Demographics & Statistics
Wilmington is the epitome of the New South. Although the city is the largest in southeastern North Carolina and eighth largest in the state, it retains a small town atmosphere. Our inviting business climate has attracted global corporations like GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Corning, Verizon Wireless, and homegrown PPD.
The city boasts a charming historic district, lively arts scene, the University of North Carolina Wilmington, a major container seaport, the Battleship North Carolina, Gothic churches, and riverfront shops. The Wilmington area is also blessed with many natural attributes, including miles of unspoiled beaches and some of the most outstanding seafood restaurants along the coast.
Learn more about the details behind our exceptional lifestyle through the information below.
Cost of Living
3rd Quarter 2018 Cost of Living
96.9 98.5 82.3 95.2 106.0 111.5 104.4
91.8 92.6 84.5 93.9 87.6 103.5 96.3
97.2 96.0 85.2 93.0 87.6 103.5 96.3
97.7 92.9 95.7 96.3 97.2 113.8 99.5
100.1 95.7 92.1 122.6 88.9 106.6 103.9
161.0 127.1 268.4 114.3 95.0 99.3 125.8
94.9 95.8 88.6 95.7 92.3 96.3 99.8
Select Southern Cities
The ACCRA Cost of Living Index (see table) measures the differences in the cost of consumer goods and services between cities, excluding taxes, for a middle-class standard of living. Approximately 300 urban areas in the United States participate in the study.
The results are based on the cost of more than 60 items that are priced by area chambers of commerce, economic development groups or similar organizations in each urban area during the same 3-day time frame. Each community is given a composite index in which the average score is 100 (if index numbers are above 100, they are more expensive than the average), derived from six categories. The index does not measure inflation. Instead, it serves as a snapshot of comparative costs between cities during a certain time period. Wilmington’s latest study scores, compared to other southern cities, are shown in the table.
Salary vs. Cost of Living: What to consider when evaluating a move
Some people won’t consider a move to a smaller city like Wilmington, where salaries may be lower, because they don’t want to lose purchasing power. But oftentimes the opposite is true.
Alternatively, some people are lured to another city for a bigger salary, only to find out that their disposable income, and consequently their quality of life, actually goes down, not up.
Why? Because the cost of living has to be measured versus the difference in salary. Companies in larger cities may offer larger salaries, but those cities also typically come with a higher cost of living.
If you are considering a move, use the cost of living calculator below to compare the cost of living between Wilmington and another city to more accurately evaluate a move.
North Carolina’s Southeast is a regional economic development organization serving an 11-county region in southeastern NC. With the help of UNC Wilmington, UNC Pembroke and Fayetteville State University, the organization prepares a regional data book to aid their mission of securing new jobs and investments for the region.
Extensive demographic information on Southeastern North Carolina can be found on their website: www.ncse.org
Arts & Culture
Wilmington has been ranked as one of the 100 Best Small Art Towns in America. The proof of our vibrant arts community can be viewed virtually everywhere one travels: on the walls of local eateries and coffee houses, in the large selection of commercial art galleries, at arts and crafts fairs, and in the numerous community theatre companies that put on shows year round. Stroll through downtown Wilmington on a week night or weekend and you’ll see and hear theatre coming from traditional venues, such as historic Thalian Hall, and some less likely places: underground bars, the public radio station and outdoor courtyards.
Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts
Since 1858, Thalian Hall has been downtown’s centerpiece for plays, musicals, concerts and dance. Once the stage where locals flocked to see such greats as Lillian Russell and John Philip Sousa, visitors still enjoy touring concerts and productions from around the world, as well as high quality local theatre.
Tours of the theatre are available. Call for tickets: 910.343.3664/800.523.2820 or visit www.thalianhall.com.
The Sarah Graham Kenan Memorial Auditorium on the campus of UNCW is home to the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra. Kenan also holds student theatre, hosts touring acts from around the world, and performances by local musicians. Call for tickets: 910.962.3500 or 800.732.3643; www.uncw.edu/arts/kenan.
Community Arts Center
The Community Arts Center is one of the last remaining USO buildings from World War II. The Arts Center hosts theatre companies and features hands-on classes in pottery, painting, yoga, and more. The center also presents performance productions, festivals and events. www.wilmingtoncac.org or 910.341.7860
The Wilson Center
Cape Fear Community College features a 1,500-seat performance hall in downtown Wilmington that attracts national touring shows, Broadway plays, and provide another exquisite venue for local artists and students to utilize.
