HARNETT — In once-rural Harnett County, the pounding of hammers and whining of power tools are as common at the roar of jets serving troops from nearby Fort Bragg – a telltale signs of a population boom.
The county is one of the fastest growing in the state. About 111,000 people live there, and developers expect 25,000 to 35,000 more over the next several years.
Part of that growth can be attributed to the U.S. military's 2005 round of the Base Reassignment and Closure program, which will relocate nearly 25,000 people to Cumberland, Harnett and surrounding counties by 2011.
In anticipation, Bragg is building more than 1,500 new homes within the Harnett County line along N.C. Highway 87 in what was formerly its northern training area.
About 60 families will begin moving in the Linden Oaks military housing community on June 25.
"Due to the land constraints on the main post, there really was not the adequate space to build the number of homes that are needed," said Cathy Cameron, with Picerne Military Housing at Bragg.
Linden Oaks, along with other new construction in the area, will make that part of Harnett County one of the largest unincorporated areas in the state.
The growth also means more revenue for the county as commercial businesses come to the area to provide goods and services that residents once had to find outside the county.
"Hopefully, we'll see a Home Depot, Super Target or Super Wal-Mart," Harnett County Commissioner Tim McNeill said. "People can spend their money here and have good restaurants to go to and enjoy their life."
The location of the new housing community – about eight minutes from the main gate to For Bragg – coupled with a better cost of living and a lower tax rate, will be a reason for soldiers to choose Harnett County instead of nearby Cumberland or Hoke counties, McNeill said.
Todd Clayman, a Harnett County homeowner who recently retired from the Army, agrees. He moved to the county long before the housing boom.
He's certain that more soldiers will follow.
"The reason why I feel they'll choose Harnett County is due to the crime rate and also the taxes," he said.
People like Clayman, county leaders say, are the best recruiters of all because they share their experiences with other soldiers, McNeill said
"Those families are our best sales folks," McNeill said.