Brunswick Back In Wilmington MSA

By Johanna F. Still, posted Jul 21, 2023
Brunswick County has rejoined the Wilmington MSA after a decade-long hiatus.
After a decade, Brunswick County has finally been moved back into the Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area. 

The federally defined economic areas help researchers and businesses make conclusions and decisions about patterns in urban hubs. Brunswick County’s exclusion from the Wilmington MSA has long been a point of contention for local officials, who have argued the 2013 realignment translated to missed opportunities for the area. 

The Office of Management and Budget announced the new MSA delineations Friday, with Wilmington’s to include New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties. 

Brunswick County spent the past decade in the Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, MSA. 

Of the Brunswick County residents participating in the workforce, about 27% travel to New Hanover County for work, and 3% drive to Horry County, South Carolina, according to a 2021 Cape Fear Collective analysis.

Brunswick County's removal “had an adverse effect” on the city’s economic development opportunities, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said during a legislative breakfast in February. “This is something extremely critical.”

Tyler Newman, president and CEO of Business Alliance for a Sound Economy (BASE), has advocated for the change for years. 

"It’s extremely exciting news—and something we have been working hard to make right since 2013," he wrote in an email Friday. "Having been in the room in DC in 2013 when we were told there’s no appeal process and to come back in 10 years, it is gratifying.

"It’s a big deal for the region and the entire state of North Carolina that we are no longer statistically ceding one of the fastest growing counties to South Carolina. From economic development and investment to Medicare reimbursement, this is a big deal. Thanks to UNCW and Cape Fear Collective for helping us gather data [to] show how our growth and commuting patterns clearly tie Brunswick County to Wilmington, New Hanover and Pender. Most importantly, thanks to Sen Budd, Sen Burr, Sen Tillis and Congressman Rouzer and their staffs for continuing to highlight the importance of this issue at every opportunity," Newman said.
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