Study shows West Virginia losing population faster than any other state

West Virginia is losing population faster than any other state, according to a recent study, by the Pew Charitable Trusts. (WCHS/WVAH)

West Virginia is losing population faster than any other state, according to a recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

It said West Virginia has lost 0.1 percent of its population each year over the past decade. That is 18,000 fewer people. Despite the numbers, a lot is being done in Charleston to grow the population and business opportunities.

"A lot of it is about opportunity and clearly West Virginia has been very dependent on one particular industry for most of its history, nothing wrong with that industry, it's just that you can't be completely dependent on one industry," Charleston Area Alliance President Matthew Ballard said.

Ballard said the Charleston Area Alliance is focused on recruiting new industry to the Charleston area.

"That's one reason that we recently recruited "N3" to the community. They're a technology company. They've hired 100 employees since last August. They're keeping people here and bringing new people in, so when we have quality employment opportunities I think that's the way that we can keep our West Virginians here," Ballard said.

Tim Brady with the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau said another way of adding to the quality of life is by giving people more to do.

"If there are fun things to do here that bring people for leisure activities, then the hope is that they want to stay or when they're considering relocation they realize that this is a great area to live in," Brady said.

U.S. Census data shows that of the 18,000 people who have left the state in the last decade nearly 3,000 left Kanawha County last year. Brady said focusing on economic progress in Charleston can have an impact on the whole state.

"West Virginia is a fascinating state in the sense that you have all of these different regions that have very different economies, but as the economy goes so goes the population, so we're hoping that by maybe growing the tourism economy we're hoping to help with regrowing the population in the region," Brady said.

Ballard said attracting people requires patience, but "we do have a long-term strategy, and we've seem some really big wins over the last 10 years and we'll continue that and hopefully reverse this trend or at least neutralize it to where we're more of an even population."

The study found that all but two states, Michigan and West Virginia, saw their population rise in the past decade. Utah, Texas, Colorado and North Dakota topped the list of states with the fastest growing population.

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