Overview General Economic
Performance
Talent
Development
Key Industry
Performance
Entrepreneurship
& Innovation
Regional
Equity
Quality
of Life
Regional Performance Indicators

Welcome to the Region 2000 Local Economy Dashboard. This website provides a snapshot of how the local economy is performing in Virginia's Region 2000, a 2,000 square mile area composed of the city of Lynchburg; the counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford and Campbell; and the towns of Altavista, Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, and Brookneal.

The Dashboard provides independent and objective data on how the Region 2000 economy is performing in six key areas. It covers recent trends and will be updated on a regular basis. It is designed to track local economic performance and to spark local conversations about building a more competitive regional economy.

Performance Indicator Key

Arrow indicates that Region 2000 performance is:

  • improving or strong
  • unchanged or similar
  • declining or weak

when compared to Virginia and the United States

General Economic Performance

  • Labor Force Size
  • Average Annual Wage
  • Gross Domestic Product

Talent Development

  • Educational Attainment Rates
  • High School Students Participating in Career and Technical Education Programs
  • High School Students Post-Graduation Intentions
  • Graduates from the Region's Six Institutions of Higher Education

Key Industry Performance

  • Manufacturing Employment
  • Healthcare Employment
  • Higher Education Employment Growth
  • Economic Impact of Domestic Tourism

Entrepreneurship & Innovation

  • New Business Starts
  • Stage II Establishments
  • Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grants
  • STEM Employment
  • Broadband Access
  • Churn Rate

Regional Equity

  • Unemployment Rate
  • Poverty Rate
  • Closings

Quality of Life

  • Cost of Living
  • New Housing Costs
  • Average Commute Time
  • Jobs-Employed Residents Ratio
The measures included here offer broad perspectives on the overall health of the Region 2000 economy, especially essential growth dynamics. These measures present a broad snapshot of recent economic trends.
Labor Force Size

What Does it Measure?
Labor Force Size provides an indication of the scale of employment opportunities available in the regional workforce. It includes both employed and unemployed workers currently looking for work, but does not include workers who are no longer actively searching for work due to sustained unemployment.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
In contrast to both the state and national comparisions, Region 2000 has not enjoyed a full recovery from the 2008 economic downturn. The current labor force remains at roughly 93% of the size of the region's workforce in 2008.

What Does it Mean?
Labor force size offers one means to measure a region's job generation capacities. Major growth in labor force size often suggests that economic growth is underway. Similarly, declines in labor force size suggest that economic activity is slowing.

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment Statistics, 2008-2014

Average Annual Wage

What Does it Measure?
The average wage measures the average total compensation per job within the region. The data cover all regional employees, and also tracks wages in all industries.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
Because Region 2000 has a lower cost of living in comparison to many other regions, we should expect that local wage rates are slightly lower than found in other parts of Virginia or the U.S. This pattern does indeed describe the region's average wages when compared to other benchmark areas.

What Does it Mean?
By itself, a lower annual average wage is not necessarily a cause for concern. This is especially true in a region like Region 2000, which tends to have a lower cost of living and lower housing costs than comparable areas. However, it is also true that rising wages are typically a sign of a healthy economy, running at full or near-full employment and generating opportunities for individual and families to create wealth and build assets for the future.

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, 2008-2014

Gross Domestic Product

What Does it Measure?
Metro GDP tracks the value of final goods and services produced in the region within a given year. Much like national GDP figures, metro GDP data serves as an important indicator of whether a regional economy is growing or contracting.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
Since the height of the Great Recession in 2008, the Region 2000 economy has grown by more than 7.9 percent. In recent years, that growth rate falls below both statewide and national averages, suggesting that the regional economy must achieve faster growth to spur a full recovery from the 2008 economic downturn. Prior to 2011, Region 2000 had regularly outpaced U.S. averages in terms of GDP growth, suggesting that the region has capacity to expand economic activity.

What Does it Mean?
Region 2000's Metro GDP growth has lagged national and statewide benchmarks on a consistent basis for the past five years. These trends suggest that the region's economy remains stuck, and lacks major new engines that can spur growth and create new jobs and business opportunities.

Source: US Bureau of Economic Analysis, State and Local Area Personal Income, 2008-2014

These indicators track the capacity and skills of the region's workforce. The region's talent level is the key ingredient for future economic prosperity.
Educational Attainment Rates

What Does it Measure?
Educational attainment rates represent the general capacity of the region's workforce. Higher educational attainment rates within a region generally lead to higher productivity, income, and capacity for innovation.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
In 2012, the proportion of the Region 2000 population 25 years or older with a Bachelor's degree or higher was 22 percent, far lower than the rates of both Virginia (34 percent) and the United States (28 percent). The proportion of Region 2000 residents with a Bachelor's degree or higher increased slightly between 2009 and 2012.

