Winchester-Frederick area set for economic growth, forecast says

The Frederick County Economic Development Authority has announced that the Winchester Metropolitan Statistical Area is projected to lead all Virginia metropolitan statistical areas in 2015 economic growth.

In a study conducted by Chmura Economics and Analytics, an economics consulting firm, the Winchester area is projected to see a 1.7 percent increase in employment, a 4.7 percent increase in wages, a 15 percent uptick in building permits and a 3 percent growth in retail sales.

The Winchester metropolitan statistical area includes Winchester, Frederick County and Hampshire County, West Virginia, and comprises approximately 131,980 people.

The commonwealth has 11 metropolitan statistical areas, six of which are considered out of the recovery phase from the recession. Chmura measures the recovery phase by job gains passing pre-recession peaks in employment. In September 2014, the Winchester area saw 6,700 new hires, 5,300 more than the peak in January 2007.

Patrick Barker, EDA executive director, said the forecast confirms economic trends in the area.

“It echoes what we have seen over the years with the consistent performance the economy has had,” Barker said. “If you look at the years past in the those four categories of the forecast, we have always been in the top tiers for all those categories all those years.”

The study backs research conducted by the EDA, Barker said.

“We’ve done our own analytical research and you’ll be hard pressed to find another metropolitan area that has had as much new job announcements as the Winchester-Frederick County area,” Barker said.

The forecast will be used as another selling point for attracting businesses to the area, Barker said.

“If you’re a company that has been considering expanding into the market or is adding onto existing operations, hopefully the forecast will give them assurances that the decision to do so will provide dividends going forward because our area has a track record of long term, top tier economic success,” he said.

Barker added, “It’s always nice to be number one, so as long as we’re in that top third tier, we have a conversation piece for new businesses.”

Barker said because the forecast came from a third party source, it gives more veracity to arguments in favor of bringing new businesses to the area.

“It’s one thing for Patrick Barker to get out there and talk to company x and tell them all the great things about the area,” Barker said. “This third party is validating what we’ve been saying and it adds credibility to what we tell these companies.”

However, Barker noted when comparing metropolitan statistical areas, each comes with its own set of assets and challenges. Barker said all the changes are “relative.”

“Every percentage is going to mean something different to each area because they each are starting from a different baseline,” Barker said.

Barker said people should remember a forecast is not a guarantee of future economic performance.

“Now the real work has to be done,” Barker said. “We can only make the forecast come true if we get out there and start making it happen.”

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com