Coping with tough times

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Print this page Robert C. Powell lll, Editor

The U.S. is going through its worst recession since the 1980s, and Virginia is not exempt from the suffering. Unemployment rose dramatically last year although the commonwealth’s overall jobless rate remains significantly lower than the national average.

In our cover story, Fredericksburg-based writer Robert Burke reports that the effects of this recession will depend on where you are and what you do for a living. The federal government — Virginia’s rich uncle — is expected to keep Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia afloat during tough times. But other sections are weathering some fierce economic storms. The Richmond area, for example, is watching two Fortune 1,000 companies go under and a once highly promising computer chip factory shut down. Meanwhile, auto parts suppliers in Southwest Virginia are feeling the effects of Detroit’s plummeting vehicle sales.

Some of the changes caused by the recession are reflected in our annual List of Leaders. Circuit City Stores and LandAmerica Financial Group, for example, are gone from our list of Virginia public companies. Also, many companies involved in construction reported lower Virginia revenues in 2008 than in 2007.

Despite the poor economy, corporate expansion continued in Virginia last year, and the locality attracting the most activity was Newport News. Richmond writer Garry Kranz finds that the Peninsula city captured nearly one quarter of Virginia’s new corporate investment ($1.2 billion), along with more than 2,000 projected new jobs. Overall, companies made plans last year to spend a $5.1 billion in the commonwealth, creating 20,714 new jobs.

Fredericksburg is another area attracting development despite the economic slowdown. There, the catalysts include two new hospitals. Fredericksburg writer Marjolijn Biljefeld reports that, in addition to creating 750 new jobs, the hospitals are expected to spawn medical offices and shopping centers.

Retail development has surged in parts of the Shenandoah Valley in recent years, but construction has slowed recently. Richmond writer Phaedra Hise says Afton Mountain has been no barrier for shoppers traveling west on I-64 to Waynesboro and other valley cities.

Finally, the recession has created a new hazard for golf clubs. More clubs closed last year than opened. Many golfers are wondering if they can afford membership dues and green fees. Nonetheless, a number of clubs in Virginia have come up with ways to build their memberships.

After all, golf pros are experts at getting out of the rough.

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