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New numbers could bring new business, jobs

February 04, 2011|Elizabeth Harrington | Reporter

FRANKLIN CO., Va — More people are calling southwest Virginia home. Several local areas saw a population boost in the last decade.

According to the 2010 Census, Franklin County was the top county in this region with 18%. Bedford County's population grew by 13% and Montgomery County saw a 12% increase.

As for cities, Lynchburg is the fastest growing with 15%. Blacksburg's residents increased by 7% and Roanoke grew 2%. It's the first gain for the city of Roanoke in 30 years.

These positive numbers are good for economic development. In Franklin County, officials hope to attract more companies and new jobs. Last year, at least 100 new jobs were added.

"We're working to bring new businesses in," says Michael Burnette, Franklin County's acting director of Commerce & Leisure Services, "They're finding a greater workforce, available workforce, with those new numbers. We're also seeing a lot of new customers."

But the numbers also mean more responsibility.

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"We gotta make sure we have the water, gotta have the sewer, gotta have the schools, making sure our police department is well staffed," says Burnette.

The news wasn't good for everyone though.

Danville lost 11% of its population in the last decade. The city of Martinsville had a 10% decrease and Henry County shrunk by 6%.

Danville officials say the lower population numbers aren't a surprise. They blame the closure of Dan River mills and other other manufacturing operations.

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