MYRTLE BEACH — Horry County and Brunswick County, N.C., continue to be among the fastest growing counties in the nation and in their respective states, according to statistics released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Horry County was the 73rd fastest growing in the nation and the second fastest in South Carolina behind Berkeley County. The Census Bureau said Horry County grew from 269,291 residents in the 2010 census to 282,285 by July 1, 2012, a clip of 4.8 percent in the two years.
The area continues to attract retirees and new residents lured by the ocean, mild climate, golf and amenities, experts say. That appeal likely won’t let up any time soon, with the growth expected to continue in the coming years.
“The draw is still enough for people to want to come there,” said Michael MacFarlane, state demographer with the S.C. Budget and Control Board’s Office of Research and Statistics. “There is a trend for that part of the state that has been like that for a long time. We don’t see any big changes in the future.”
Brunswick County, which earlier this year was made the second county in the Myrtle Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area along with Horry, ranked 89th nationwide and sixth fastest in the Tar Heel state. It grew 4.5 percent, from 107,431 residents in the 2010 census to 112,257 on July 1, 2012.
The 2012 population numbers are the most recent available from the Census Bureau.
The growth can put pressure on governments to keep up with the demand for police and fire service, and to build or upgrade roads to handle increases in traffic.
“It’s not easy,” Horry County Councilman Gary Loftus said, adding that the Carolina Forest area and the south end along S.C. 707 are two areas that have experienced substantial growth in recent years. “It’s a constant balance.”
The issue becomes a regular part of budget discussions, when the Horry County Council gets requests from county departments for more money to hire firefighters or more police officers or buy new equipment. The county also has built new libraries and recreation centers in recent years to keep up with the growth.
“We’re probably doing as well as anybody keeping up,” Loftus said.
Road projects such as the back gate interchange underway at U.S. 17 Bypass and S.C. 707 will help, local resident Katelyn Bateman said.
Bateman came to the area to attend school, and decided to stay after graduating from Miller-Motte College in May 2012.
“The beach. The weather. I’m from New York. It’s cold up there,” she said, citing the reasons she decided to stay in the area.
The area, with its warm climate, is especially appealing to folks from the Northeast because of the frigid winters, MacFarlane said.
“They are just tired of dealing with that aspect of life,” he said.
Love lured April Corbett to the area. She moved here from Pittsburgh, Pa., four years ago to be with her boyfriend – now her husband. Her 26-year-old son moved here three years ago.
“I love it down here,” Corbett said. “I do like the weather. And everything is really close by.”
The addition of Brunswick County to the Myrtle Beach metro area makes it the fourth largest in South Carolina, now ahead of Spartanburg. Charleston, the third largest metro area with nearly 700,000 residents, is also home to Berkeley County, the state’s fastest growing, according to census numbers.
Having grown at a 6.7 percent clip and since the 2010 census with a total population of 189,781 on July 1, 2012, Berkeley is 35th on the list of the nation’s 100 fastest-growing counties. Dorchester County, with 142,496 residents in 2012 and ranked 97th in Thursday’s list from the Census Bureau, was the only other South Carolina county to rank among the 100 fastest growing in the nation.
The Census Bureau said that Asians were the fastest-growing race or ethnic group nationally in 2012 at 2.9 percent to a total of 18.9 million. Sixty percent of the growth came from international migration.
The ethnic breakdown among Horry County’s residents in 2012 was:
• White, 233,088, a growth of about 10,000 since 2010
• Black and African American, 36,693, 99 fewer than in 2010
• American Indian and Alaska native, 1,683, 42 above 2010
• Asian, 3,334, nearly 400 more than in 2010
• Native Hawaiian or other Pacific islander, 417, a loss of 18 since 2010
• Other, 5,070, up more than 450 since 2010
The country’s total population on July 1, 2012 was more than 313 million, a growth of about 5 million since the 2010 census.