County Will Need State’s Help To Address Population Loss

It’s good to see county officials proposing something, anything, to address the continued population loss in Chautauqua County.

Like a dripping faucet that never gets fixed, Chautauqua County’s population has dropped 11.3% over the past three decades. At the same time, the United States’ population has increased 33.5% and New York state’s population has grown 9.2%. More disturbingly, the 50 to 64 year old age group was the fastest growing in the county between 1990 and 2022 with its population increasing 31.3%. The 20 to 34 year old age group declined the most, dropping 29.8% between 1990 and 2022.

Those are demographic trends that should send a shiver down our collective spine.

So give county officials some credit for the Choose CHQ and Live CHQ branding programs that will be formally unveiled in April. The campaign, according to the IDA’s annual report, is designed to work both regionally and nationally to illustrate “what a great place Chautauqua County is to conduct business, raise a family, and visit — with an emphasis on outdoor recreation and strong quality of life indicators.” There will also be aspects of the campaign to focus on Chautauqua County’s economy, including business development. Both campaigns will include the launch of a Live CHQ website and a Choose CHQ website, which will replace the existing county IDA website.

We can’t judge the campaign’s effectiveness, because obviously it hasn’t started yet. But we shouldn’t be under any illusion that telling people how wonderful a place Chautauqua County is will result in a noticeable bump in population. Jamestown didn’t see much of a bump from a similar campaign by the Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation decades ago when it branded Jamestown a great place to live, work and play.

People go where there are jobs and opportunity. By and large, they want to keep more of what they earn to better their families. They want to live where they can easily buy a decent home for a decent price and live in a nice neighborhood. They want their kids to go to good schools.

A lot of those factors are outside Chautauqua County’s control. We need to do what we can to set the stage for development, to provide needed services for as low a cost as possible and create a countywide system of schools that provides needed educational opportunities for our children through increased elective courses and courses that train a workforce that may not need to attend college to get a decent-paying job. At the same time, we need to convince downstate legislators that the state has to do more to help its rural areas reverse decades of population loss by changing the way the state does business too. .

We didn’t describe a branding effort. We describe the hard work of reinventing ourselves to make Chautauqua County and New York state more attractive. That type of work has a chance at reversing population decline.


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