The Independent Art Company (IAC) was founded in 2003 and has a creative compound on 9th Street in downtown Wilmington that includes Jengo’s Playhouse, a 60-seat micro-cinema and artists studios, and Wabi Sabi Warehouse, an intimate gallery and six artist studios where resident artists work in a range of media, from painting to metalsmithing to music. Jengo’s is also the home of and one of the sites for the internationally acclaimed Cucalorus Film Festival. 910.343.5995
Red Barn Studio
Red Barn Studio is the creation of husband and wife team Linda Lavin (of Broadway and TV fame) and Steve Bakunas. After purchasing the home next door, the Red Barn Studio grew into a place to give classes, workshops and perform plays (sometimes featuring the internationally known Ms. Lavin). www.thalian.org/category/red-barn
Level 5 at City Stage
Wilmington’s favorite theatre and rooftop bar! The 220 capacity century old theatre has brought a variety of musicals and plays to the Port City since 2000. From classics such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to quirky Reefer Madness! the Musical, City Stage never fails to shock, educate, entertain, and thrill audiences.
The Brown Coat Pub and Theatre
One of the newer additions to Wilmington’s performance spaces, the Brown Coat features everything from original plays and sketch comedy troops to karoke and trivia. www.facebook.com/browncoatpub
Cape Fear Playhouse
The Playhouse is home to Big Dawg Productions theater company. Located in the site of the former Friendly’s Department Store in the heart of the Newcastle Art and Antiques District, the building was built around 1910 and renovated in 2009 for use as a theater. www.bigdawgproductions.org
In Wilmington alone, there are dozens of art galleries and spaces where visual art is regularly displayed. The entire region is populated by an astonishing numbers of professional painters, illustrators, potters, paper makers, collagists, printmakers, metalsmiths, sculptors, woodcarvers, weavers, basketmakers, and craftspeople.
Louise Wells Cameron Art Museum
The pinnacle of visual arts display is the Cameron Art Museum, located at the intersection of Independence Blvd. and 17th Street Extension. The museum houses the largest collection of North Carolina art. This 45,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility, designed by noted Guggenheim-addition architect Charles Gwathmey, features North Carolina and American art from the 18th century to the present, and includes a sculpture garden, cafe and expansive museum gift shop. www.cameronartmuseum.com
Cape Fear Museum
The overall cultural heritage of the Greater Wilmington area is preserved and displayed in the Cape Fear Museum on Market Street. Established in 1898 as the New Hanover County Museum, the museum is laid out to guide the visitor from pre-colonization days to the present, pausing to showcase important historical events along the way, and also features quality, traveling exhibitions. The museum also displays interesting local artifacts, such as basketball star Michael Jordan’s high school uniform, as well as the Michael Jordan Discovery Gallery, an interactive natural history exhibit for the entire family.
Children’s Museum of Wilmington
The Children’s Museum stimulates creativity and imagination while encouraging a love of learning through informal, playful, hands-on and child-directed experiences for kids age 2-11.
Notable area residents (past and present) are immortalized on the Wilmington Walk of Fame. The Walk is located in the Walk of Fame Plaza, Water Street entrance of the Cotton Exchange in downtown Wilmington.
Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County
Alliance for the Regional Concert Hall
Big Dawg Productions
Cape Fear Jazz Appreciation Society
Cape Fear Shakespeare
Chamber Music Wilmington
Girls Choir of Wilmington
Louise Wells Cameron Art Museum
Oleander Chamber Orchestra
Opera House Theatre Company
Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts
UNCW Kenan Auditorium
Wilmington Choral Society
Wilmington School of Ballet
Wilmington Symphony Orchestra
Wilmington Youth Orchestra
Area 2017 % Growth 2000-2010 New Hanover County 233,267 26.4% Wilmington 117,000 40.4% Carolina Beach 6,042 21% Kure Beach 2,081 34% Wrightsville Beach 2,549 – 4%
Wilmington Region Population
Includes New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender Counties
3-County Region (2017): 398,353
New Hanover County: 223,267
Brunswick County population: 118,836
Pender County population: 56,250
Median Household Size
1970 1980 1990 2010 New Hanover County 3.08 2.69 2.43 2.33 Brunswick County 2.93 2.45 2.52 2.30 Columbus County 3.24 2.74 2.56 2.52 Pender County 3.14 2.74 2.56 2.57
Because so much of the area’s growth is due to the influx of working age and retired adults, it can be expected that the median household size will tend to decrease and the age of the population will tend to increase. These tendencies are reflective of both national and state population trends as well.
Property tax rates are assessed on 100% valuation. The residents living in the City of Wilmington, or the towns of Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach or Kure Beach are subject to the rate for the respective municipality plus the rate for the county. Residents not living within the municipality are subject to the County rate plus a Fire District tax.
