Work remains to make state grow
West Virginia lawmakers started this winter’s legislative session with a determination to attract and retain residents — perhaps a last-ditch effort to address what they knew was coming. As data is rolled out, it appears the problem they were hoping to solve is much worse than we knew.
According to newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Mountain State lost a higher percentage of its residents than any other state in the nation. From 2010 to 2020, the population dropped 3.2%, or about 59,000 people. West Virginia was one of only seven states to lose a congressional seat following the 2020 census.
Among those who discussed their reasons for leaving, former residents had a few things in common. They worried about lack of opportunity and low pay, not enough recreational opportunities, poor cellphone and internet service, and a political climate that some find oppressive, according to the Associated Press.
One former West Virginian who would like to come back told the AP returning to the state has “got to be the right opportunity. I make good money (in Alabama) doing what I do.”
This is a person who grew up in the Mountain State and wants to return. He still has family here. But he has not seen an opportunity to do so that would give him and his family the life they want.
We aren’t focusing on the needs of families like that young man’s, and we’re paying the price for it. Development officials have their work cut out for them, but there is a path to make a difference. To take it, they must listen to the direction they’ve been given for years about the manner in which growing families wish West Virginia would reach her full potential.