Here to Stay

People come to the family of communities in and around
the City of Oaks to put down roots.

By Connie Gentry

New in town? Most of us are! In fact, even those of us who’ve lived here for years still can’t keep up with all the newness and excitement coming to our communities. The one thing that seems certain: Every day we’re growing, evolving, and adding more opportunities for work, for play, and for great experiences.

The numbers are staggering: More than half of the adults living in our state were born somewhere else. And we just keep on welcoming more folks, with 43 people moving into the Raleigh area each day—12 from another county within North Carolina, 20 from another state, and 11 from another country. Whatever brings people here—school, career, retirement—it’s a place they want to be; and for many, they come believing they are here to stay. 

That newcomers arrive with the hope of putting down roots bodes well for the future of our communities. Many of our local leaders came to the area with that same kind of commitment, and we talked with some to learn their suggestions for newcomers—mostly, they share their ideas for making the most of today and planning for tomorrow. 

Photo by farid sani

Photo by farid sani

Own Your Community

The Triangle, which includes Raleigh and its surrounding communities, as well as Durham and Chapel Hill, has a population of more than 2 million people. Cary is the largest of the “small towns,” with more than 160,000 people calling it home.

And Cary is among the most affordable and prosperous areas, not only in this region, but also in the country: The median household income in Cary is $91,480, according to the Cary Chamber of Commerce. That’s almost double the $46,556 median household income for the state, and it’s substantially above the national median household income of $53,657. In Cary, the median housing price of a single-family home is $247,900.

Apex is another thriving and prosperous community, with a population estimated at 58,726 as of July 31st. (Source: And Holly Springs, with a population of 37,000, a median age of 35, and median household incomes of $98,041, is one of the best spots in the country for young families. (Source: Town of Holly Springs.) In Fuquay-Varina, the population is nearing 30,000 and the median household income is $70,226. (Source Similarly, Morrisville is growing fast, with a population approaching 28,000, and 67 percent of adults over the age of 25 with a college degree, including 29 percent with graduate or professional degrees. (Source: Town of Morrisville.)

“Regardless of where you’re living—in Raleigh and all the municipalities around Wake County—we really are a family of communities, and each town has its own feel,” says Adrienne Cole, president and CEO of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. Of the 64 people added to our area population each day, Cole says 21 are born here and 43 are moving here. “It’s an exciting time to be in Raleigh; this is an ascending marketplace, and we have over 700 international companies in our market now. We have this thriving tech sector fueled by what I believe to be the strongest education ecosystem in the country,” Cole adds.

She points to the quality of K-through-12 education in Wake County, the strength of Wake Tech’s offerings, and the strength of the region’s university system as fundamental reasons this market is so dynamic. But the biggest factor, she says, is this: “There’s this spirit of optimism and momentum that makes this a really special place. It doesn’t mean we aren’t without our challenges, and it doesn’t mean that there aren’t things we need to be paying attention to around affordability and upward mobility and equitable economic development.” 

One of the most significant trends: Growing interest from companies looking to bring their headquarters here. At the Chamber, Cole says 20 to 25 percent of their project load now consists of possible headquarters coming to the area, and the benefits go beyond job creation and bragging rights. “It’s great for philanthropy, because very often headquarters in a market are strong supporters of philanthropic efforts in their market as well.” 

Her advice to newcomers: “Just get involved. This is a community where you don’t have to have been here for a long time to get engaged and be a partner in what the future of this place is going to look like. There are some cities where you’re only accepted into those leadership opportunities or engagement opportunities if you’ve been there a long time. This isn’t a place like that, so newcomers can become as engaged as they want to be—whether that’s volunteering on boards or getting involved in organizations, there are different opportunities for engagement.”

What our communities become will be a product of many visions, and Cole attributes the success and opportunity here to a “rich history of collaboration,” a characteristic she believes is unique to this market. “I hear from people, ‘You guys work so well together.’ That doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because people are very intentional about working together to create the community and the kind of future we want here. That doesn’t mean we are always going to agree. But that means we are going to come to the table and have the discussion in a civil way, where we can debate things and come to the right conclusion. I don’t want to lose that; it’s something very special about this community.” 

Q&A with Adrienne Cole

Buy or rent?  “It’s such a personal decision, to rent first or buy immediately. My husband and I rented for about six months before we bought a house because we wanted to get a handle on where we wanted to be. But I’ve talked to other people who fell in love with a community and bought immediately.”   

Personal favorites? “Doing things around the community with my family—we love the festivals, like Artsplosure and Wide Open Bluegrass; we go to concerts and theater; and we’re on the greenway often.”


