It’s a momentous time to be living in Berkeley County.
The economy in this Eastern Panhandle community is growing and diversifying. So is the population, as people from the nearby cities of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore migrate ever westward in search of a lower cost of living and more relaxed pace of life.
Over half of residents now work outside the county, which sits at a crossroads of interstates and enjoys access to commuter rail to D.C.
An 83 percent rise in population over the past 25 years has put stress on certain services, particularly schools. But community ties are being stretched too, as people from all over the world learn to call Berkeley County home. The people there are challenged to find ways to relate to each other and find strength in their diversity.
Berkeley County’s total population and minority population have both grown significantly since the 1980s.
As community ties stretch, Berkeley Countians are searching for ways to make the parts feel whole. At the forefront of these issues is “What’s Next, Berkeley County?”, a group of residents who are searching for opportunities to create a more diverse and vibrant local economy in the county.
In a classroom at the James Rumsey Technical Institute in Martinsburg this past April, they met to discuss their community’s strengths, needs, and opportunities. And there was a lot to talk about.
They covered a lot of ground–tourism, arts, better quality jobs. The challenge of connecting all the great work that’s going on in the community already…
…Then talk turned to economic justice: how to ensure that no one’s left behind as the economy advances, rich and poor alike.
As the group explored ways to connect the community’s haves and have-nots, one participant observed that the room looked pretty white and middle class. She called for more racial, socioeconomic, and age diversity in future discussions…
Learn more about What’s Next, WV,
and how to start a positive conversation in your community