Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Burr files bill to put Brunswick back in Wilmington MSA

U.S. Census Bureau map of change in metro area populations. The green indicates areas that have grown at least 2 percent.
U.S. Census Bureau map of change in metro area populations. The green indicates areas that have grown at least 2 percent.

Legislation has landed to rejoin Brunswick County to the Wilmington metro map.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R) on Wednesday said the Census Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) made a “mistake” last year when they separated Brunswick County from the Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area and added it to the Myrtle Beach MSA, across the border in South Carolina.

“MSAs are commonly used by businesses to determine the size of new markets and to analyze the workforce. Separating Brunswick County from Wilmington has led to an understatement of the size of the state’s economy in the region and hurt economic development,” Burr’s office said in a release.

His bill (here) would direct OMB to once again consider Brunswick County a member of the Wilmington MSA, which presently consists only of New Hanover and Pender counties.

“Everybody in North Carolina knows that Brunswick County is part of the greater Wilmington area,” said Burr. “Instead of mindlessly applying bureaucratic rules, the [Obama] Administration needs to address what reality looks like for people in North Carolina.”

Past story: Officials decry OMB’s decision to keep Brunswick in Myrtle Beach metro area

OMB, which redraws MSA boundaries nationwide every 10 years, based the move on decennial-census growth data that linked Brunswick County and northeast Horry County, South Carolina, which is home to Myrtle Beach.

Officials in North Carolina said the loss of Brunswick County and its population to an out-of-state metro area would frustrate economic development efforts in the region, as businesses reportedly examine individual MSA populations when considering locations for development.

Officials including the 7th Congressional District’s U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) and Sen. Kay Hagan (D) pushed to see a reversal of OMB’s decision–even writing a letter to President Obama–but the agency didn’t waver.

“While we understand that communities may have cultural and economic preferences for belonging to a particular metro or micro area, OMB is required by law to develop and oversee the use of government-wide standards for statistical data and the process used to delineate metro and micro areas must be based on population data, and must be applied in the same way to all communities across the country,” OMB explained in a June 2013 statement about the decision.

As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, a MSA contains a “core urban area” of at least 50,000 residents, consists of at least one county and can include adjacent counties “that have a high degree of social and economic integration (as measured by commuting to work) with the urban core.”

Numerous resolutions, including from Wilmington City Council and the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners last year, opined Brunswick County is linked like family to Wilmington and has far less of a connection with Myrtle Beach. As for the North Carolina counties’ economic and cultural ties, the resolutions said most Brunswick County residents follow New Hanover County news sources and that many commute across the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge here for work.

Background stories:

Wilmington, Brunswick resolutions decry metro separation

New Hanover, Pender join in protesting metro area shakeup

Local delegation makes trip to D.C. to see MSA decision reversed

Consultant: Reversal of MSA decision would be a first

Region hopeful for MSA resolution soon

OMB denies appeal on MSA; Brunswick stays with Myrtle Beach

Ben Brown is a news reporter at Port City Daily. Reach him at ben.b@hometownwilmington.com or (910) 772-6335. On Twitter: @benbrownmedia

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