One Year In

She arrived just a year ago, and the one thing that Hallie Johnston, store manager for Wegmans Food Markets, would change is that she wishes she could have come sooner. It’s been a rollicking year, about to culminate in the September 29th grand opening of Wegmans’ first North Carolina store, located in the Midtown East Shopping Center on Wake Forest Road in Raleigh. The second location will open early next summer in West Cary on Davis Drive.

Johnston and her family have settled in Apex, and she says the best thing about this area is that there are so many affordable options here. “A lot of our people are moving into Garner and Clayton, and buying their first homes at an incredibly affordable rate. They’re able to start their roots there,” Johnston says. “The majority of people who want to own are buying,” she adds, and sometimes that happens even before they get here. For those who want to rent, she says there are folks who are choosing to live in downtown Raleigh. “All of us coming here are saying how welcoming this community is, how helpful everyone has been, and that it’s so refreshing.”

Coming from Rochester, New York, what’s surprised her most is that it’s not as hot as she’d anticipated—and the blue skies. “Definitely the blue skies! Coming from the North, we’re not used to blue skies every single day,” she enthuses.

Actually, that blue skies outlook has colored the thinking of all the newcomers Wegmans is bringing to the market. “We’re relocating 82 folks to this market from the six states where we currently do business, and all of them will arrive by September 1st,” she says. “It’s an easy sell; folks want to come here, and [this area] has been a great market because we’re relocating whole families— everyone is so excited to be coming here.” Each store will employ about 500 people, so Wegmans will be hiring and relocating for some time to come.

Aside from the differences in weather (Johnston says she’d be happy to never see snow again), the school systems in our market have been most surprising. “No one was ever exposed to a year-round school system before, and our employees who are involved with it here absolutely love it,” she says. Her son is a freshman at Cardinal Gibbons High School and her daughter attends St. Mary Magdalene Catholic School in Apex.

Although her family has embraced the move to this area, there is one conundrum that she’s grappling with. How to answer the question she’s asked most often: Who do you root for? “We’ll have stores near all of [the Triangle universities]. Right now, NC State is closest to our Raleigh store; but soon we’ll have a store right in-between Duke and Chapel Hill. It’s terrible. I don’t have an answer, but I’ll probably have to stick with NC State, since it’s closest to our first store.”

Except for the team loyalty quandary, she says this area is a perfect fit for Wegmans. Pragmatically speaking, Raleigh and its surrounding communities have the density and population growth that Wegmans requires, since those are the prerequisites for hiring a lot of people and maintaining the volumes that support low prices. Johnston adds, “Raleigh is a family-friendly community; it’s a diverse area in thought, food, and experiences—we embrace all of that and want to be a part of it.”

Q&A with Hallie Johnston  

Favorite restaurant: The Provincial in Apex

Favorite foodie spot: “The food halls! Love Transfer Co.and Morgan Street! (Wegmans is a food hall as well, with chefs making fresh food daily, and you can dine in the café or take it home.)”

Opportunities Overload

Everyone talks about the great outdoor living in North Carolina. Even the folks who are spending most of their outdoor time on an al fresco patio still rave about all we can do outside—the greenways, the coast, the mountains. Wit Tuttle, vice president of tourism and marketing for the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina and executive director of Visit NC, talks about it more than any of us—not only because it’s his job, but also because he and his family are avid bikers and greenway enthusiasts. 

Before moving to Fuquay-Varina 13 years ago, Tuttle hailed from Alaska and Florida—so when he talks about the grandeur of our Blue Ridge Mountains and the unique qualities of our beaches, his frame of reference includes some pretty amazing settings. But this is the place he chooses to call home. To newcomers, he would say, “This is the most diverse state for activities, I believe, of any in the country. Where else can you go on a 30-mile stretch of beach that’s completely undeveloped—and in the same state, ski and golf in the same day? People don’t realize how much there is to do and see here; we’re the 6th most-visited state in the country.”

And living in the Raleigh area is just about perfect, as he points out: “You don’t get the difficulties of living in a beach community or mountain community, but you can go to both. And there’s a tremendous amount of things to do here—hiking, biking, lakes. I’m always experiencing things, and trying to keep the perspective of a newcomer.”

Tuttle and his family lived in Fuquay-Varina for 12 years, which they loved, but they recently moved to Raleigh for easier access to some of their favorite biking along the Neuse River trails.  “What North Carolina has done really well is maintain each community’s individual personality. Cary’s personality is definitely different than Fuquay-Varina. Unique and distinctly different, people look for that authenticity.”