230 Market Place Drive, Wilmington, NC 28403, 910.798.7300
Real Estate & Personal Property Tax* (as of July 2018 – per $100 of valuation) New Hanover County $0.490 – Wilmington $0.498 – Carolina Beach $0.225 – Kure Beach $0.330 – Wrightsville Beach $0.128 – Fire District $0.07 Brunswick County $0.4425 Pender County $0.685 Retail Sales Tax* (as of July 2018) New Hanover County 2.25% North Carolina State 4.75% Total Retail Sales Tax 7.0%
* The tax information listed is intended as a general guide only. For more information contact the North Carolina Department of Revenue information office at 33 Darlington Avenue, Wilmington, NC, 28403 or 910.251.5752.
State Tax Information
Company (Product/Service) – Employee Count
- New Hanover Regional Medical Center/Cape Fear Hospital (Hospitals) – 6,123
- New Hanover County Schools (Education) – 4,443
- Wal-Mart Stores (Retail) – 2,592
- GE Wilmington (GE Hitachi and GE Aviation) – 2,175
- University of NC Wilmington (Higher Education) – 1,860
- Brunswick County Schools (Education) – 1,835
- New Hanover County (County Government) – 1,611
- PPD, Inc. (Discovery & Development Services to Pharmaceutical & Biotech) – 1,500
- Verizon Wireless Call Center(Communications) – 1,411
- Duke Energy – Southport & Wilmington (Electricity) – 1,109
- Corning, Inc. (Optical Fiber) – 1,000
- City of Wilmington (Government) – 998
- Brunswick County (Government) – 914
- Wilmington Health (Health Care) – 870
- Novant Medical/Brunswick Community Hospital (Hospitals) – 623
- Cape Fear Community College (Education) – 600
- Alcami (Contract Pharmaceutical Development) – 455
- Pender County (Government) – 377
- Castle Branch (Employment Screening) – 350
- Live Oak Bank (Banking) – 350
The network of highway systems in the area makes Wilmington attractive and easily accessible, both for travelers and industry.
U.S. Highway 17, long a major artery from New York to Florida, is currently being four-laned from the South Carolina state line north to the Virginia State line. The New Hanover County leg of the bypass around Wilmington is complete.
The I-40 expressway provides a direct connection from Wilmington to Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Burlington, and Greensboro, as well as other cities across the state. In fact, the east-west highway that begins in Wilmington, stretches all the way across the country to Barstow, California.
U.S. Highway 74 gives access to Charlotte, and U.S. Highway 421 from Boone.
Wilmington International Airport is located on 1,500 acres, three miles northeast of Wilmington. The airport is operated by the New Hanover County Airport Authority and provides direct flights to many major cities. Learn more at www.flyilm.com.
The National Weather Service maintains a facility at the airport which serves aviation needs by disseminating weather information to the entire region.
The Wilmington area is served by CSX Transportation, a major freight line. From Wilmington, several spurs serve Wilmington area customers in Castle Hayne, Coastal, Hanover and Malmo. Freight destined to and from these customers is shipped west to yards at Pembroke and Hamlet, N.C., for distribution to shippers and receivers all across the United States.
Once the home of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad, rail service has become a mostly lost hallmark of Wilmington transportation history. Restoring it, however, is under active consideration. A federally funded multi-modal center — a combination rail, taxi and bus facility downtown — has been tentatively approved to be built downtown between Third and Fourth Streets at Campbell Street. Proposed rail service may be re-established on one or two main routes, one going to Raleigh via Goldsboro, and/or a line to Raleigh via Fayetteville. The proposed Fayetteville route would also allow links with other Amtrak trains going north to New York and south to Florida through Fayetteville.
Bicycling is becoming a popular form of transportation and efforts are under way to encourage more people to consider this alternative form of travel.
Bike paths connected to major roadways have been constructed on several area roads, and many more are in the planning stages because of the environmental, traffic and personal physical health benefits of cycling.
Four-foot-wide bike lanes run along each side of River Road from U.S. 421 just north of Snow’s Cut Bridge to Greenfield Lake on the south side of downtown Wilmington. The 10-mile ride offers beautiful views of the Cape Fear River.
The River-to-Sea Bike Route stretches from Riverfront Park at the foot of Market Street in Wilmington to Johnny Mercer’s Pier in Wrightsville Beach, a ride of just over 10 miles. The bikeway follows the route of the historic trolley line, which ran from downtown Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach in the early 20th century. Most of the bikeway follows quiet tree-lined residential streets. However, portions of the route are along off-road bicycle paths and there are a few busy roadway crossings.
