County officials tout job growth

By Alex Bridges

Job growth and tourism spending in Shenandoah County in recent years has local officials optimistic about the future.

Director of Community Development Brandon Davis gave a report to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that showed positive gains for the county.

“I know that people can make statistics say whatever they want and it’s true I’ve selected some of those that reflect favorably on the county, but what would you expect me to do?” Davis said.

Based on a four-quarter, moving average, Shenandoah County experienced a net gain of 135 jobs in the private sector from the fourth quarter of 2010 to the same period in 2012. The gain represented an increase of slightly more than 1 percent in private-sector employment, Davis said.

Data showed that the number of jobs in the public sector decreased by 119.

“This tells me that the local economic recovery is being accomplished by the private sector in the face of significant government cutbacks and reduced general operating fund expenditures at the local level,” Davis said. “Our growth is still occurring, but it’s on the backs of the private sector. They’re compensating for the cutbacks in local government and that’s why we’re seeing growth, what little bit that we are seeing.”

Chairman Conrad Helsley commented: “that’s where we want to see the growth.”

Davis derived his information from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Bowman Andros Products showed the largest increase in the number of people employed from a year ago. By comparison, the Shenandoah County School Board showed the largest decrease in the number of people employed in the same period. Davis cited data as of the fourth quarter of 2012 from information provided by IMPLAN Group LLC.

Supervisor Steven Baker asked what positions in the school system and how many employees were cut. Davis said he didn’t have the information, but likely could receive it through a request. Davis said he used a tool provided by the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, an economic development organization for the region.

“It’s portrayed out in the media that government is growing and growing and growing, so you’ve got the facts and figures here,” Baker said.

Annual wages in the county have increased from $29,584 in the first quarter of 2010 to $32,537 in the second quarter of the current year, according to data provided by the bureau’s Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages and preliminary estimates in the cost of living index developed by Chmura Economics & Analytics. The 9-percent increase in average wages equals the nationwide trend but outpaced Virginia’s 7.8-percent rise.

Seasonally adjusted unemployment in Shenandoah County fell from a peak of 9.5 percent in February 2010 to 6.2 percent in June of this year, according to the bureau’s Local Area Unemployment Statistics.

Shenandoah County also continues to see its population grow at an annual rate of 1.5 percent – faster than Virginia’s rate of 1.0 percent and the nation’s 0.9 percent.

Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli suggested that David post the information presented on the county’s website.

Davis also advised the board that the Industrial Development Authority may consider changing its name to the Economic Development Authority.

“The fact that they are an EDA is really about showing that we are a progressive, economic development organization focused on things other than just old school heavy industry,” Davis said.

County Administrator Mary Beth Price cited high tourism numbers for the jurisdiction.

Price noted recent reports that Shenandoah County remains at the top in the region for tourism, according to revenue collected in fiscal 2012. Data showed tourism across the county drew $185 million in spending in fiscal 2012 compared to $175 million in 2010. The county remains highest among jurisdictions in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

Virtual visits to the county via its website also show greater interest. The county reported 20,621 hits in fiscal 2011, Price said. Since July 1, the website has had 25,000 page views, she said.

“So that’s very positive for tourism,” Price said.

Baroncelli asked Price if Tourism Director Jenna French to send the information “to all the folks who’ve been speaking at public hearings with opposite information as to this.”

Price said French could get the names of the speakers from meeting minutes.

Also at the meeting, supervisors:

  • Held a public hearing on proposed revisions to the ordinance that sets adoption fees for the animal shelter. The proposal calls for the county to reduce the adoption fees for cats and dogs from the rates originally approved in the spring. No one spoke at the public hearing.
  • Held a public hearing on proposed changes to the fees charged for services by the county’s geographic information system
  • Approved a special-event permit for the annual Civilian Military Combine scheduled for Oct. 12 at Bryce Resort
  • Approved a deed of correction with the Virginia Department of Transportation for Borden Mowery Drive
  • Approved rabies clinics for Sept. 28 and another clinic in October
  • Authorized the county to schedule a public hearing on an easement for Shentel along property on Landfill Road in Edinburg

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com