BEHIND THE ACCOLADES
Story by Corbie Hill
Cary, Apex, Morrisville, and Holly Springs dominate the best-of lists, yet what’s behind these accolades?
There has to be a reason Wake is the healthiest county in the state, say, or Holly Springs is one of its safest cities.
#1 Healthiest County in North Carolina
Let's be clear: Health isn't just about working out and eating your veggies. There are many other factors, which the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation takes into account in calculating its County Health Rankings. In North Carolina, Wake County currently tops that list.
"We're number one, but we have things that we are working on," says Regina Petteway, Wake County Human Services Director. Wake County's strengths, she explains while reviewing the figures on the County Health Rankings site, include its premature death rate, which is low. The average length of life here came in second, though a high quality of life nudged the county to the top slot.
Petteway has worked with Wake County for 24 years (and with the State of North Carolina previously) and she can say experientially that the county benefits from a number of active partners, including its hospitals. She also credits the Greenway system and a recent initiative ensuring that all Wake County employees will make a living wage.
Yet everything isn't perfect, especially if you look closer at the county itself. Wake County is doing well overall in terms of healthy birth weights, but there's a disparity with babies of color – both in birth weight score and fetal fatality. And even though Wake County is a wealthy county with a low unemployment rate, it has a higher percentage of children in poverty than other top counties in the US. Wake County's sexually transmitted infection score is too high, as is its excessive drinking and alcohol impaired driving deaths score.
"We have lots of universities here, and some of that has to do with that," Petteway says. "Think about the sports teams that we have. People do a lot of inappropriate drinking here." Yet when Petteway sees these numbers she thinks about solutions and initiatives that can target these lingering problems and make Wake County even healthier.
Explore the County Health Rankings yourself at countyhealthrankings.org.
County Health Rankings, March 2017
#3 Safest City in North Carolina
“Holly Springs is consistently ranked in the top three in safety according to various publications throughout the year,” says Daniel Weeks, assistant town manager of Holly Springs. When an organization develops one of these ratings, he says, it does so based on a crime index, taking into account instances of violent crime, vehicle thefts, and the like. One reason Holly Springs tops these lists as often as it does, Weeks says, is because of its police department’s proactive programs and focus on community policing. “We place a school resource officer in all public schools in town and hold many community events throughout the year, which fosters a strong bond between law enforcement and our citizenry (and) businesses,” he says. To further this connection, Weeks points out, Holly Springs recently created a community police officer position.
Best-Connected Medium-Sized Airport
"Among the medium-sized airports out there, Raleigh came up #1 as we updated the study about three months ago," says William Swelbar, research engineer at MIT's International Center for Air Transportation. Swelbar and co-author Michael D. Wittman used an equation that takes into account an airport's number of daily scheduled flights per destination, nonstop destinations, and connected destinations. They added a weighted factor, too, to account for the quality of an airport's destinations, meaning destinations like London or Atlanta give an airport a higher score than small regional airports. When they ran the numbers, RDU came out on top among medium-sized airports, beating previous champion Saint Louis.
"It really does speak to the underlying strength of the Raleigh market, the economic and demographic strengths," says Swelbar. "As a result ... airlines continue to add service to Raleigh and, lo and behold, you became the best-connected airport among the medium-sized airports in the country."
MIT International Center for Air Transportation, May 2017
#1 Best Place to Live in North Carolina
Best Suburb to Live in NC: Morrisville #1, Cary #2, Apex #3
#10 Suburban Hotspot in the US
Morrisville has great schools, such as Sterling Montessori, and its location is simply amazing, says realtor Ellen Pitts of Harmony Realty. "For people who work in RTP and want to be on the Cary side of things," she says, "Morrisville offers the shortest commute."
Apex, Pitts notes, stands out because of its charm. It's small enough for residents to get to know their neighbors, but bustling enough to be exciting. "Throw in some historic architecture and you've got quintessential small-town America."
Harmony Realty Triangle
1289 Fordham Blvd, Ste 103, Chapel Hill