Is Walla Walla Dying?
Walla Walla has been a town of around 30,000 people consistently. The numbers aren't dwindling at all.
However, as the population grows older; school enrollment is down. The median age in Walla Walla continues to increase each year.
Walla Walla School District Superintendent Wade Smith says historically, there would be about 500 kids per grade enrolled in elementary school. He says that 400-410 kids has become "the new norm."
Walla Walla currently has six elementary schools. Smith says that the district is evaluating their schools and attendance. He says there is a possibility one of the elementary schools gets re-purposed as an early childhood learning center.
If new people, and younger people, don't move in the city will eventually start shrinking as older people die.
But that is not necessarily a problem. The problem is new businesses won't want to move to Walla Walla. Entrepreneurs with cool ideas for shops and restaurants won't want to open somewhere with an aging population. Employers will be worried about hiring enough qualified young workers. The biggest employers will become health care providers instead of manufacturers. Aging residents may stop voting to approve school bonds, or new taxes for cool parks, pools and concert halls because they don't use them. Communities lacking young people to buy new homes, shop for trendy new clothes, and try new foods struggle with economic development.
The biggest problem is housing prices. Appreciating home values is how the vast majority of Americans save money for retirement. If home prices stagnate or decline young families won't be able to build wealth and mid-life couples won't feel as secure for retirement.