Winchester is the fastest growing city in Virginia, according to a new report from the website 24/7 Wall St..
The site compared data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Labor Bureau, focusing on rates of unemployment, job growth, population growth and the median household income.
Winchester stacked up better than most cities, with an 8.6 percent population increase between 2010 and 2018, versus Virginia’s 6.2 percent; an unemployment rate of 2.8 percent compared to the Commonwealth’s 2.9 percent, and a 14.9 percent job growth between 2010 and 2017. During that same period, Virginia’s job growth was 8.5 percent.
Residents said they are not suprised by the ranking.
“If you watch what’s happened in our community and this region of the state over the past couple of years, it makes absolute sense that we would be one of the fastest growing communities, not just in virginia but in the country,” Victoria Kidd, the co-owner and general manager of the Hideaway Cafe, said.
“You have Clarke County that wants to remain rural. You have Leesburg that has gotten extremely expensive to live in, so where are people going to go when they’re looking for a good place to raise families and buy their first homes, and a welcoming and open and beautiful community. We’ve made a beautiful community, so clearly we’re going to attract those people,” Kidd said.
For Justin Kerns, the executive director of tourism for both Winchester and Frederick County, that line is familiar.
“I moved here with my family,” Kerns said, who had previously lived in Los Angeles. “We decided to relocate here. We don’t have any family in the area. It was for career and family that we moved here.”
Kerns says the ranking is obviously celebrated by his team, but he understands why some residents are hesistant to embrace the change. T
he culture of Winchester and the small town feel is what attracted many people to move to the area, he said.
“We want to work very hard to protect that,” Kerns said, adding that the city hopes to ‘grow, but grow wisely.’
Still, many residents are supportive of the growth.
“I’ve seen it grow from the tiny podunk town it was to this mecca for really good food and really good beer,” said Winchester resident Nick Blackcloud. “It’s a small price with some of the traffic that we have.”
Another resident, Mary Howley, agreed, adding, “It’s better than Loudoun County.”
Traffic is one of the concerns residents voiced when it comes to the area’s growth. Housing costs, another. Others fear a change in the culture.
But city resident Bob Read, who moved to the city in 1974, says the change is positive.
“Everyone wants their place in the sun. They move out here,’oh isn’t this wonderful?’ Problem is, once I get here, ‘I don’t want anyone else in here! I want it like it used to be,'” said Read, mimicking residents who dislike the growth.
Still Read says the growth does change the flavor of the city and he knows some people worry about what that change brings.
Kerns too knows the small town charm is one of the things people love about Winchester. But he says city and county officials are committed to preserving the area’s slower pace and sense of community, and he believes newcomers to the region are as well.
“We see those people moving here as a way to get away from what’s there,” said Kerns, referring to D.C. and Northern Virginia. “Instead of trying to replicate what’s there and bring it here, they’re moving here because it’s not Northern Virginia.”