West Virginia emerges from the Civil War. On June 20, 1863, Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation admits West Virginia into the Union.
Census records show a West Virginia population increase of 17% from 1860 to 1870. Huntington grows from its founding by Collis P. Huntington in 1871 until the 1937 flood with a final resident count around 75,000. World War II brings an industrial boom that lasts until the 1950s. Residency for Huntington and West Virginia peaks in 1950 at 86,353 and near 2 million, respectively. Huntington’s citizenry now stands at about 45,000, whereas West Virginia’s population hovers close to 1.8 million.
Huntington’s near 50% residency drop from the 1950s reflects an industrial manufacturing decline. Population loss tracks blue-collar underemployment. Corporations outsource manufacturing to maximize profits. Outsourcing occurs at the expense of the middle class. The 1980s economic shift to education, tourism, services and health care doesn’t support a return to 1950s occupancy level.
Sustaining a viable middle class demands meaningful investment in vocational training. Skilled workers attract industry, which produces tangible products. Recruit capabilities of farmers, plumbers, electricians, welders, machinists, mechanics, carpenters, pipefitters, construction equipment operators, web designers, computer coders, technicians, among others to achieve Tri-State prosperity. As Sophocles observes, “Without labor nothing prospers.”