The challenge he struggles with is making time to venture around the state when the Raleigh area also has so much to explore and enjoy, but he encourages everyone to make that effort.  In fact, 40 percent of the tourists visiting different parts of North Carolina are in-state residents. And it’s a very mobile-friendly venture, with 90 percent of visitors choosing to drive. That’s due in part to convenience and excellent highway systems, but it’s also a reflection of the lack of mass transit options in our cities.  

“The challenge for areas like Wake [County] is managing the growth, to make sure it’s done in a smart way that benefits as many people as possible and allows for future growth,” Tuttle says. “Transportation is key—[whether] it’s mass transit or it’s an interconnected greenway system that allows for individual transit on different types of vehicles. We have to set ourselves up for the future. How do we deal with electric scooters? How do we deal with automated cars? I think transportation is a huge part of the future, making sure everything is connected and works for our communities.”

One of the biggest segments of vacationers are those who are coming to visit friends or family, and Tuttle encourages newcomers to learn all they can about places to take their out-of-town guests. “ People who move here probably don’t know about Cape Hatteras National Seashore; it’s the first national seashore ever. They don’t know there are over 200 scenic overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway or that Wilmington has one of the biggest historic districts in the country.”

Whatever the reason for traveling in our state, the most impressive measure is that 90 percent of people who spend one vacation here become repeat visitors. Like all the people who move here with the intention of putting down roots, people who come tend to stay or return.  

Q&A with Wit Tuttle

Favorite eats: “I’m a barbecue guy; I love all kinds of barbecue—I’m partial to Danny’s Bar-B-Que, but I like some eastern North Carolina barbecue, too.”

Which team? “I’m for anyone who’s playing against Florida State.  I went to the University of Florida, so my hatred of FSU outweighs any loyalty to anyone else—I’ll cheer for NC State or Duke or UNC, or anyone else playing FSU.”

Photo by land, ltd.

Photo by land, ltd.

Make Your Opinion Count 

After new voter requirements began changing, back in 2013, Kate Fellman decided folks deserved to be better informed on the mechanics and requirements of voting. “We try to translate things into a positive empowering message: ‘You can vote, here’s how,’” says Fellman, founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization You Can Vote. The goal of the nonpartisan group is to help move voters beyond misconceptions and beyond apathy—to empower individuals “to make informed decisions instead of being overwhelmed by this whiplash of changing voting rules,” she explains. 

One of the best ways to impact the future of our communities is to vote in local elections. “We believe the more people who are informed about the processes and see how these lawmakers impact our lives, the better decisions we can all make together,” Fellman adds. Her No. 1 recommendation is that people take advantage of early voting. There are 17 days of early voting in North Carolina, and voters can even get a photo ID at early registration. 

This year Election Day in Raleigh and Cary is October 8th; both towns will be electing a mayor as well as filling council seats. Raleigh will vote to fill all seven seats on its city council; Cary will be voting for three council seats. In the surrounding communities, Election Day will be November 5th. Mayors will be elected in Apex and Fuquay-Varina; town council members will be elected in Apex, Holly Springs, and Morrisville, while Fuquay-Varina and Wake Forest will be electing seats on their board of commissioners. has a wealth of facts to educate and enable the voting process.

Empowering Women Entrepreneurs

After successful runs in large cities around the country,
WEX adds Raleigh to its agenda.

By Brittany Murdock 

Alexa Carlin might be a few months new to Raleigh, but her popular Women Empower X (WEX) event has been bringing women entrepreneurs together for years, and it’s headed to Raleigh on October 12th.

As a successful public speaker, Alexa saw power in community and wanted to help women collaborate in a positive environment. WEX aims to bring together a diverse community of women from different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, with the mindset that there is enough room in this world for all women to be successful. It’s an opportunity for female leaders, entrepreneurs, and executives to reinvent themselves, create lasting relationships, and grow their business. But, most of all, it’s an event to help women feel empowered—because when you feel supported, you feel empowered.

This one-day event features keynote speakers, breakout workshops, authentic networking, insightful panels, and 60 exhibitors, along with resources, coaches, and products to help women get to the next level in their personal life and their business endeavors.

Visit for general admission and VIP tickets.

 Welcome to Tobacco Road:

What Color Do You Bleed?