There are also several multi-use pathways, including a 1.2-mile multi-use pathway along Eastwood Road and a 3.2-mile multi-use pathway along Military Cut-Off Road between Drysdale Drive and Gordon Road.
Local maps and route descriptions are available at www.bikewilmington.com. Bicycles are available for rental at all area beaches.
The region is served by the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority (Wave Transit). Wave Transit buses traverse the city of Wilmington and portions of New Hanover County every day from transfer points located in Downtown Wilmington (Downtown Station), on Columb Drive behind Target (Central Station), Independence Mall (Independence Station), and UNC-Wilmington (UNCW Station). Most fixed routes operate seven (7) days per week, with the Brunswick Connector providing service to Brunswick County, and the Castle Hayne shuttle providing service to the northern part of New Hanover County Monday-Friday.
Students, seniors, and disabled passengers are eligible to ride for half fare, while UNC-Wilmington students ride all routes for free. Most routes operate with 30 minute frequencies; however, some routes do operate at 60-minute frequencies depending on the route and the day of the week.
All Wave Transit vehicles are ADA accessible to serve disabled passengers, and all vehicles have bike racks. In addition to fixed route transit, Wave Transit operates the Seahawk Shuttles, serving the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the Front Street Trolley (a free service that circles through downtown), a taxicab voucher program, and Dial-a-Ride Transportation (DART) for elderly and disabled passengers. Visit www.wavetransit.com.
Ferries are located at Fort Fisher, Southport, Bald Head Island, Pamlico River and the Outer Banks. To inquire about information, or to make reservations on a North Carolina Ferry, visit www.ncferry.org.
Bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear Rivers, New Hanover County is nearly entirely surrounded by water. Located in this area is a wide variety of marine and coastal organizations in all categories – academic, governmental and industrial -comprising one of the most capable concentrations of activities in these fields to be found anywhere in the Southeastern United States.
Marine science activity at the University of North Carolina Wilmington consists of instructional and research programs in the departments of Biological Sciences, Chemistry and Earth Sciences, as well as specialized research programs in the University’s Center for Marine Science Research. The marine science focus at UNCW spans over 30 years, across departments and schools. They focus on collaborative interdisciplinary programs at state, national and international levels. Over $50 million in facilities have been built using endowment, university, state, and federal sources.
A distinct Business of Biotechnology program, started in 2005, offers post-doctoral fellows the chance to work on the most advanced research in marine biotechnology while getting their Master of Business Administration degree at UNCW. Areas of Expertise include: Marine Biotechnology, Biodiversity, Natural Products, Oceanography, Harmful Algal Studies, Coastal Ecology, Estuarine and River Ecology, Coral Reef Ecology, Fisheries Biology, and Marine Mammals.
The center’s primary facilities are located on a four-acre tract near the Intracoastal Waterway at Wrightsville Beach. The center maintains several research vessels ranging in size from thirteen to twenty-nine feet with specialized equipment, including a Remotely Operated Vehicle. The Center also serves as a host for the NOAA-sponsored National Undersea Research Center for the Southeastern United States.
Business and Industry
The UNCW Center for Marine Science hosts Marine Biotechnology in North Carolina (MARBIONC). As they are fond of saying, MARBIONIC is in the business of transforming the mysteries of the deep into the miracles of the marketplace. Their scientists use a three-step process to guide a product from the marine environment to the marketplace: identify niche markets to ensure products are developed to meet specific needs; have MARBIONC researchers assemble teams from science, business and academia that match the needs of the product with the specific needs of their partners; and finally, provide the infrastructure and support necessary to bring the new marine products to the marketplace.
Learn more at: www.uncw.edu
Several Federal and State Government agencies having marine and coastal interests are either headquartered or represented in the area. Located here is the main office of the Wilmington District of the United States Army Corp of Engineers, the geographical responsibilities of which extend to all of eastern North Carolina and south central Virginia. Of particular interest to the local area are the functions of the Corps pertaining to the maintenance of navigable channels in the harbor and waterways, beach erosion and hurricane protection, and regulatory activities involving the granting of Federal permits.
There are three principal State government organizations in the area having marine interests. One is the principal office of the North Carolina State Ports Authority, which has jurisdiction over the ports at Morehead City and Southport, as well as over the facilities associated with the harbor at Wilmington. Another State agency is the North Carolina Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources, which is represented by field officers of the Division of Marine Fisheries and the Division of Environmental Management. The Division of Marine Fisheries conducts research and management programs of marine fish and shell fish resources, enforces the State’s marine fishery regulations and controls estuarine habitat alteration by dredge and fill activities through a permit system. The Division of Environmental Management oversees the State’s water quality standards, also through a permit system.