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Ranking 28th out of 50 on any list may not be something to brag about, but for Virginia, it represents a degree of improvement.

The Old Dominion ended up at the 28th best spot in U-Haul’s 2020 ranking of state-to-state migration patterns, released Jan. 5. That’s up 11 positions from 39th in the 2019 compilation.

The annual survey, conducted since 2015, compare one-way moves into states with one-way moves out of them. It is compiled from more than 2 million transactions annually.

Topping the list for 2020 was a new arrival – Tennessee – which edged out both Florida (tops in 2019) and Texas (best in 2016, 2017 and 2018).

Texas was No. 2 for 2020, Florida No. 3, followed by Ohio and Arizona. Wrapping up the top 10 were Colorado (up a whopping 36 spaces to No. 6), Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina and Georgia.

What might be the winning secret of Tennessee, where arrivals accounted for 50.6 percent of all one-way travel and the state moved to the top after having been ranked 12th a year ago?

“The best thing about Tennessee is the southern hospitality. People are decent to one another,” said Clay McQuade, U-Haul Co. of Knoxville president. “The government is still not so oppressive on zoning and regulation, so people are able to build, and cities are friendly to business. Tourism is a big draw in this region, mostly for the Great Smoky Mountains. There’s plenty to do outdoors.”

“I’m seeing a lot of people from California move [to Tennessee] because they’re attracted to our lifestyle,” added Jeff Porter, U-Haul Co. of Nashville president. “Tennessee has no income tax and is very business-friendly. There are plenty of jobs. People and companies are taking note. Places like Nashville, Murfreesboro and Clarksville are attracting tons of new residents.”

“Nashville is ever-growing,” Porter said, “and even the era of COVID-19 isn’t slowing that. We were seeing movement before the virus hit, but I think the situation has pushed a lot more people away from the West Coast to our state.”

Speaking of the West Coast, California ranked last on the survey (“by a large margin,” U-Haul said), displacing Illinois at the bottom. Not that Illinois has much to cheer about; that state, known by some for its oppressive taxation and public corruption, has been either 49th or 50th in the ranking since its start in 2015.

Also in the bottom five: New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maryland. Lurking near the bottom was another West Coast state – Oregon – which plummeted 16 spots (from 29th to 45th) in a single year.

While U-Haul migration trends do not correlate directly to population or economic growth, the firm says its data are an effective gauge of how well cities and states are attracting and maintaining residents.

Virginia’s growth from 2019 to 2020 was fueled by in-migration to places that include Williamsburg, Hampton, Henrico, Richmond, Danville, Springfield, Charlottesville, Alexandria, Chantilly and Leesburg, the company said.

Founded in 1945, Phoenix-based U-Haul has grown to 22,000 locations, 176,000 trucks and 774,000 rentable storage units across the U.S. and Canada.

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