Surry County losing population

Published 9:03 am Wednesday, March 28, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Isle of Wight County’s population grew by 4.6 percent over the past seven years, while Surry County lost more than 7 percent of its residents, according to data estimates recently released by the U.S. Census.

Those changes show that 1,278 people were added to Isle of Wight since 2010, but Surry lost 525, according to the data. 

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Most of Isle of Wight County’s population growth has occurred in the northern end of the county, which is also closest to the employment centers and military installations on the Peninsula and Southside cities, such as Norfolk. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Many new residents are attracted to Isle of Wight’s mostly rural atmosphere, while still being close to work and shopping. 

From 2016 to 2017, Isle of Wight grew by .6 percent or 228 people, according to Census estimates. 

One development in particular, Benn’s Grant, has seen a notable influx of new residents over the past couple of years. 

Conversely, right across the James River Bridge, Newport News and Hampton have both lost population since 2010, down nearly 1 and 2 percent, respectively. Norfolk and Portsmouth have also decreased their numbers, by .8 and 1 percent, respectively.

Surry County, meanwhile, has its own challenges. 

Dendron District Supervisor Michael Drewry in Surry County attributes the population drain to a number of factors, such as lack of easy highway access and high speed Internet, frustration with local government and young people leaving for opportunities elsewhere. 

Many of those who work in the county, such as the Surry power station, don’t live in Surry, Drewry said. 

Plus, the county needs more people to attract amenities, he said, adding that things residents do enjoy are the tranquility and safety of a rural environment.

Drewry would like Surry to develop a set of future goals for the county. 

Bacon’s Castle District Supervisor Judy Lyttle points to an aging population and a younger generation who are not settling in Surry after graduating high school and college. 

“If you’re not in farming, working for Dominion Power, the school system or WindsorOne, there’s not a lot of opportunities,” she said. 

“You have to be a person that really wants to be a country person,” said Lyttle of living in Surry.

Surry County has an estimated population of 6,540 for 2017, as compared to 7,065 at the time of the 2010 census. 

Isle of Wight has more than five times Surry’s population. In 2017, the county had an estimated 36,552, according to the Census, up from 36,324 at the time of the last census. 

The only vehicular access to Surry County is via two-lane highways 10, 31 and 40. Williamsburg and the peninsula are accessible by ferryboat across the James River. Although Surry was formed in 1652, the county got its one and only stoplight in the town of Surry in 2007. 

Northern Virginia continues to see the most gains in population in the state, with Loudon County growing by 27 percent since 2010.   

Also growing more than 10 percent since 2010 was the city of Richmond, which outpaced its surrounding suburbs of Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover. 

The growth in Northern Virginia is attributed to large employers locating there and in Washington, D.C., according to Hamilton Lombard, research specialist at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, which worked with the U.S. Census Bureau on the population estimates.

“A lot of that is still commuters to D.C., but you have big job centers now in Northern Virginia by itself,” Lombard said. “Fairfax has more people in it than D.C. does.”

The largest losers were mostly in the southern and southwestern part of the state, such as Buchanan County and the city of Emporia, both of which lost 11 percent in population since 2010. 

Those losses are attributed to a lack of jobs, and a poor public education system that fails to prepare people for modern-day, information-centered, technological-type careers, said August Wallmeyer, author of “The Extremes of Virginia,” which focuses on the economic development of the state’s rural areas. 

Ryan Persaud with the Capital News Service contributed to this report.  {/mprestriction}