MARTINSBURG – Berkeley County topped the list of West Virginia counties receiving the greatest amount of investment in their local economies, as revealed by financial technology company SmartAsset’s recently completed second annual study on the issue.
The top 10 counties in the state earned their spot on the Incoming Investment Index list based on performance across four categories: business establishment growth, gross domestic product growth, new building permits and municipal bond investment.
“Our study looked at where people were investing money by focusing on factors like where people were starting new businesses and where people were building new homes,” SmartAsset vice president of content AJ Smith told The West Virginia Record.
Grant County and Jefferson County rounded out the top three, followed by Putnam, Hardy, Monongalia, Hampshire, Gilmer, Webster and Ritchie counties.
“This study does not predict future investment, but the results indicate that the northern, and particularly northeastern, portions of the state are seeing investment in the form of the four factors we looked at,” Smith said.
Although receiving the top Incoming Investment Index Score, Berkeley County’s 1 percent business growth trailed the growth percentages put up by Webster, Hardy, Putnam, Monongalia and Grant counties in that category. In addition, Berkeley County’s $83 million of gross domestic product growth came in a distant second to the $121 million of growth in Monongalia County.
Berkeley County did lead the top 10 list in new building permits, with 14.5 permits granted per 1,000 homes in the county. Hampton County edged out second-place Berkeley County for most municipal bonds per capita, with $2,831 per capita in Hampton County compared to $2,094 in Berkeley County.
SmartAsset said it looked at the change in the number of businesses established in each location over a three-year period in order to show whether or not people are starting new business ventures in the county.
Smith said the results of the study can be particularly helpful for people looking to move into a specific county or start a business in the region because it demonstrates where growth in the four factors is happening most.
SmartAsset also ranks West Virginia high on its recently compiled list of the Top 10 Best States for Homeowners. Specifically, the company listed West Virginia as the third most affordable state for those considering where to buy a house in the United States.
SmartAsset reported that the average house in West Virginia can be purchased for a relatively low 2.5 times the median income for state residents. The state also ranks the fifth lowest in the nation in terms of foreclosure rate, with one foreclosure per 9,372 homes.
“We release studies to help get people talking about different topics in personal finance,” Smith said. “We hope this study gets people thinking and talking about investments.”
SmartAsset said West Virginia also may be a good choice for retirees looking to relocate, especially those who want to take advantage of the state’s outdoor activity offerings. The company said West Virginia boasts low property and sales taxes and is tax-friendly for most retirees, depending on income.