Looking across the analyses, some patterns can be detected. First, residents and non-residents have a dissimilar view of the county. While this may seem like an obvious result, the implications are nonetheless important for marketing and education interventions. PIP wished to know how to attract and retain talented new residents, therefore this study sought to understand what county elements appealed to current residents and what could appeal to outsiders. Knowing the perceptions of non-residents can fuel targeted marketing campaigns for relocatees as well as tourists. Second, similar to previous studies that found length of residency to be an important factor in attitude towards tourism in their community (Weaver, 2001; Zhang, 2008), this study found residential tenure also positively influenced views towards community identity; however newer and younger residents had some negative impressions.
Moreover, it appears that the rural and town residents view the county differently, giving credence to the notion that the county holds a dual identity. Rural residents do not view Moore County as artsy, charming, clean, conservative, culinary, growing and a retirement area, in contrast to non-residents who do. From a planning perspective, this information could help navigate contested areas of development by better understanding what characteristics to build upon (Weaver and Lawton, 2001; Weaver and Lawton, 2004). Additionally, with an idea of how the county is viewed by various audiences, planners can focus on a particular audience they are trying to attract (e.g. entrepreneurs or Millennials) or on a particular image they desire or wish to debunk. In this regard, the study has also given support to the importance of differential marketing across generational segments, especially when purposefully attracting younger generations back from urban areas. Along with growing opportunities for employment, Moore County’s tourism industry has also played a pivotal role in attracting new residents to the county because many of the amenities are connected with demand from tourism (Timothy, 2005; Weaver, 2005). The amenities within the county that attract these new residents to the area include craft beer, gym and fitness centres and parks and open spaces. This is important to consider with regard to attracting and maintaining new residents to the county.
The underlying purpose of the study was to provide strategic direction for future growth. Compared to other fringe communities embracing tourism as an economic development strategy, Moore County has an advantage because of the historic draw of Pinehurst as a tourist icon, while for many other counties tourism is an emerging industry. This study can help Moore County protect their vital and unique sense of place, while carefully adding lifestyle elements that will make the county more attractive to coming generations and demographics. Part of strategic planning is to protect communities from negative elements in dynamic environments, which have been identified in the study. By identifying perceptions about the county, leadership can be proactive to gain and/or leverage their competitive advantages over other areas. Additionally, they can inform residents and market to non-residents regarding the ‘undiscovered’ amenities of the county. This study contributes to the literature as a case study of a dual-identity county (town and rural, rich and poor, etc.). Various perspectives about the county were observed based on these dual identity characteristics. The concepts of rural and urban are not so straightforward because regions sometimes exhibit elements of both. By understanding the characteristics of fringe areas, and perceptions of the residents within them, future tourism and economic growth efforts have a better chance of developing sustainably.