Attracting those to call state home
For a decade, from 2007-2017, the nation’s population grew. Every state had slow population growth … well, every state but two — Michigan and, you guessed it, West Virginia, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts study.
In fact, West Virginia lost residents faster than Michigan. Our state’s population has shrunk by an average of 0.1 percent a year, according to Pew. Since 2007, we have lost 18,195 people. We are shrinking so rapidly, some utility companies are using the population loss as an excuse to raise rates. Again.
In recent years, there has been a great effort (and one we support) to boost the Mountain State’s profile on the tourism scene. You may remember that Gov. Jim Justice pointed out another state’s ubiquitous campaign to attract tourists as justification for that push: Michigan.
There is good logic in the two states losing population hoping to attract as many visitors as possible. But what are we doing to make West Virginia an attractive place to put down roots permanently?
Tourists stay a while, spend some money, go home with good stories — and those are wonderful things. That brings jobs and boosts the economy.
Meanwhile, individuals — and employers — who dig a little deeper into the possibility of living and working in West Virginia find a somewhat less appealing picture. Our economy continues to sputter and struggle, as do some of our schools. Our government and the bureaucrats pulling its strings continue to carry out politics as usual — opaque, corrupt and self-serving — no matter what the letter after the names of the folks in charge, and despite the good intentions of what was supposed to be sweeping change a few years back.
Our tax and regulatory structure continues to baffle and repel. And our people continue to fall victim to the evils of the substance abuse epidemic that seems to be targeting very specific parts of the country.
Michigan, by the way, finds itself facing similar challenges and was left nearly as far behind in the supposed economic turnaround as West Virginia.
We have a lot of work to do in cleaning up our own house. We can’t leave it at tidying up the porch to attract a few tourists.