Region Weighs in on the 7th Annual ODU State of the Commonwealth Report
(Lynchburg, VA) - Yesterday, January 24, Old Dominion University released their seventh annual State of the Commonwealth Report. The report provides an overview of economic health for the Commonwealth as a whole and the metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) that make up its bulk, including the Lynchburg MSA, which includes the City of Lynchburg, Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, and Campbell Counties, and the Towns of Altavista, Appomattox, Bedford, Brookneal, and the Village of Rustburg. The report provides a ten-year view of data collected by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy, Old Dominion University, and other sources. The data includes employment, gross domestic product (GDP), population, income, salaries, and other economic health indicators. After a review of the report’s findings, our region is responding with our initial thoughts.
What do the numbers NOT say?
What these statistics do not capture is the intangibles our region has compared to other markets. We have a thriving urban hub, which has recently undergone a massive renovation, including two historic renovated hotels, infrastructure upgrades, and beautification. Downtown Lynchburg has more residents in apartments and condos and above-retail space now than any time in the last 50 years.
River Ridge mall, in the City of Lynchburg, has also undergone a fantastic renovation into a beautiful shopping experience after more than 40 years of retail. Multi-family housing has also boomed in the past 5 years with a large number of townhouse and apartment complexes being built in all areas of the region. Among Virginia’s metros, the Lynchburg MSA has the largest percentage of colleges per capita, resulting in more young people in the city with a median age of 28. The ODU report also shows more people are flocking to the Lynchburg MSA from both domestic and international locations. The Lynchburg region’s population grew by 4.5 percent from 2010 to 2020, an increase of 11,732 people in ten years. Virginia as a whole had a net domestic migration of negative 80,000 people over the same ten-year period.
Our economic drivers are education and healthcare, and manufacturing is our highest contributor to GDP. From 2010 to 2020, we tracked 1,689 layoffs, but 3,545 new jobs. Median income in the region grew from 2020 to 2021 from $43,000 up to $46,000. We saw companies move their headquarters here and plan to stay long-term. Existing companies contributed to the highest amount of job growth with 61 business expansions.
Workforce is a national issue, and our state is not immune to the challenges. Our region is consistently creating innovative solutions with programs such as the new Regional Career and Technical Academy housed on the campus of the Central Virginia Community College, the Jubilee STEM Center, the XLR8 Stem Academy, and in-demand special skills trainings such as welding and machining. Additionally, the Central Virginia Workforce Development Board has dedicated funding for skills training and is partnering with numerous entities in the region to provide this training.
Our cost of living is 11.4 percent below the national average and one of the lowest in Virginia, according to data collected by the C2ER Cost of Living Index. In 2019, Reviews.org named Lynchburg the No. 1 place in America for millennials to move, largely in part due to the low cost of living, education, and outdoor recreation opportunities. A 2017 Gallup-Healthways report, named Lynchburg the “#8 Top City for Health & Happiness,” proving that the Lynchburg region provides a strong community and sense of pride. People choose to move to communities which fulfill their needs, which we see in our ten-year population growth.
Why are our numbers low?
As the ODU report itself says, “The metro-area estimates, especially those for 2020, should be viewed with an abundance of caution . . . In all likelihood the advance estimates are likely to change significantly in the coming year.”
There are many factors that contribute to these estimates, and we will continue to take a deeper dive into the data. We will encourage discussion of these findings and continued research on the economic health of the Lynchburg region. It’s also important to note that prior to 2016, the region did not have a regional economic development strategy. Since that time, the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance and our regional economic development team have created a robust five-year campaign for economic growth. We are seeing fruits of this campaign. Over time and as we continue to come out of the effects of the onslaught of the pandemic, we will continue to see growth.
“The Lynchburg region is a thriving urban hub with a dynamic rural ring,” states Alliance CEO and Chief Economic Development Officer, Megan Lucas. “It is a fantastic place to live, work, and play, and despite this report, I believe many of our neighbors would agree.”
Megan Lucas continues, “Our region created its first regional economic development growth strategy in 2016 — the first in more than 20 years. We have been and will continue to work the plan with the help of the local and regional partners that helped create it. We are confident that the innovative leaders in this region will remain steadfast in moving forward, keeping focus on our goals, and taking into consideration the information behind the data of this report.”
“We are continuing to review the data and encourage discussion of its findings. We have invited the authors and researchers of the Old Dominion University State of the Commonwealth Report to come visit our community,” concludes Mrs. Lucas.
If you would like to learn more about our region, you can check out our most recent economic overview here which gives an overview of our region’s innovation, collaboration, and education or visit YesLynchburgRegion.org to read about our region’s key industries and explore our talent and workforce data tools.
If you have further questions, please contact us.
About the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance
The Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance is the region’s oldest and largest business and professional association. As a combined chamber of commerce and economic development organization, the Alliance serves as the united voice for the Lynchburg region’s business community. For nearly 750 local, member organizations and their employees, our mission is to lead regional economic development through: Generating Jobs & Investment; Promoting the Region’s Brand and Image Globally; Cultivating Talent, and Enhancing the Business Climate.
To learn more about the chamber side of the Alliance, please visit us at: LynchburgRegion.org
To learn more about our economic development work, please visit: YesLynchburgRegion.org