West Virginia and Maine are the only states losing population, the Census Bureau announced on Monday. This means West Virginia continues to be left behind economically as young entrepreneurs seek opportunities elsewhere, and the state attracts few workers.
Since 1950, the U.S. population doubled, while West Virginia's population fell by 7 percent. The problem is the people who leave create jobs and taxes, leaving behind the poor, the disabled and the elderly who need services that charities and government provide.
As hard as it may be to believe now, Charleston, W.Va., had a slightly larger population than Charleston, S.C., in 1950. Today, our Charleston's population is less than half the Carolinian city.
Change is needed. The state government has made progress in reducing unnecessary taxes and regulatory burdens that do more harm than good. More work is needed. This does not mean allowing cowboys to pillage the land and the landscape; indeed, the state should protect the people and the environment. But the state must not acquiesce to those who oppose any and all commercial use of resources in the state.
Citizens of West Virginia also need to lose the bias against "out-of-staters." Consider hydraulic fracturing, which has revitalized the natural gas industry in the Northern Panhandle and along the Ohio River. This form of fracking has attracted experienced people from Texas and other states.
Instead of welcoming them, unions and others are demanding that local people be hired. A population cannot grow under such hostility. It's time to develop an Appalachian hospitality.
The casino industry faced similar challenges 20 years ago, but over time local talent developed and succeeded the people from other states. Also, many people in that group decided to set their roots here.
West Virginia needs more of that.
To be sure, the Promise scholarship program has encouraged talented West Virginians to get an education here with the hopes that they will become entrepreneurs and leaders who stay home and develop the state's economy.
But West Virginia needs to do more. The state must attract people from other states and nations who will bring new ideas and talents to the state and revive the economy.