There are always large forces — some call them winds of change — impacting the economy, and most can’t be affected by public policy. NC State University economist Mike Walden takes a look at big trends that he thinks may affect North Carolina in the decades ahead.
“I see three important ones. One is aging population — the percentage of people 65 and over is going to double in the next 50 years. Seventy million baby boomers will retire in coming decades. This is going to impact every business. Where North Carolina can benefit is in attracting many of these folks, particularly from the Midwest and Northeast, to come here to live, bring their pensions, bring their Social Security. They don’t have children to educate, and they spend their money. So that’s number one.
“Number two: tech innovation. Everyone — everyone — says technology is going to continue to innovate. Things we can’t even imagine are coming up down the road. North Carolina, of course, has a very large and successful tech sector. The universities certainly help. But every, every location in the country wants to attract tech, so we are going to have to continue to offer the kind of amenties that those tech workers want.
“And then the last one: international connectedness. This is going to affect businesses that export products to foreign countries, particularly developing countries. Our meat industry is very important here. And secondly — I don’t think people think about this very much — is attracting foreign tourists to the great tour spots we have in North Carolina. We have to make sure we have the infrastructure that can handle those.”