OHIO COUNTY, W.Va. (WTRF) – By now, the census data and the headlines are out there. West Virginia’s population lost nearly 7,000 people last year, but those numbers can be deceiving. 

While it may seem like there’s a mass exodus from the Mountain State, some officials say if you dig deeper into the data there are positive trends. 

More people have chosen to move into the state of West Virginia than to move out.

State Senator Ryan Weld, (R) Brooke County

You read that right.

2,343 people moved to the Mountain State in the last year, to be exact.

Our neighbors, Pennsylvania and Ohio, both are at a loss of about 3,000 people, so we’re actually ahead of those states when it comes to people saying ‘I want to move to that state’.

State Senator Ryan Weld, (R) Brooke County

That’s why population loss numbers can be deceiving if you don’t look a little closer. 

The 6,839 residents lost only factors in birth rates and death rates. So, while there is still a population loss, it’s not as great if you factor in the migration to the state. 

All these numbers were calculated using the latest 2021 U.S. Census data.

We’ve done a pretty good job of getting that individual to come to Wheeling based on our quality of life here. Based on after COVID everyone realized that you could be anywhere to do certain jobs, so why not live in a beautiful community like this with the parks and the theatre and the symphony and everything that goes along along with the quality of life.

Kurt Zende, President, Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce

Are there areas of the state that are always gonna be difficult to add population? Particularly some of the former coalfield counties, yes. They face some real difficulties down there, but here in the Northern Panhandle I think we’re situated perfectly.

State Senator Ryan Weld, (R) Brooke County

Now the question becomes. how does West Virginia keep people coming here?

A lot of it relies on attracting new businesses, but to do that the Mountain State also must make itself an ideal place to move. Both Zende and Weld said that means having amenities like affordable housing, broadband, recreation, and lower taxes compared to surrounding states. 

Zende said the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce is planning to address some of those issues. He explained they have plans to construct a business incubator with small office space to reduce business costs. They also plan to work with local colleges and universities to make sure more students are trained in the professions most needed by businesses who move to this area.

I think that there’s a spirit of cooperation out there amongst a number of different entities that are involved in economic cevelopment. I think we’ve got a governor that’s very pro uh infrastructure. We’ve got a state legislature and governor that’s very pro-business and pro worker. I think that we will make these in-roads into attracting more businesses.

Kurt Zende, President, Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce

To change that narrative in terms of this is a great place to do business becase we are doing tremendous work when it comes to broadband so now you can work from home. You can have your business wherever you live. We have low cost of living. The housing market is affordable. Change the conversation to what we want it to be about West Virginia, no what naysayers want it to be about West Virginia. I think we’ll move into the right direction.

State Senator Ryan Weld, (R) Brooke County

While there is some positive news in the trends for West Virginia, the state did lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives because of population decline. 

West Virginia and Ohio each lose one congressional seat

However, it’s important to note that the census data for that decision was compiled over the last 10 years. The numbers referenced above deal with just the past year.