Originally created 05/17/99

South Carolina sees influx of Northerners



COLUMBIA -- If your neighbors don't sound like they're from around here, they probably aren't.

More than 125,000 more people moved to South Carolina than left between 1990 and 1998. About 55,000 of those were from New York, making it the state's largest Northern invasion since Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman blasted his way through the Palmetto State.

The results are from an analysis of Internal Revenue Service data.

During the past two years, 46,000 more people came to South Carolina than left.

Only nine other states, led by Florida, gained more residents during that time.

"Something that this state has always seemed to do is export folks," said Walter Edgar, author of South Carolina: A History and director of the Institute for Southern Studies at the University of South Carolina. "We've been doing that throughout this century."

The state has reversed that since the early 1980s, bringing a stronger economy and growing businesses.

"That's why banks are doing so well; there's lots of new money flocking in, and community banks are doing well again after years of not doing well," said Pat Mason, director of the Institute for Carolina Living.

Mr. Mason's company, based in Columbia, attracts retirees and others to the Carolinas. Developments like Savannah River Site, Hilton Head Island and the Grand Strand during the past few decades have "put us in overdrive," Mr. Mason said. "We now compete favorably with any spot in the country."

South Carolina is receiving many people from New York's leaking population. More than 100,000 more people a year leave the state than move there.

Data show that 20 percent of New Yorkers who come down Interstate 95 to South Carolina settled in Horry and Charleston counties. Richland and Greenville counties rank third and fourth as destinations for Empire State residents who move South.

"Thanks to air conditioning, Yankees have been coming here to stay since World War II," Mr. Edgar said. "Who do you think is playing on all those golf courses in Myrtle Beach? Lots of people come here on vacation and decide to stay and retire here."

Ed and Lois Braunsdorf came from New York for a Hilton Head Island vacation in 1979 and moved down about 20 years later.

"We really like the friendliness to people 65 and up," said Mr. Braunsdorf, a retired IBM executive.

Mr. Braunsdorf said the state's favorable taxes for older residents and the weather are two big draws.

"There's a month or two where it's too hot here, but Florida is worse," he said. "It's nothing like weather in New York state."

There also are younger residents switching climates. Stan and Lisa Pawlowski moved in 1997 from Buffalo because of a job change.

"People are really friendly here, and it's a lot cheaper to live down here than in New York," Mrs. Pawlowski said. "We talk to a lot of family and friends up there, and they say the bigger companies are packing up and moving South."

In 1940, nearly 92 percent of South Carolina's residents were born in the state.

That percentage fell to 68 percent by 1990, which Mr. Edgar called "a pretty considerable drop in 50 years."

Mr. Edgar said many new residents want to become part of the community. "Some don't," he said, "but not enough that I'd want to blow up the southbound bridges on I-95 that lead here."