Moving on: Dayton, West Chester are leaders in relocation growth, U-Haul says

Moving company’s index ranks Ohio as busy state despite declines

Ohio was a top 10 state for do-it-yourself relocation growth last year, and West Chester and Dayton were the state’s leading growth markets on that front, says a new analysis by one of the nation’s leading moving equipment rental companies.

Ohio last year ranked ninth in the nation for relocation growth, according to U-Haul’s Growth Index, which tracks customer moves. The company’s index features data for one-way U-Haul truck arrivals and departures from cities and states.

Ohio saw a 2% reduction in one-way U-Haul trips into the state in 2022, but departures declined 4%, meaning it had one of the largest net gains in the nation, the company said.

Ohio jumped up 15 spots in the rankings from 2021, U-Haul said. Ohio had ranked fourth nationally in 2020, during the first year of the pandemic.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Buckeye state

West Chester Twp., located in Butler County, ranked as the 20th “top growth city” in America, according to the U-Haul index. West Chester was the only Ohio community that made U-Haul’s list of the top 25 growth markets.

West Chester’s location, quality of life and value makes the township very attractive to residents and businesses, said Township Administrator Larry Burks.

“West Chester has been growing and evolving since the 1990s with beautiful homes, safe neighborhoods and exceptional schools.,” he said.

U-Haul says Dayton was Ohio’s other top growth city, though other Ohio markets that saw “notable net gains” included Miamisburg, Hamilton and Springfield.

Dayton is welcoming new residents at a time when many parts of the city are seeing new investments, leaders say.

“We are taking bold steps to demolish blight in our neighborhoods, fund community organizations and transformative projects, incentivize continued investment in our downtown, as well as grow small businesses and key industries,” said Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims Jr. “I believe people recognize the forward progress we are making in Dayton to revitalize our community and they want to be a part of that.”

Census survey data released earlier this year suggested that Ohio’s population has declined for two consecutive years.

But some analysts say it’s not clear whether the state actually experienced losses, because the losses were within the dataset’s margin of error.

Ohio is a good place to live, and many people who originally hail from the Buckeye State are returning after leaving the state for school or jobs, said Alissa Nider, U-Haul Company of Akron president.

“Especially in the work-from-home era, people can continue in their jobs and be in Ohio with their families,” she said.

Top destinations

Texas was U-Haul’s top growth state in 2022, followed by Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and Arizona. The states at the bottom of the list were California (ranked 50th), Illinois (49) and Pennsylvania (48).

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

No Ohio communities appeared on the company’s lists of leading growth cities between 2016 and 2021.

Ocala, Florida, was the nation’s top growth city, followed by Sacramento, California, and Madison, Wisconsin.

Ohio’s leader, the 65,000-population West Chester Twp., has “outstanding” schools and modest costs and commutes, according to a 2018 story in Money Magazine.

West Chester has been named as one of the best places to live in America by Money Magazine seven times, said Burks, the township administrator.

“We’re a thriving community that blends the best suburban attributes with the vitality and energy of a large urban community,” he said.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Dayton’s population has fallen for decades, but the declines have slowed in recent years.

Dayton has seen significant growth in new housing downtown. Hundreds of new units have opened up in recent years, and hundreds more are on the way.

Other parts of the city also have seen revitalization and new development.

Derrick Turner Sr., 65, was born and raised in Dayton but he moved away twice to Macon, Georgia.

Turner most recently moved back to Dayton last summer after several years of living in the Peach State.

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Turner, who usually goes by “DT,” said he returned to the Gem City because his children and family reside in the area and he has strong local connections.

Turner said he can remember a time decades ago when Dayton had a roaring economy and an abundant supply of jobs. He said Dayton probably will never again be the manufacturing powerhouse it once was, but the city still is a “beautiful place” and a “model city.”

“It’s on the upswing,” said Turner, who retired as chief bailiff at Dayton Municipal Court after working at the office for more than 30 years. “There are some things that I see that could be better.”

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Turner said he doesn’t know if he’ll stay in Dayton, but he’s happy living here and feels like he has purpose. He said he wishes there were more amenities and shopping and dining options downtown.

U-Haul said though its migration trends do not directly correlate to population or economic growth, they can help gauge how well cities and states are attracting and maintaining residents.

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