Opinion

Gains and losses in a tough economy

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Print this page Robert C. Powell III, Editor

June marks our second annual wealth-themed issue. It comes at a time when wealth appears to be slipping away for many companies and individuals. The worst recession since the 1930s has caused company closures, layoffs and trillions of dollars in lost value due to huge stock market declines.

Nonetheless, some bread-and-butter industries are managing to thrive. Take Estes Express Lines, the subject of our cover story. This family-owned, Richmond-based trucking company started 78 years ago during the Great Depression. Perhaps because of its roots, the company has earned a reputation for fiscal discipline while becoming an industry powerhouse. Richmond writer Chip Jones looks at the family members and the family values that have helped Estes steer clear of trouble in these risky times.

The Estes family is part of the Virginia 100, our annual list of wealthy Virginians. On page 21, Managing Editor Paula Squires reports on how the rich are taking their lumps in recession. The wealth of some CEOs dropped so low that some of them fell off the list entirely. 

Meanwhile some financial advisers to the wealthy say their role has become that of a grief counselor. Clients are distressed by the sharp declines in their portfolios. Richmond writer Doug Childers says some nationally recognized Virginia advisers are encouraging clients to stick to basic investment principles, the most important of which is not to panic.

Many wealthy Virginians are generous contributors to charities and other nonprofit organizations. Nonetheless, nonprofits across the state are hurting this year. Richmond writer Donna C. Gregory says corporate contributions are drying up and few new donors are being found.

The recession also is having another effect on the habits of the well-to-do. They are becoming very choosy about buying upscale property. Some, in fact, are electing to expand their existing homes rather than move someplace new. Loudoun County writer M.J. McAteer looks at one expansion in Arlington that doubled the size of the existing bungalow.

In addition to our wealth-related stories, we look at trends in executive education and continue our regional examination of Virginia commercial real estate markets.

In executive education, fewer companies are sending employees back to school. However, a growing number of “free agent” students are filling the classroom. Many are trying to upgrade skills in hopes of keeping their jobs while others are trying to retrain after layoffs.

Our real estate coverage looks at the Fredericksburg area. The fast-growing region has some new projects opening this month, including a Wegmans grocery store and a new hotel in its historic downtown.

Those businesses, and others throughout Virginia, will be ready to take advantage of the economic recovery — whenever it comes.


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