NEWS

Challenges of today, tomorrow | Posted May 15, 2015

Wilson 20/20 event focuses on succeeding in changing environment

By Rochelle Moore
Times Staff Writer

The work of Wilson 20/20 has prepared the community to deal with changing demographic challenges of the future.

Wilson County is faring better than other communities but there is more work to do, a demographics expert told 175 people who attended the Wilson 20/20 Community Vision annual meeting Thursday.

“I am really impressed with the work that you are already doing,” said James Johnson Jr., the William Rand Kenan Jr. distinguished professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“I invite you to talk about how to be built to last in a highly viable, sustainable, competitive community. You have an opportunity with the great things that are going on to leverage them to take it to the next level.”

Johnson was the guest speaker at the annual meeting, which also included an overview of progress from the Youth Master Plan, the launch of the new Beyond 21 program and a new leadership training program, Impact Initiative.

Johnson focused on six areas that are leading to “disruptive” demographics in the nation, North Carolina and Wilson County. He also offered ways for area leaders to address the challenges.

The six disruptive trends include increases in population in the South, the browning of America, intermarriage increases, an increasing aging population, a reduction of men in the workforce and an increase in grandparents raising their grandchildren.

“In every decade since 1970, the South has captured about half of net national population growth in this country,” Johnson said. “The South is the cat’s meow demographically, and North Carolina is the cat’s meow demographically squared because we grew at twice the national average. We added about 1.5 million people to our population in the first decade in the new millennium.”

From 2000 to 2010, four states — North Carolina, Texas, Florida and Georgia — captured 71 percent of the nation’s population growth.

“We are what’s called a migration magnet,” he said.

The browning of America has included an increase in minority groups, including Hispanics, as well as immigrants and non-immigrants, which include people remaining in the United States with expired Visas.

Intermarriage rates, in 2008, show that 41 percent were between Hispanics and whites, 15 percent were white and Asian and 11 percent were between whites and blacks.

The aging population will require services and care, but only half of younger generations are working. That has contributed to an increasing number of dependents in communities, including Wilson, Johnson said. Grandparents who are now raising their grandchildren adds a layer to future challenges.

The decrease in men in the workforce became apparent during the Recession, when 80 percent of the job losses affected men, Johnson said.

“Today, three times as many males working age don’t work at all compared to 1969,” Johnson said. “Women are about to surpass men in the paid workforce.”

Women surpassed men in earning college degrees in 2010, with 572,000 more women receiving degrees.

Challenges for Wilson’s future include racial segregation and poverty. Johnson said future challenges can be met by leveraging the power of collective ambition, which involves collaborative engagement and a disciplined strategy execution.

Making sure people are on the same page and going in the right direction and acting on a vision are equally important, he said.

“Communities compete like firms,” Johnson said. “You’re competing with everybody. You’ve got to take the mentality that we’re not going to be beat by anybody at anything. You’ve got to build a collective ambition. You’ve got to build a diverse community.”

Paula Benson, executive director of Wilson 20/20, said that Johnson’s presentation helped bring to light a lot of information many Wilson leaders understand.

“We have a lot of awareness,” Benson said. “We know we have a community that is growing that way. The information he’s providing gives people the understanding why it’s important to focus on a diverse representation and diversity in our groups.”

The event also helped to anchor and confirm the ongoing work of Wilson 20/20, which is working toward building a stronger community through partnerships, collaboration and shared resources.

“The Wilson 20/20 organization is about this community,” said Ken Jones, Wilson 20/20 chairman. “We have a long ways to go. Wilson 20/20’s about looking forward. We want to go in a better direction.”