Overturning stereotypes

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Robert C. Powell III

The stereotype of a Virginia horse owner is someone dressed in tweed raising Thoroughbreds on a palatial Middleburg estate. But the truth is that, while Virginia is the birthplace of Secretariat, its horse industry is dominated by middle-class families facing everyday concerns such as the cost of gasoline and the slowdown in the economy.

In our cover story, Heather B. Hayes, a writer based in Amherst County, reports that Virginia has a $1.65 billion equine industry because so many residents can still afford to own horses and find room to ride them here.  It is a lifestyle choice that some people have moved to Virginia to enjoy. But it also is an industry threatened by inflation, sprawl and the unexpected consequences of eliminating slaughterhouses.

The horse industry isn’t the only thing in Virginia with an out-of-date image. Norfolk for years endured a reputation as a gritty Navy town. But in recent years, the city has transformed its downtown. In our Hampton Roads regional report, Elizabeth Cooper, a Chesapeake resident, reveals how Norfolk “got it right” in attracting retailers, office workers, residents and tourists.

Much of Norfolk’s attraction lies in its access to water. That asset could become a threat if global warming continues, according to climate experts. In fact, a recent survey identifies climate change as the top risk facing the property and casualty insurance industry. In a story tracking risk management trends, Richmond writer Joan Tupponce explains how industry concerns about climate change are moving east to west, from Europe and Asia to the United States.

Of more immediate concern to many Virginia businesses and local governments is finding and keeping a skilled work force. Part of the problem is the scarcity of affordable housing in some parts of the state. Andrew Petkofsky, a writer based in Williamsburg, looks at innovative efforts to attack the issue.
Virginia has a reputation of being fertile ground for business innovations. That is one reason Virginia Business has partnered with the Virginia Chamber of Commerce for 13 years in recognizing the Fantastic 50, the commonwealth’s fastest-growing private companies. This year’s list is headed by Oberon Associates Inc. a Manassas-based company whose revenues grew 4,732 percent in four years. That is a gallop even Secretariat can’t match.

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