Thursday, June 3, 2010

Report: Diversity Leading Roanoke Out of Recession

The Roanoke Roanoke's business diversity--“strong in growing education and health services and professional and business services"--has led Moody’s to give the region a .77 score for industrial diversity, with 0 the least diverse and 1.0 the most.

In part because of this diversity, the region is emerging from the recession with a lower unemployment rate and a better-than-average gain in home value. Driving the diverse economy is the region’s low business and living costs, low utility rates, excellent transportation, good labor relations and innovative workforce training, among other factors.

The region’s business climate includes a mix of small and large businesses and industries from life sciences to advanced manufacturing, finance/insurance/real estate and printing/packaging.

At 49.6 percent, services make up the largest component of the region’s economy (compared to 53.9 percent for Virginia and 41.9 percent for the United States), followed by retail at 12.5 percent (11.4 percent Virginia, 10.9 percent United States) and manufacturing at 10.1 percent (6.9 percent for Virginia and 8.8 percent for the United States).

There are 21 colleges and universities within an hour’s drive of Roanoke. The greater region boasts a higher per capita concentration of undergraduate college students than Boston, Austin, the Research Triangle of North Carolina, and many other areas considered to be rich in college students.

A variety of goods manufactured in the Roanoke Region are sold around the world, including such diverse products as wind turbine controls, night-vision goggles, fiber optic cable, and automation systems.

The diverse economy led Business Facilities magazine to select the Roanoke Region as one of eight editor’s location picks from among 250 metro areas, citing its diverse economy, low unemployment and rising house prices.

According to Moody’s: “Job losses appear to have ended [in the region], and like much of the state, the unemployment rate has been unchanged for nearly a year. Industrial production is growing and credit quality is turning.”

From the start of the recession in December 2007, the region’s overall employment dropped 6.7 percent, but employment in the education and health services sector rose by 5.5 percent. Manufacturing dropped by just 1.5 percent over the same period – at a slower pace than the state (-1.7 percent).

Throughout the period, the region’s unemployment rate--currently 8.2 percent--has stayed below the national average of 9.5 percent. Meanwhile, when looking at average home prices in January 2008 versus April 2010, Roanoke’s went up slightly--1.1 percent--while the U.S. average declined by 14.1 percent.

(From Roanoke Regional Partnership press release.)

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