By Cindy Huntley and Jody Maness

Welcome to the Triangle! Now that you’ve unpacked and registered to vote, let’s get down to business: You have to pick a team. We’re not talking professional sports, like hockey or baseball. This is Tobacco Road: We live and breathe college basketball (plus a little football in the off-season). Even with all our miles of coastline, the hurricane season here pales in comparison to the storms brewing in March. With Duke and UNC located just 11 miles apart and NC State right down the road in Raleigh, you don’t have to go far to find your enemy. And that’s what we love about these rivalries—your favorite neighbor could also be your No. 1 archrival.

While the focus is often on the mens’ teams, the womens’ basketball teams at our universities are solid national forces as well. Or if basketball and football aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other teams to support at each of these universities: Baseball, gymnastics, soccer, lacrosse, golf, and field hockey, to name a few.

And don’t think you’re completely off the hook because you already have a college team in another state. We’ll let that slide, because boy do we understand team loyalty…as long as you pick one of ours that you dislike more than the rest. 

(Just in case you’re not familiar with your options, take a quick peek at our primer on the next page before we talk more about this important decision.)


Want to hear the numbers? In men’s basketball alone, these three universities hold a combined 14 National Championship titles. 24 National Championship appearances. 38 Final Fours. 76 Sweet Sixteens. (We could go on, but the numbers will just keep growing.) Players of the Year, ACC titles, draft picks…you get the picture.

UNC vs Duke:
The Carolina/Duke rivalry is unarguably the most heated college basketball rivalry in the nation—there are even books about it. (Check out the Blue Blood duo, or the astutely named To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever.) They’re only 11 miles apart, they’re both blue, and they’re both consistently in the top 25—and often top 5—teams nationwide. You’ve never been to a basketball game until you’ve been to a Duke/Carolina game: There’s no predicting who will win, because adrenaline scores some of the points in these matchups. 

NC State vs UNC:
NC State fans hate Carolina with a passion. (Dislike, I mean; it’s not nice to hate.) But seriously, State fans are among the most loyal and passionate you’ll ever find—both at loving their team, and at hating Carolina. Since both are state universities, the majority of students grew up cheering for one or the other of these homegrown teams. And while UNC generally wins more of the basketball matchups, NC State is often on top in football (and tailgating!).

Duke vs NC State:
Eh, there’s not quite so much of a rivalry here. Maybe even a little bonding over their mutual hatred of Carolina. But if you think Duke trumps State on all counts, think again: NC State generally dominates them on the football field. 

Now you know the teams and the rivalries, so get to googling and figure out which team best aligns with your personality and character. Or you can take the easy route and choose by city, coach, or team color. Just know that once you pick one, you are expected to stay loyal to that team, and that team alone—no bandwagon fans allowed here. Your blood will either remain red, or will become a very specific shade of blue. Choose wisely! 

NC State University, located in Raleigh

Photo courtesy of nc state athletics

Photo courtesy of nc state athletics

Color: Red

Men’s basketball coach:
Kevin Keatts

Women’s basketball coach:
Wes Moore

Football coach:
Dave Doeren

Known for:
Late coaches Jim Valvano (men’s basketball) and Kay Yow (women’s basketball); Pack Pride; Cinderella men’s basketball championship in 1983

On the radar:
Some early predictions are looking at NC State to be a national contender this year in football. Coach Dave Doeren has dominated in state recruiting for the last several years, and that has translated to head-to-head success against NC State’s Triangle rivals. In basketball, look for DJ Funderburk and Markell Johnson (who is returning this year despite his positioning as a promising draft pick) to lead the Pack.

Notable basketball players:
David Thompson, Julius Hodge, Chris Corchiani, Charles Shackleford,
T.J. Warren, Spud Webb, Tom Gugliotta, Dennis Smith Jr, Rodney Monroe

Notable football players:
Roman Gabriel, Bill Cowher, Phillip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Torrey Holt, Mario Williams

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

photo courtesy of nc athletic communications

photo courtesy of nc athletic communications

Color: Light blue

Men’s basketball coach:
Roy Williams

Women’s basketball coach:
Courtney Banghart

Football coach:
Mack Brown

Known for:
Michael Jordan; the late Coach Dean Smith and ‘The Carolina Way’;
Women’s soccer star Mia Hamm and women’s track and field star Marion Jones

On the radar:
Perhaps the biggest sports story in the Triangle this year is the return of UNC head coach Mack Brown, who previously coached the Heels from 1988-1997. His return makes UNC the first Triangle team with a national championship–winning coach (Brown won the national championship in 2005 as coach of the Texas Longhorns). The men’s basketball team lost five of their top players from last year, but look for freshmen Cole Anthony and Armando Bacot to fill some of their shoes. And women’s basketball welcomes a new coach as well: former Princeton coach Courtney Banghart.

