CHARLES TOWN — The potential for growth in the retirement industry is high in West Virginia. And Jefferson County is viewed as a desirable place to retire, according to a recent study conducted for the state Division of Tourism.
The study points out that the growth in tourism locally is directly connected with retirees.
“There has been quite an influx of tourists to the Eastern Panhandle over the years,” said Frank Jorgensen, chairman of the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association.
Jorgensen, who provided information to AECOM Technical Services, the firm that prepared the 10-year tourism plan for the state Division of Tourism, said tourism brings retirees to the area.
“People have a perception that retirees are a burden,” Jorgensen said. “They are not. Most have other types of income, they tend to shop locally and do more volunteer work. They have a positive impact. One family of two has the equivalent of creating 3.7 factory jobs.”
Jorgensen said retirees have the ability to buy a house, pay property taxes, shop locally and have good medical care.
Among the key factors that retirees consider in selecting a retirement location are proximity to family and friends and cost of living.
Retiring to the Eastern Panhandle makes sense to John Reisenweber, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Authority.
“We are 45 minutes from Dulles and have easy access to the airport,” Reisenweber said. “We are only four-and-a-half hours by car from downtown Manhattan, three-and-a-half hours from Pittsburgh and less than 2 hours from both Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Md.”
Charles Longino said retirees are particularly drawn to the slower pace of rural areas.
“A number of states have implemented programs to attract retirees,” said Longino, a professor at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, N.C. And who had extensive input on the AECOM study. He is considered the nation’s leading authority on what is called the migration trend of people over 60.
“West Virginia has one of the highest returning migrations in the nation and the highest out-of-state natives who come back when they retire,” he said.
Longino said the low crime rate, good hospitals, low overall cost of living and mild climate are some of the attractions.
West Virginia Commissioner of Tourism Betty Carver said more information is being collected on retirees who purchase second or leisure homes in West Virginia. She said the AECOM is a 10-year road map for bringing more tourism into the state and thereby increasing the number of retirees.
“People have fallen in love with our state and its relaxed atmosphere,” Carver said.
In 2010 economic impact on travel spending in Jefferson County was $769 million. The local government, received $12.6 million in travel money. The figures do not include state income.