Charlotte County has a population problem. What’s the solution?

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, March 13, 2024

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Charlotte County has a population problem. The number is dropping and is expected to keep falling over the next 25 years. In 2010, the county had 12,586 residents. But by 2020, that number had dropped down to 11,529. Now, a new study from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service projects that Charlotte will see more losses over the next 26 years. 

The odd thing is it actually comes at a time when some rural areas of the state are seeing growth and reversing the fall. Prince Edward, Buckingham, Cumberland and Dinwiddie counties, for example, are actually all projected to grow by several thousand residents over the same time period. It also comes despite several improvements. The school district is ranked highly by the state, with passing rates and test scores climbing. 

And yet, Charlotte is projected to both shrink and get older. 

“(This) is not unanticipated given the nature of the current demographic trends of lower births, higher deaths and fewer people moving in,” said Shonel Sen, senior demographer from the Cooper Center’s Demographics Research Group, the organization who did the study. Sen wrote that as a statement connected with the study’s release, spotlighting not just Charlotte but several other parts of the state with similar trends. 

In the statement, Sen argued that the data shows counties have to ‘sell’ themselves, they have to convince would-be residents they have what the people are looking for. 


Charlotte County’s population was 11,529 in the 2020 census and dropped to 11,475 by 2022. The Weldon Cooper Center’s projections expect that to decline lower to 10,322 people in 2030, 9,705 in 2040 and 9,234 by 2050. 

Part of that is due to simple age.

Amid all age groups in Charlotte, the county’s population of those 65 and older was the fastest growing between 2010 and 2022, climbing 11.3%. On the other side, the 35 to 49 group dropped the lowest, declining by 27.5% in the same time period. 

It isn’t that more older people are moving in. It’s that those already here are just growing older. A total of 18.7% of Charlotte County residents were 65 or older in 2010. By 2022, that number had jumped to 22.8% and it continues to rise. 

Charlotte County Administrator Dan Witt said he has no reason to believe the assumptions in the report are incorrect.

“I have no reason to believe the projections are not correct as study indicates a decline going back even to 2010,” Witt said.


So how do you reverse course? How do you encourage “return migration” and bring people back to Charlotte County? A study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture highlighted three key points. The good news is that Charlotte is already working on some of them. 

Witt said Charlotte officials are trying to recruit industry and businesses to the county that would provide good job opportunities and help keep young people there. 

“This group is needed to provide growing families, community service and volunteerism, and a good tax base for the county,” he said.

That ties in with the USDA study. First, it said, you need high-speed internet. That’s not to play games or message friends. You need it to attract businesses. With many companies, internet sales is a key part of their operation. That’s even true for some farms. According to the USDA, internet sales for agricultural products netted a total of $40.2 billion. High-speed internet also gives schools more opportunities, to connect and hear from experts who live thousands of miles away, to experience virtual reality “tours” that link up with their lessons on places like ancient Rome. 

A second thing needed is to focus on bringing in business. Good-paying jobs will draw workers and their families in. A recent success in that area is the Central Virginia Poultry Cooperative, which launched in February. A farmer-led operation, they sell cage-free eggs to Dutch Country Organics LLC, out of Indiana. In turn, Dutch Country distributes the eggs to places like Walmart, Kroger, Target and Cosco. 

Witt noted that Charlotte County’s draft comprehensive plan update recognizes the declining population within the county and provides recommendations to work to counter it.

The draft plan states that the county should encourage the recruitment of new businesses to the area that will bring in new jobs and talent to Charlotte County. 

“The county should work with local colleges and universities such as: Southside Virginia Community College, Longwood University, and Hampden Sydney College to recruit and retain young talent into the county,” the draft comprehensive plan states. “By recruiting the next generation to ‘put down roots’ and invest in this community, this will assist in helping decrease the steady decline in population that Charlotte County is expected to experience.”

Editor’s note: Reporter Jeff Moore and Gazette Editor Brian Carlton both contributed to this piece.