Randolph County community pushes back against population decline

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RANDOLPH COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV)-- West Virginia leads the nation in population decline. That is why Randolph County business owner's simple motto is so vital.

Generation WV offers several programs to engage young adults in the community and connect them with careers in the Mountain State.

"We want to create a place where people can live, work, play and stay," said Lisa Wood, executive director of Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce.

West Virginia's population is declining and local leaders create plans to fight back.

"That is not an easy task. It is not a short-term one either," said Wood.

Generation West Virginia is a state-wide organization with the goal of retaining young adults. The organization has a chapter in Randolph County. The organization's director Natalie Roper says people stay when they have a voice and can make an impact.

The organization's impact fellowship is similar to Davis and Elkins' internship program.

"It is a paid internship where we will take five D-and-E students and five students from elsewhere returning home for the summer and we are doing a community internship program," said Chris Jones, director of career services.

Jones says the way to keep graduates in-state is by getting them involved in their community.

"They will work somewhere within our industry in our community four days a week. On the fifth day we are going to do leadership development. We will use our local leaders to develop the students from a community perspective," said Jones.

Leaders say the factors leading to young adults staying can range from broadband access to activities available in the area.

"Connectivity, along with a vibrant community, along with job opportunities, affordable housing. All of that are just facets that when they come together, will make a place that attracts young people," said Wood.