What Does it Mean?
This metric indicates that Region 2000 has room for improvement, as the region consistently lagged behind both the nation and the state. Improving the region's educational attainment rates could be accomplished both through increased investments in post-secondary educational institutions, and efforts to retain and attract highly educated workers to Region 2000.

Source: US Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 5-year estimates, 2008-2013

High School Students Participating in Career and Technical Education Programs

What Does it Measure?
This measure shows the number of high school students training for?and looking to enter?careers in the trades and other technical fields.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
The number of CTE program completions by Region 2000 increased by 40 percent between the years 2008 and 2012, a rate twice as fast as the state as a whole.

What Does it Mean?
This measure indicates that Region 2000 is doing very well at encouraging high school students to complete career and technical education programs. The high number of completions shows that the region will be better positioned to supply a ready pool of potential workers for trades and technical fields. Most analysts predict that these middle skill jobs will be among the fastest growing occupations in future years. This strong performance suggests Region 2000 is well situated to compete for these jobs.

Source: Virginia Department of Education, 2008-2014

High School Students Post-Graduation Intentions

What Does it Measure?
This measure shows the number and proportion of students planning to pursue some form of higher education, based on a survey of graduating public high school students about their future career and training intentions. The survey data provide some indication of how many graduating students are available to immediately enter the workforce, and how many plan to pursue some form of higher education.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
The percentage of high school students who planned to pursue higher education after graduation decreased very significantly in both Region 2000 and the state. In 2008, 68 percent of Region 2000 high school graduates planned to pursue higher education, but by 2012 this percentage had declined to roughly 60 percent. The state experienced similar, but not as dramatic, declines during the same period. This dramatic drop was quite unexpected and may be the result of new survey tools and methodologies or data anomalies. Further research to assess the quality and accuracy of this data is needed.

What Does it Mean?
Fewer students pursuing higher education may lead to a lower educational attainment rate in the future. Without post high school training, local youth may be poorly equipped for jobs of the future.

Source: Virginia Department of Education, 2008-2014

Graduates from the Region's Six Institutions of Higher Education

What Does it Measure?
This shows the number of graduates, by level, completing degrees at the region's higher education institutions. The number of post-secondary graduates indicates the robustness of the region's educational institutions and the region's potential pool of new highly educated workers.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
These data show that as a whole Region 2000's higher education institutions performed strongly as the region's number of graduates increased by almost 30 percent annually between 2008 and 2012.

What Does it Mean?
These numbers reflect the strength of Region 2000's higher educational institutions, led in large part by Liberty University, where the number of graduates more than doubled between 2008 and 2012. Retaining these highly educated graduates after they finish school will greatly enhance the region's overall educational attainment levels.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, IPEDS, 2008-2013

These indicators track the employment opportunities in some of the region's key economic sectors: manufacturing, health care, higher education, and tourism. These industries have large local impacts in terms of jobs, wealth, and new business opportunities.
Manufacturing Employment

What Does it Measure?
This measure shows the number of jobs present within companies in the manufacturing sector.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
The data indicates that manufacturing employment in Region 2000 declined by about 2.4 percent annually between 2008 and 2013, which was consistent with the state and the nation. In 2013, manufacturing employment also made up a significantly larger percentage of total employment in the region (14 percent) as compared to the state (6 percent) and nation (9 percent).

What Does it Mean?
Although Region 2000 lost manufacturing employment over the past five years, its declines were consistent with broader state and national trends, indicating that larger forces may drive these trends more than poor regional performance. Large shares of the region's manufacturing workforce are in leather product, textile, and fabricated metal manufacturing.

Source: Economic Modeling Specialist, International, 2008-2014

Higher Education Employment Growth

What Does it Measure?
This measure shows the number of jobs present within institutions of higher education.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
Region 2000's higher education sector grew significantly (4.2 percent annually) between 2008 and 2013, a rate faster than either Virginia (1.9 percent annually) or the U.S. (1.6 percent annually). Employment at higher educational institutions also made up a larger share of the region's employment (8 percent) than in the state or rest of the country, which were both at about 4 percent.

