Boomtowns: Moore County’s Tri-Cities Surging on Healthcare, Retail & Lots of Golf
ABC 11’s Joel Brown interviewed MCEDP President Natalie Hawkins to gain insight into Moore County’s thriving Tri-Cities area (Pinehurst, Southern Pines, and Aberdeen) as part of ABC 11’s “Boomtowns” series.
Pinehurst Resort and Country Club has been a golfer’s paradise in Pinehurst for over a century.
“I like to say you’re at the national park of golf,” said the club’s President Tom Pashley.
But the perception of these parts of Moore County as just a mecca for golf and retirees is quickly changing. The Tri-cities: Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen was voted by economic research firm POLICOM as North Carolina’s #1 Micropolitan for the 6th year running.
“A micropolitan is an area with less than 50,000 in the population,” said Natalie Hawkins, president of the Moore County Economic Development Partnership. “I think it’s really a big deal because it shows that we’re growing and we have a strong economy here in Moore County.”
We sat down with Hawkins for breakfast at Betsy’s Crepes, one of the dozens of small businesses on Broad Street in downtown Southern Pines, where there are no empty storefronts and no shortage of young families.
“What we’re seeing is migration into our county and they’re a population under the age of 44.”
There’s been a 27% increase in Moore County homes with kids under 18. To keep up, the county built three new elementary schools in the last five years. And the largest hospital, First Health Moore Regional, plans a new women’s and children’s tower to handle the baby boom.
Brad and Jessica Halling are part of the mass migration of former military here. Jessica is a retired Ft. Liberty colonel. Brad is retired Special Forces who lost a leg aboard one of the three Blackhawk helicopters shot down in Somalia in 1993, dramatized in the film ‘Blackhawk Down.’
“When you get out of the military, you’re looking for purpose. But you’re also looking for the tribe. Where are they? Well, the tribe settled right here,” said Brad.
The couple not just settling here, but investing as well. They’re building Brad Halling American Whiskey Kompany in Southern Pines: A 16,000 square foot whiskey distillery, restaurant and bar — branded as BHAWK, a nod to the fallen friends Brad served with.
“This company, this brand represents the people who live here,” Jessica said.
Back on the iconic greens of Pinehurst No. 2. The USGA is building a second headquarters at the club along with the World Golf Hall of Fame. It’s all set to be open by next June when Pinehurst hosts the U.S. Open. Around here the boomtown comes in birdies and pars.
“You enter into growth cautiously when you’re in Pinehurst because of our history and tradition. So we like smart growth,” Pashley said. “We don’t wanna take anything away from the lifestyle we’ve all come to know and love.”
Next year’s U.S. Open is projected to bring a $150 million economic impact. And there are four more on the calendar stretching to the year 2047. Brad and Jessica Halling hope to have BHAWK open by the end of the year. And, Moore County is currently the 7th fastest growing county in the state.