In Features, February 2016

When Martin Ford was listed as keynote speaker at this year’s Emerging Issues Forum, we knew we should focus this month’s magazine on what’s ahead for our state. Ford’s presence ensures that the annual conference at N.C. State University will take an invigorating look at the future: His two books offer chilling warnings on how robots could take over many tasks now performed by mortals. The forum’s theme is the future of work and how to create more good jobs. In concert, this month’s BNC considers what North Carolina may look like in 10 years, based on  interviews with leaders and innovators in various industries. There’s a bullish tone reflective of the state’s growth, tempered by worries about the widening urban-rural economic divide.


What will the total population be in 2026?
11.2 million  (Source: state demographer)

What percentage of the public-school population will be in charter schools?
11% or 198,000 students up from 5.4%, or 82,000, in 2015.  (Source: Eddie Goodall, executive director, N.C. Public Charter Schools Association)

How many banks will be based here? 
34 compared with 62 in 2015. 10 with assets topping $1 billion, down from 17, and 24 with less than $1 billion, down from 45. (Source: Tony Plath, UNC Charlotte finance professor)

How much will it cost to go to college? 
$73,626 private schools, per year , $33,881 at a public university (Source: College Foundation of North Carolina cost calculator, assuming 5% annual inflation)

How much will Carolina Panthers season tickets cost?
What will
the franchise be worth? Panthers season tickets will double and cost about $860 to $8,600. The franchise value will triple to $4.8 billion.(Source: Terry Hanson, veteran Charlotte sports marketing executive)

How many people will be living in downtown Charlotte?
More than 40,000 compared with 26,000 now.(Source: Charlotte Center City Partners)

Will newspapers survive? 
Major N.C. cities will have newspapers, but they may publish only three or four days a week. More online-only “newspapers” will emerge. (Source: Chris Roush, Walter E. Hussman Sr.  Distinguished Professor in business journalism, UNC School of Media and Journalism)

What percentage of cars will be electric?
About 20,000 electric vehicles, up from 4,200. (Source: N.C. Plug-in Electric Vehicle Task Force)

Is N.C. due for a major hurricane?
The odds are increasingly in its favor. North Carolina is second only to Florida in the “return period” for a stronger storm. (Source: National Hurricane Center)

What will be the population of the five largest counties? 
Mecklenburg 1.27m, Wake 1.23m, Guilford 552,000, Durham 359,000, Cumberland 351,000 (Source: state demographer)

Will the middle class be better off?
The deep recession of 2007-09, which was a huge setback to incomes, is unlikely to be repeated. It was a once-every-50 year event. But progress is likely to be frustratingly slow for the middle class as the gap between urban and rural areas widens. Learning new skills will be critical. (Source: Mark Vitner, senior economist, WellsFargo & Co.)

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