What Does it Mean?
Region 2000 performed strongly in the higher educational sector, which correlates with a similarly high growth rate in the number of graduates from the region's higher educational institutions. Almost all of this employment was at private colleges, universities, and professional schools, like Liberty University, which expanded rapidly during this period.

Source: Economic Modeling Specialist, International, 2008-2014

Healthcare Employment

What Does it Measure?
This measure shows the number of jobs present within the healthcare sector.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
Healthcare sector employment increased (1.1 percent annually) between 2008 and 2013, but did so at a slightly slower annual rate than the state (1.6 percent annually) and the United States (1.7 percent annually). It makes up a similar share of the region's total employment as the proportions for the state and the rest of the U.S., at about 10 percent.

What Does it Mean?
The region's healthcare sector is growing and this will create demand for more healthcare workers, particularly in larger healthcare industries such as nursing and residential care facilities.

Source: Economic Modeling Specialist, International, 2008-2014

Economic Impact of Domestic Tourism

What Does it Measure?
Expenditures represent the direct spending by domestic travelers in the region, including meals, lodging, public transportation, auto transportation, shopping, admissions and entertainment.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
In spite of a slight decline between 2008 and 2009, the region's tourism expenditures grew steadily between 2009 and 2012. The region experienced a 16 percent overall gain between 2008 and 2012; higher than the 10 percent growth in Virginia's overall tourism expenditures.

What Does it Mean?
Direct expenditures by travelers on items such as lodging, transportation, meals and admission to events generate a large amount of both state and local tax revenue. These expenditures also support a wide range of jobs, comprised mainly of executive, managerial, and service-oriented occupations in the food service, lodging and entertainment and recreation sectors.

Source: Virginia Tourism Corporation, 2008-2014

Can Region 2000 generate new economic activity and innovate to take advantage of a changing economic environment? These measures track the region's entrepreneurship and innovation capacities.
New Business Starts

What Does it Measure?
New business starts show the number of new companies being formed in the region. Data are taken from the National Establishment Times Series (NETS) database, which tracks all U.S. businesses registered with the Dun & Bradstreet business registry.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
Start-ups across the U.S. were hit hard by the economic downturn, and Region 2000 firms faced a big hit themselves. The number of local start-ups was cut in half in the aftermath of the 2008 downturn. However, recent growth rates are promising and the number of local start-ups is growing. Region 2000's start-up performance is outpaced by other parts of Viriginia but remains on pace with U.S. benchmarks.

What Does it Mean?
New and growing firms are the primary drivers of new job growth and new innovations in the American economy. Their existence is a sign of a healthy economy with the ability to rejuvenate itself for future prosperity.

Source: National Establishment Time Series database (youreconomy.org), 2008-2013

Stage II Establishments

What Does it Measure?
This measure tracks the regional presence of Stage II companies, those who employ between 10 and 99 people, compared to US and Virginia averages. The stage system was developed by the Edward Lowe Foundation, and data for this measure come from the NETS database.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
The number of local Stage 2 firms?roughly 1600-1700 companies?has remained steady over the past five years. This stability is promising, but future local job growth will depend on the region's ability to spawn and support more of these growing entrepreneurial ventures.

What Does it Mean?
Stage II companies (firms with anywhere from 10 to 99 employees and roughly $1 million in total receipts) are considered to have especially important wealth and job creation impacts. These firms are at a critical growth inflection point. They have succeeded in growing and reaching maturity, but, they are too large to be managed alone by the single founding entrepreneur and are in the process of creating a professional management team. Firms that succeed in traversing this difficult stage in the business lifecycle have a good opportunity to become a large and important local anchor company.

Source: National Establishment Time Series database (youreconomy.org), 2008-2013

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grants

What Does it Measure?
This measure tracks the ability of local businesses to attract funding from the Federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The SBIR program requires that two percent of all Federal research dollars be invested in small businesses. These grants help small firms develop research and technology that can meet the needs of key Federal agencies. SBIR projects progress through three stages. Phase 1, with federal funding available up to a limit of $150,000 per grant, assesses the scientific and technical feasibility of an idea. In Phase II, funding (up to $1 million) supports further development of Phase I research and results. Phase III, which is not supported by Federal funds, refers to final commercialization of the technology.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
Because of the relatively small size of Region 2000's technology sector, one should not expect to see a massive number of local SBIR project winners. However, our data suggests that Region 2000 outperforms both the Commonwealth and national benchmarks on a per capita basis.

