Migration patterns: Apple takes shine to small NC town

        Apple Computer, the iconic American business success story, announced plans last summer to build a $1 billion data center in Maiden, NC, more than an hour from a town whose name most of us

Make no mistake: First jobs, then people.  The South indeed will rise again.

would recognize (unless you have relatives living in Boger City or Pumpkin Center).  The data center, which will be completed in a few years, may employ as few as 50 people.  Apple is always secretive about its plans, but at 500,000 square feet, it is likely the new facility will accommodate the company’s future growth.

        As an economic driver, the Apple data center probably will not be enough to turn around the area’s 15%+ unemployment rate or to turn Maiden into a Research Triangle, the phenomenally successful high-tech area three hours away in Raleigh.  But local officials estimate the new center could generate as many as 3,000 supporting jobs.  State officials have granted Apple a tax break of $46 million for the data center’s first decade of operation.

        Apple employees won’t find a big selection of country clubs in the area. Glen Oaks Country Club, just a few miles from Maiden, includes a few adjacent homes.  The course is semi-private and spans 6,450 yards from the tips.  The initiation fee is $750 and quarterly dues are just $200.  For the public, green fees are less than $30 on weekends.  Catawba Country Club is just 10 miles from Maiden and features a Donald Ross designed 18-hole layout at 6,600 yards from the tips.  The course opened in 1946, one of Ross’ later designs.

        Farther away, but still well within a half hour, Rock Barn Golf and Spa (in Conover) is the centerpiece of a community that features 36 holes of

Rock Barn's 36 holes host an annual Senior PGA golf tournament.

golf, 18 each by Tom Jackson and Robert Trent Jones.  Rock Barn, which hosts an annual Senior PGA Tour event, nevertheless does not get the publicity of comparable golf communities in the south.  But I found the golf course challenging and in excellent shape, and the community well designed.  Nicely landscaped and designed homes in Rock Barn are currently listed at less than $500,000.  You can read my review of the Jones course at Rock Barn by clicking here.

        The move by Apple follows one of similar proportions by Google, who also chose rural North Carolina to locate a large part of its operations.  Similar moves by foreign auto companies BMW and Mercedes to build huge plants in the southeast, as well as other companies looking to duck the high costs of operations and dealings with unions in the northern U.S., are supplementing retiree movements south with a lure for people interested in high paying jobs.  People also want to live where costs are lower, where the air is cleaner, where it snows only occasionally, and where the roads, at least for the foreseeable future, are less clogged.

        Make no mistake about it, population migration will continue from north to south, as well as from Florida north as weather issues, insurance costs and an erosion in standard of living drive people out of the state.  In general, expect property values in North Carolina and other selected parts of the south to rise faster –- in some cases much faster –- than properties in the north in the coming decade.  Apple and Google are just the leading indicators for those other businesses and individuals who will follow.