The Official Website of the State of West Virginia

How to Draw People Back to Appalachia — Family Builds a New Life in West Virginia


In 2016, Andrew Kefer, a quality analyst, his wife Jessica, a counselor hired by companies to help employees, and their three children, moved to New Cumberland, West Virginia from the Philadelphia suburbs to be closer to her family. For the region, that’s part of a welcome trend. As Emily Badger’s recent exploration of West Virginia in the New York Times points out, crucial to Appalachia’s resurrection is attracting more people with capital and talent back to the area. After deindustrialization from the 1970s onwards, a story told in our PBS film Moundsville, millions fled to coastal meccas like New York and San Francisco, or bigger inland cities, like Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. Now, the Covid-19 pandemic and higher costs are prompting people to settle in Appalachia and the nearby Rust Belt. For many, a life where rent is $1,000 a month for a nice house is a godsend. Architect Mary O’Connor moved to Akron from New York City eight year ago for a job, After the job ended, Ms. O’Connor decided to stay in Akron. “All my friends in New York were complaining,” she said, “and I was like, here I can have all thing things they were complaining about not having.” 

To be sure, living in West Virginia isn’t always easy. Kefer says his family misses “the fact that there’s more of everything, more restaurants, shops, doctors, hospitals” and “more choices for everything.” The kids yearn for “Wawa, Wegmans and PA Dutch Country, and being close to New York City.” However, in West Virginia, he points out, he “can walk to restaurants, doctors’ offices, a grocery store, a great bakery and two pharmacies very easily.”  

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