WHEELING — With various reports calling West Virginia one of the worst states in terms of happiness and job opportunities, millennials collectively are on the fence about why they choose to stay in the Mountain State or move elsewhere.
Creighton Hill, 29, of Wheeling has chosen to live in West Virginia and work in Martins Ferry after deciding a bigger city was not for him.
“I can’t speak for all of West Virginia, but growing up in Wheeling provided me with a relatively safe environment. My life in the Ohio Valley hasn’t always been easy, but I haven’t had to endure much violence or crime,” Hill said.
Hill currently works as an assistant to tattoo artists at Hot Rod Tattooing in Martins Ferry. He has worked there for more than three years and enjoys the responsibilities in addition to the company of his coworkers.
“I’ve always admired the tattoo industry, but I was fortunate enough to join the crew at Hot Rod Tattooing after taking on a design project for a band called Brimstone Coven. The band features my friend and now manager Andrew D’Cagna. He asked me to do some album artwork for the band and during one of our design meetings I was offered the chance to work at the shop. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity and things have been going great ever since,” Hill said.
Although Hill moved briefly to Philadelphia to pursue other career prospects, he soon decided the Friendly City was where he belonged.
Creighton Hill’s sister, Scierra Hill, is in graduate school studying clinical psychology at Argosy University in California. The 22-year-old from Wheeling hopes to work in the prison system to help combat mental illness among inmates — but she doesn’t plan to do it in West Virginia.
“I don’t think that West Virginia can provide many career opportunities for me. … I believe young people are choosing to work outside of or move away from West Virginia because it’s a fairly closed-minded state with closed-minded people. The job market is directed toward doctors or people working manual labor. The younger generations are getting degrees that can’t be fulfilled. The job market there is washed up,” she said.
Scierra Hill believes West Virginia should focus less on industries in decline and more on generating new jobs in hospitality-related areas.
“I think West Virginia needs to stop relying so heavily on coal miners and pipeliners. That same amount of focus and effort to bring in workers should be put into other types of jobs like restaurants, shopping places and clubs. With more things to do, more people will move here,” she said.
Scierra Hill said the only reason she could envision for moving back to West Virginia is to be closer to her family. That’s why Wheeling resident Cory Castilow has chosen to stay.
Castilow, a 24-year-old born and raised in Wheeling, made the decision to live in Warwood so he could remain close with his family.
“My nieces and nephews and family are very close. I don’t want to leave just yet because my nieces and nephews are so young, so maybe once they’re older I’ll move,” he said.
Castilow has been employed by the U.S. Army Reserve for more than two years as a transportation management coordinator. Although he has chosen to stay in the Mountain State for now, he understands why others may choose to leave.
“I think the young people are trying to work outside of the state because they don’t enjoy being in the same area and I can see how people want a better-paying job. There’s so much more to do in a big city like New York, Baltimore or Columbus compared to a smaller city like Wheeling. I feel like there are more opportunities in bigger cities,” Castilow said.
Castilow, however, believes Wheeling is faring better now than in years past, citing recent downtown development.