On population shifts across Southside

Published 12:53 pm Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Recently, the Cooper Center at the University of Virginia released their latest estimates of Virginia’s population. As expected, the population of suburbs of Northern Virginia, Richmond and Tidewater continued to grow while most of rural Virginia lagged or lost population. After decades of strong growth, what was not expected was that the growth rate slowed in the last few years.

This reflects the slower growth in job opportunities in Virginia — something that our region has painfully been aware of after decades of an economy that has lost many of the industries from generations past.  This is why I have spent time and effort to focus state efforts on quality workforce training.

Sadly, our region continues to be among those counties that are losing population. Following are the population shifts in just the last six years.

• Brunswick County, lost 4.3 percent.

• Campbell County, gained 1.3 percent.

• Charlotte County, lost 2.1 percent.

• Dinwiddie County, gained 1.3 percent.

• Halifax County, lost 1.8 percent.

• Lunenburg County, lost 4.3 percent.

• Mecklenburg County, lost 4.2 percent.

• Nottoway County, gained 1.6 percent.

• Pittsylvania County, lost 1.4 percent.

• Prince George County, gained 2.6 percent.

• Danville City, lost 2.5 percent.

Several conclusions that can be reached from this data are these: Prince George and Dinwiddie, as well as Campbell, are all growing. They are respectively closer to the Richmond and Lynchburg markets and can more easily commute to opportunities in those markets. Conversely, Brunswick, Lunenburg, and Mecklenburg are more distant from job opportunities in growing regions of Virginia and North Carolina.

This data is not exclusive to our region. In fact, of the 21 planning districts in Virginia, eight lost population.  However, most of the growth since the 2010 census has occurred in the Northern Virginia region as has been the case for half a century.

While these numbers are estimates based on good sources, it does not provide the data that the 10-year census would provide. If it did, the data would probably indicate that our region is losing younger family members. The trend that started several generations ago, where our young people move away from the region to either seek greater job opportunities or simply for the bright lights of urban living, continues to play out. Therefore, we must continue to do those things that we know work.

All things change in life. We simply must adapt to those changes as best we can. None of us want to limit the opportunities for our young people nor lose them. Our goal should be to work toward greater opportunity and better sell our assets.  We all have a role in that.

Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.