What Does it Mean?
A region's ability to obtain SBIR grants is an indicator of a strong base of small businesses with extensive scientific and technical expertise. Small technology firms face significant challenges in accessing capital. They have limited collateral and short track records and are typically researching new and unproven technologies. Most banks are unwilling to fund such research projects and other funding streams are needed. Thus, SBIR grants can be a critical lifeline to these firms as they seek to refine their technologies and ideas. If successful, these firms can become the region's future technology leaders.

Source: US Small Business Administration, 2008-2014

STEM Employment

What Does it Measure?
This measure tracks the number of local residents employed in STEM-related fields and projects their potential future employment growth.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
Roughly 9,000 local residents work in STEM-related occupations. The total Region 2000 STEM workforce has declined in recent years, while both Virginia and the U.S. have witnessed some slow growth in these fields.

What Does it Mean?
STEM-related occupations, which occur in both high-technology and other industry sectors, tend to provide higher quality, higher paying jobs, while also having outsized impacts on regional economic growth. A large and growing base of STEM-related jobs is a solid indicator of the region's technology strength and future innovation potential. Region 2000 must continue and expand on its current efforts to promote STEM education and support development of technology-oriented companies.

Source: Economic Modeling Specialist, International, 2008-2014

Broadband Access

What Does it Measure?
This metric shows the percent of the population with adequate (by speed) broadband access.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
In 2013, about 75 percent of the Region 2000 population had access to wireline download speeds greater than 50 Mbps. This is on par with the rest of the state of Virginia, but a lower percentage than for the U.S. as a whole (80 percent).

What Does it Mean?
Before the advent of the Internet, essential infrastructure referred to hard infrastructure like roads, water/sewer capacity, and utilities. Today, broadband must be added to that list of essentials. Without adequate broadband access, local businesses face a tight ceiling on their ability to grow and succeed in world markets. Broadband helps individuals and companies become more efficient, enter new and larger markets at lowers costs, and introduce new services and technologies. Most of the core technologies used in business communication today, such as video conferencing, webinars, and the like, require access to broadband.

Source: Federal Communications Commission, National Broadband Map, 2014

Churn Rate

What Does it Measure?
This measures the ratio of new business starts to business closings in a given year.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
Like both the U.S. and Virginia, Region 2000 has seen a big jump in business closing rates over the past several years. Today, the region performance is better than U.S. averages, but slightly below Virginia benchmarks. In 2012, eight new local businesses were started for every ten companies that ceased operations.

What Does it Mean?
Business churn, which measures the ratio of new business starts to business failures, is often a sign of a dynamic local economy. The concept of business churn recognizes that business failures are often a fact of life. We should act to prevent company closures where necessary, and also provide a fair and equitable support system to affected workers and communities. But, we should also recognize that churn is often a sign of major productivity improvements (and wealth creation), as more innovative new firms replace older companies. Thus, healthy regions will face some level of business churn that signifies the introduction of new ideas and new companies into the local economy. While there is no "ideal" churn rate, Region 2000's performance tracks closely to both U.S. and statewide benchmarks.

Source: National Establishment Time Series database (youreconomy.org), 2008-2013

High levels of disparity in equity can create economic development challenges, requiring major new investments to spur growth while also combatting persistent poverty and unemployment. These measures track regional levels of equity.
Unemployment Rate

What Does it Measure?
The unemployment rate?the percentage of the region's workforce without jobs?is probably the most used and best known metric of a region's economic health. In general, persistently high and rising unemployment rates indicate economic challenges or a downturn.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
When compared to state and national averages, Region 2000's unemployment rate trends follow a consistent pattern. Typically, Region 2000 outperforms national trends but falls below averages for the Commonwealth. In both good and bad down times, Region 2000's unemployment rate is typically lower than national averages. In recent years, the regional job picture has stabilized and unemployment rates have dropped at rate similar to other Virginia communities. The national recovery between 2008 and today has been slightly faster, but began from a lower point. In 2008, U.S. unemployment rates averaged 9.3 percent compared to 7.7 percent in the Lynchburg MSA.

What Does it Mean?
The unemployment rate is frequently viewed as a proxy for a region's overall economic health. It does provide a useful measure of a region's ability to create and retain jobs. Region 2000's consistent performance is a sign of a relatively strong and diverse economy; the region has a steady employment base that tends to avoid both major contractions and major growth spurts as well. When examining regional unemployment rates, it is important to remember than several important classes are not included in these numbers. They include: 1) People, such as the long-term unemployed, who have given up on looking for work, and 2) Sole proprietors, free lancers, and independent workers who are not typically included in formal unemployment statistics.

