by the Resort. Specialty businesses are opening. The resort has spa packages and wedding-reception venues.
Pashley and county leaders see the value of keeping one eye on history while moving forward.
“The bottom line is most people in the state [North Carolina] think of us as a retirement community,” says Pat Corso, executive director of Moore County Partners in Progress economic development group in Pinehurst, who has lived in Moore County for 32 years. “And all of that is a key component, but it’s far from the defining factor of who we are now.”
The majority of homes being built in southern Moore County cost between $200,000 and $400,000, he says, a decline from the days when most residential construction was aimed at affluent retirees. Now “It’s more families,” Corso says.
Proximity to Fort Bragg to the south, along with the tourism and health care industries and educational offerings from Sandhills Community College, are tilting Moore’s population.
“Traditionally, this area has had an older demographic, in permanent residents and visitors, but there are factors contributing to perhaps a younger shift,” says Phil Werz, president and CEO of the Convention & Visitors Bureau of Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area. Military families have been joined by people working remotely with companies based in the Triad and Triangle.
“They love the slower pace and quality of life in the Sandhills, plus, they feel their dollar goes a little further here, especially when purchasing a home,” Werz says.
Business owners across the county are capitalizing on opportunities.
“The dynamics have changed. With Fort Bragg, a lot of career military have moved up to the area,” says Mark Elliott, owner of Elliott’s on Linden restaurant in Pinehurst, Sly Fox Gastropub in Southern Pines and a coffee shop and catering business. “It’s nice. It’s the next generation of people coming in, and they want to raise their kids here.”
Linda Parsons, president and CEO of the Moore County Chamber of Commerce in Southern Pines, has seen the growth.
“We’ve seen an uptick in individuals successfully opening businesses throughout the county, which balances the growth of the larger big-box stores that have also moved into the community,” says Parsons, who has been with the chamber since 2005 and has led it since 2014. “If I could sum up what I believe we see in the business community, it’s a sense of vibrancy.”
Pinehurst/Southern Pines ranks No. 27 in a 2018 economic-strength ranking of micropolitan communities — cities with 50,000 or fewer residents with an urbanized area of at least 10,000. That’s a jump from No. 103 in 2017, according to economic development adviser Policom Corp.
Moore County ranked No. 11 out of 100 in N.C. in 2017 for travel expenditures and brought in $491.28 million in domestic tourism revenue. But tourism isn’t the sole economic driver.
Healthcare is a major employer, accounting for 30.1% of the workforce in 2017, according to Moore Alive, an economic and talent recruitment entity. FirstHealth of the Carolinas is the county’s largest private employer with more than 3,000 employees at Moore Regional Hospital and locations in 19 other cities.
“I’ve been here a long time, and the hospital has been cutting-edge from the very beginning,” says John Krahnert, chief medical officer and founder of Moore Regional’s cardiac surgery program, who came onboard in 1990.
Part of FirstHealth’s program is connected to Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst.
“One of the big things we have on the horizon is, back in May, the voters passed a $21 million bond issue to help us construct an allied health training facility, a medical education facility, and that’s going to be huge for us,” says Germaine Elkins, SCC’s vice president of institutional advancement. “We recognize that FirstHealth and others have the demand for nurses, EMTs — it’s a high-demand area.”
The college instituted Sandhills Promise in 2017, which allows high-school graduates in Moore and Hoke counties to attend tuition-free after meeting financial and grade-point guidelines. The first group will graduate in May.
This article highlights a few of the reasons for Moore County’s “shift change” – more young entrepreneurs and families are making Moore County home as the area is growing and the economy is expanding. But we still remain welcoming to retirees as well, offering a myriad of healthcare services and senior living options.
(Article by Kathy Blake. 1st in a series of 3 articles from Business North Carolina’s Moore County Spotlight, a special section in the magazine’s January 2019 issue. Read the full article here. Photo from Business North Carolina.)