So, I have this fantasy about West Virginia.
We know that we need more people to move here to help grow the economy. An available pool of qualified workers is essential to an expanding economy.
What we already know that the rest of the country does not is that West Virginia is a pretty nice place to live. Yes, we have our problems—I write about and talk about them all the time—but we also have some attributes and advantages that people want.
One is we have plenty of space and a plurality of Americans want that. A recent Gallup Poll found that when “given six choices of a type of place they could live, 27 percent of Americans choose a rural area more than any other option.”
Half of all West Virginians already live in areas classified as rural, so we get country life. That same poll found that while 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas, only 12 percent want to live there.
Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel wrote that people get tired of “skyrocketing housing costs, pricey child care, the crowds and the relentless traffic. Sometimes the local culture isn’t a fit or they want to be nearer to family.”
Many live in or near the city because that’s where the jobs are, but the increasing trend is working remotely and skilled professionals, especially in an employee market like we have now, have market power.
“If managers at one company are unwilling to provide trusted, high-performing employees the option of working remotely, then other, more open-minded companies might,” Kasriel wrote.
We already see some of that in West Virginia as employees of companies (or the government) in the Washington D.C. area live in Jefferson or Berkeley Counties, work from home or commute into the city.
What do we have to offer besides less congestion? Cheaper cost of living, great natural beauty, friendly neighbors, and plenty of outdoor recreation options, to name a few. Granted, we don’t have high-speed internet in every corner of the state—that’s a HUGE hurdle we must get fixed—but our new out-of-state neighbors can still easily find plenty of places that can meet their tech needs.
Side anecdote here. My son, Ben, lives in Austin, Texas. It’s a fascinating city with an endless amount of entertainment options. However, it is a city and it now has urban issues—high cost of living, homeless people camping on the sidewalks and panhandling, brutal traffic jams and those damn electric scooters weaving in and out of streets and sidewalks.
I think he’ll move away within a few years and, like many of his generation who can work remotely, he will be looking for the next cool place that offers some of the amenities he wants, but also someplace he can afford and drive around without getting stuck in endless traffic.
I’m not sure he’ll end up back in West Virginia, but that’s alright. There are hundreds of thousands of “Bens” out there who might just discover what we already know.
West Virginia is a great place to call home.