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics, 2008-2014

Poverty Rate

What Does it Measure?
The poverty rate tracks the percentage of the population who live below the poverty line. The poverty threshold is adjusted each year. In 2014, it was set at $11, 670 for a single individual, and $23,850 for a family of four.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
In Region 2000, 16.4% of the population fall below the poverty line?an average level slightly higher when compared to state or national averages. The current regional poverty rate is at a very high rate compared to previous years.

What Does it Mean?
The poverty rate measurement tracks the economy's overall performance as well as equity, a region's ability to generate opportunities for disadvantaged parts of the population. A high poverty rate signals that a region is failing to produce a sufficient number of career opportunities for its residents. It also creates pressure on public coffers, as communities must invest dollars in various public assistance programs. Region 2000's slightly higher than average poverty rates create a dual economic development challenge. The region must generate new economic opportunities, while also investing in new education and social programs that provide essential supports to our neediest citizens.

Source: US Census Bureau, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, 2008-2013

Closings

What Does it Measure?
This metrics tracks the number and pace of business closings in the Region 2000 area.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
Region 2000's business closing rate tracks closely with statewide and national averages. The recent uptick in closings?between 2011 and 2012?is a potential cause for concern.

What Does it Mean?
On its own, business failure is not a sign of economic distress. As noted elsewhere in this analysis, business churn is often a sign of economic health as more innovative and productive firms replace closing businesses. But, if business failure rates far outpace business start-up rates, difficult economic times may ensue. As the data indicate, the Great Recessions wreaked havoc with firms in Region 2000 and across the country. After a brief recovery, the pace of business closings has increased in 2011 and 2012.

Source: National Establishment Time Series database (youreconomy.org), 2008-2013

Region 2000 has an enviable quality of life thanks to scenic amenities, low costs, and other local assets. These measures track quality of life factors most directly related to economic development, with a specific focus on key cost of living factors.
Cost of Living

What Does it Measure?
The Cost of Living Index is a city-to-city comparison of select consumer costs for over 300 metro areas at any one point in time.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
This measure shows that the cost of living in Region 2000 was significantly lower in 2012 than the average cost of living for U.S. metropolitan areas. The median household income for Lynchburg in 2012 was $45,953. Adjusted for the region's low cost of living, however, the median household income was actually equivalent to $49,733.

What Does it Mean?
Cost of living is an important contributing factor for both workers and businesses when choosing locations. Region 2000's relatively low cost of living means that residents have greater buying power than they would have had if they lived in a different region.

Source: C2ER Cost of Living Index, 2014

New Housing Costs

What Does it Measure?
The Cost of Living Index provides a city-to-city comparison of new housing costs for over 300 metro areas at any one point in time.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
This measure shows that the cost of housing in Region 2000 was significantly lower in 2012 than the average cost of housing for U.S. metropolitan areas.

What Does it Mean?
Housing costs are generally the largest expense for U.S. households. Region 2000's relative availability of affordable workforce housing options make it attractive to both workers and businesses.

Source: C2ER Cost of Living Index, 2014

Average Commute Time

What Does it Measure?
Average commute time indicates the amount of travel time in minutes for residents to travel from home to work during an average week day.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
For the years 2009 through 2012, about 72 percent of Region 2000 residents had an average commute time of less than 30 minutes. This was greater than both Virginia (61 percent) and the U.S. overall (65 percent).

What Does it Mean?
Region 2000's low average commute time contributes to worker quality of life. Low commute times may indicate that the region has an efficient transportation infrastructure, resulting in lower vehicles miles traveled overall. Less automobile usage can have positive impacts on infrastructure maintenance costs, the natural environment, and worker health.

Source: US Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 5-year estimates, 2008-2013

Jobs-Employed Residents Ratio

What Does it Measure?
Jobs-employed residents ratio refers to the approximate distribution of employment opportunities and workforce population across a geographic area, measured in terms of the proportion of jobs per employed resident within the area.

How is Region 2000 Performing?
Between the years 2008 and 2011, Region 2000 had an average jobs-to-employed residents ratio of 0.91, which is very close to the desired one-to-one ratio of jobs to employed residents.

What Does it Mean?
The aim of achieving jobs-employed residents balance is to provide local employment opportunities that help to reduce overall commuting distances for residents. Region 2000's balanced jobs to employed residents ratio indicates that residents benefit from lower commute times and greater proximity to other businesses.

Source: US Census Bureau, Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics, 2008-2013