Notable men’s basketball players:
Michael Jordan, Phil Ford, Eric Montross, James Worthy, Tyler Hansbrough,
Vince Carter, Sam Perkins, Charles Scott, Lennie Rosenbluth

Notable football players:
Lawrence Taylor, Kelvin Bryant, “Famous” Amos Lawrence,
Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice, Jeff Saturday, Julius Peppers, Mitch Trubiski

Duke University, located in Durham

photo courtesy of duke athletics

photo courtesy of duke athletics

Color: Royal blue

Men’s basketball coach:
Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski)

Women’s basketball coach:
Joanne P. McCallie

Football coach:
David Cutcliffe

Known for:
Cameron Indoor Stadium; Cameron Crazies; Krzyzewskiville (K-ville)

On the radar:
Football is on the rise at Duke, thanks to head coach David Cutcliffe. As former coach to both Petyon and Eli Manning, Cutcliffe has secured a recruiting advantage, which has helped lead the turnaround of this once-woeful program. In basketball, all eyes will be on freshman Matthew Hurt, who ranked as the No. 2 high school power forward in 2019, and was also heavily recruited by UNC. Duke will need him, as they lost four of their five top scorers this year.

Notable men’s basketball players: 
Christian Laettner, Kyrie Irving, Grant Hill, J.J. Reddick,
Shane Battier, Johnny Dawkins, Zion Williamson

Notable football players:
Sonny Jurgensen, Jamison Crowder, Dave Brown, Brian Baldinger, Daniel Jones

Our Local is Remarkably Global

A personal perspective on Raleigh's multicultural diversity.

 By Jennifer Heinser / Photos by Fire Rose Photography

asian focus nc hosts the dragon boat festival each year at koka booth amphitheatre in Cary

asian focus nc hosts the dragon boat festival each year at koka booth amphitheatre in Cary

I moved here just over five years ago, so I am a relatively new transplant. After spending half my life in a bustling area of New York, and the other half in super-rural Pennsylvania, I consider Raleigh and all of Wake County as my Goldilocks Zone. Not too hot or too cold, not too busy yet not at all boring, and a day trip away from both the coast and the mountains. And with the talk of job opportunities emanating into the ether, it’s no wonder we all flock here.

For the same reasons I found to relocate here, people from outside the states find this area attractive when they make their big life-changing move. Our technology and healthcare industry are nationally known, and the secret is out far past our shores. In a purely personal, close-to-home account: I recently married an Egyptian man, and opportunity has always been at the forefront of our planning. He is tech-savvy with a diverse work history, so a little research was all it took to eliminate his fears of leaving Egypt and the company he’s been with for five years. IBM, Fujifilm, Lenovo, Delta, Cisco, and other global companies are nestled in the woods, mere blocks from my home in Morrisville.

Even before I entered this multi-cultural marriage, I believed that ethnic diversity—all diversity for that matter—benefits anything it touches. Consider it the “Midas Touch” to any community or region. The technological, artistic, culinary, and other contributions by people of African, Asian, Arab, Hispanic, and Latino descent are too numerable to list. Without diversity, our lives would be vastly different. Diversity in thoughts, belief systems, climates, and lifestyles becomes the force that moves us forward. America is Europe, mixed with Africa, mixed with Asia, mixed with South America, all thrown into a pot and stirred together. What fun is a city without a mix of all the foods, all the clothing, and all the music?

And luckily, Raleigh is on the cutting edge of inclusivity. Just a simple example: HQ Raleigh, the coworking and office space company, sent out a newsletter recently on how to make workspaces more inclusive and aware. Things like being aware of dietary restrictions, like halal or kosher items, or making days off transferrable across holidays. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the foreign-born population in Wake County is more than 13 percent—and more than 34 percent of my neighbors in Morrisville were born outside the U.S.

Maybe Raleigh has not always been growing at this rate, but welcoming newcomers isn’t new, and some resources aren’t either. The Raleigh Newcomer’s Club has been active since 1957. Membership (they do charge annual dues) includes a directory, monthly newsletter, and activity groups for all kinds of interests: movie meetups, card games, wine tastings, women’s groups, and more. And there’s always, which has an easy-to-use app that is even useful for transplants with some roots! Some West Wake towns also have organizations like the Cary Welcome Service and the New Neighbor Welcome Service in Apex.

Raleigh and the Triangle area continue to impress me every day as a place I am proud to call home. Soon my home will be a bit more diverse, and this means I am happy to help contribute even more love, culture, and spice to this beautiful community. 

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