Three years ago, on my 23rd birthday, I packed up my 2000 Honda Accord and made the two hour drive from my hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, to the city of my dreams: Charlotte, North Carolina.
I already had a new job, keys to my first apartment in a luxury building and few best friends. I was ready to conquer rooftop bars and boozy Sunday brunches. That day, everything I had ever wished for in college was coming true.
Millennials are coming here—and staying
That year, 2016, I was one of 26,390 millennials who moved to Charlotte in search of career success, a better cost of living and quality of life. Since then, the number of 20-34 year-olds migrating to the Queen City has remained steady, and the number of millennials staying in the city year after year has started to increase.
And now, according SmartAsset’s third annual study on where millennials are moving, North Carolina is the fifth ranking state. Charlotte has taken the number six spot on the list of top 10 cities attracting new millennials.
In 2017, then-24-year-old Tabitha Corley and 22,496 other millennials also packed their bags in hopes that the city would provide a better quality of life.
“I’m a true millennial and lived at home to save money, and I’m so glad I did. Since it was going to be my first time moving out and living on my own, moving to Charlotte made sense. I was already familiar with the city since I graduated from Winthrop University,” said Corley, now 26.
She had a job offer at a top news station she felt she could not refuse. The digital producer said she knew that a larger-market station would advance her career in ways not possible in her hometown of Wagener, South Carolina.
“Here, my career is amazing and my side hustles are thriving,” she said.
In addition to her full-time role as a media professional, Corley works as a freelance photographer and video journalist. But it’s not only her career that has Corley in love with Charlotte, it’s the city’s quality of life.
‘The city feels so small, yet so big’
“Comparing Charlotte to Wagener would be comparing apples to oranges. I like how the city feels so small, yet so big once you consider all of the neighborhoods like South End, Plaza Midwood, University City. Here, there’s something to do year-round,” she said.
With plans of staying in Charlotte for no longer than two or three years, Corley is among the many millennials that find themselves staying in the city longer than expected. Charlotte is not only attracting millennials, it is keeping them.
To compare, New York City ranked at the bottom of the study’s list: Around 69,200 young professionals moved into the city, but in the same year, more than 95,000 millennials left. However, Charlotte saw a net increase of 5,060 millennials, with only 17,436 of the 22,496 leaving.
“The city’s growth is a bit frustrating. All of this construction gets in the way of my daily commute,” Corley said. “But it’s a good sign, I guess. Bigger and better things are coming.”