Out migration still killing Southwest Virginia

Compiled by Lewis Loflin

Metro Areas Gain, Rural Counties Lose Population Final 2006 and Provisional 2007 Population Estimates for Virginia

The Weldon Cooper Center's population estimates are the official figures for the Commonwealth of Virginia used by various state and local agencies for distributing tax dollars. It lists Buchanan County is number one in the state in terms of low growth rate with nearly a 12 percent drop. Dickenson County is ranked 10th in the low-growth column with a 3.6 percent drop.

Dickenson County lost 596 people since 2000. Buchanan County lost 3,206 residents since the 2000 census, the biggest loss in Virginia. Buchanan County is not alone on the list. Tazewell County sits seventh on the top 10 list and has lost 1,603 people in the past seven years. Wise County is eighth with a loss of 1,435 people.

To quote, "The population report, created by Michael Spar, indicates that Southwest Virginia's population dip stems from more deaths than births and a hefty out-migration of residents."

Bristol Virginia saw a growth of slightly more than two dozen people since 2000 while Washington County, Va., picked up 1,871 new residents since the last census. Lee County gained 281 people and Scott County netted 477 new residents. Smyth County lost 840 people while the city of Norton saw its population decrease by 135 residents. Russell County lost 469 people since 2000. Note that Washington County is a prime retirement community.



Mount Rogers Planning District

The local economic development industry was disappointed by the results. They claim their mostly failed projects kept it from being as bad as it could have been. The Lenowisco Planning District lost a total of 813 people since 2000. Cumberland Plateau Planning District saw a whopping 5,868 loss while Mount Rogers Planning District grew by 1,828 people.

To quote, "Larry Carr, CPPD's director, was disappointed by the figures, especially the overall drop in Russell County. It's actually a little bit more drastic than I would have anticipated. I would have expected Russell County to have had a little growth." He was referring to recent high-tech companies that have located in Lebanon. Not so oddly as in the past the local community is seeing little benefit from these kinds of economic development. Ron Flanary, executive director of Lenowisco, claims "the figures are not surprising and cautioned the numbers are just estimates until the 2010 census." The Lenowisco district lost 35,000 people between 1950 and 1970.

Virginia population

Virginia's population reached 7.7 million on July 1, 2007, increasing by more than 633,000 new residents since the 2000 Census. The Commonwealth has the 12th largest population in the nation. While Virginia's population continues to increase annually, the growth rate has declined in recent years. Population growth occurs partly through what demographers call "natural increase", when the number of births exceeds the number of deaths.

Since 2000, Virginia gained 324,000 citizens through natural increase. Population also changes as a result of people moving in and out of the state. Since 2000, Virginia netted a total of 315,000 residents from migration, split almost equally between those moving to the Commonwealth from other states and from other countries...Virginia is increasingly becoming an urban state.

The combined population living in Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Tidewater is now at 5.3 million, or roughly 7 out of 10 Virginians.

Ref. BHC 1-30-2008 and The Weldon Cooper Center at www.coopercenter.org