Orange County not perfect, but optimistic

Aug. 28, 2014 @ 05:51 PM

Some statistics are still bleak for Orange County on Tuesday morning, but overall many things are looking up for the area, according to the seventh annual State of the Community Report.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Aaron Nelson painted an optimistic picture regarding many areas, including population growth, education and wealth within the county.
The report, sponsored by the Triangle Community Foundation and given at the Friday Center for Continuing Education, focused on how Orange County stacked up in comparison to other counties and the state as a whole.
It also zeroed in on progress. “We want to show you longitudinal data,” Nelson said, explaining that numbers don’t mean anything unless change is tracked over time.
More than 20,000 people moved to Orange County over the past decade, Nelson said. This population growth was higher than the state average, and the county is projected to add almost 17,000 more people by 2025.
Despite the population growth and the potential for overcrowding, education was still a bragging point for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Nelson said.
“We have what we believe to be the best school district in the state of North Carolina,” he said, showing that the percentage of students who passed both their reading and math end-of-grade tests was double the percentage who accomplished the feat in Durham.
However, the school system wasn’t infallible. The pass rates for African-American, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students were very low.
“This is what we’re talking about with the achievement gap,” Nelson said.
Education wasn’t the only area where a disparity was seen. Out of 100 North Carolina counties, Orange County was first in per capita income. But the county still has 15.4 percent of its children living in poverty.
Although the number is lower than surrounding counties and has been on the decline, Nelson said, there are still more than 4,000 poor children living in the richest county unable to afford its great resources.
But it wasn’t all bad news. Since 1991, the number of OWASA customers has doubled, but the amount of water used is holding steady. This statistic shows how community members are great stewards of natural resources, Nelson said.
And the good news took on an even lighter tone in some categories.
“It’s happy news that Chapel Hill has a 90 second shorter commute than the state average,” Nelson said.