west virginia brain drain
“As a teenager, all I wanted was to get out of the state to get better opportunities and different attitudes. I felt like there was nothing I could do to help my home, and I couldn’t find the kind of jobs I wanted,” says Amanda Wenisch, 28, a Mercer County native. A year after graduating college, she moved to Blacksburg, Virginia—just an hour away from the rural community outside of Athens where Wenisch grew up but, as one of Virginia’s fastest growing municipal areas, worlds apart.
Wenisch’s story echoes that of many young West Virginians. The state’s 20-somethings are hefting their tote bags and slamming their car trunks to make a beeline for the highways on their way out of state. They’re not just leaving for college. Our tech-savvy, bold, impatient, and energetic children are all grown up and many are not coming back. As towns across the state shutter windows on businesses and flip the “open” sign to “closed” for the last time, residents are left facing a dwindling economy and a growing concern for the future. Our population is shrinking, and with it our economy and federal representation. The younger generation, those college-bound and 30-somethings, were supposed to steer the state into the future, but will they?