Monday, March 14, 2011

Manufacturing Continues Decline in Roanoke Region

Beth Doughty: "Recovery is starting to take root."

A new report from the Roanoke Regional Partnership shows a mixed picture for the regional economy, though the Roanoke Region seems to have largely escaped the full impact of the nation's economic problems. Manufacturing, other than medical manufacturing, saw the greatest decline in jobs regionally.

The second annual report on Regional Economic Progress shows the region’s Gross Metropolitan Product (GMP) declined 0.3 percent between 2008 and 2009 while the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by 2.6 percent over the same period.

The region increased employment in the finance, insurance and real estate sectors and in medical manufacturing, research and development, higher education and healthcare. Overall, these industries added 3,338 jobs at a time when general employment declined.

Much of the data in the report is based on 2009 figures, the worst year of the recession. Still, the region’s population showed signs of growth.

From no net positive growth earlier in the decade, the region had an annualized growth rate of 0.6 percent by 2009. “Like other parts of the nation, we saw a decline in new automobile registrations, home sales and retail sales as the recession curtailed consumer confidence,” says Beth Doughty, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “But this report also shows recovery is starting to take root. The data also support what we’ve long believed in that the region is somewhat insulated from dramatic shifts in the national economy.”

One example is Roanoke’s position on the Milken Institute’s annual rankings of the 200 largest metro areas in the country. The metro area moved up 21 spots to 105 in the 2010 index, its highest ever. Factors affecting the region’s improvement include growth in high-tech output and job growth.

One economic sector that’s growing is the outdoor industry. With increased local awareness and growing national recognition of the region’s outdoor assets, the region’s outfitters, guides, and other miscellaneous outdoor businesses increased employment by 8.3 percent between the third quarter of 2008 and third quarter of 2009. The same industry group declined 1.4 percent at the state level and 2 percent nationally.

The report also found taxable retail sales declined 8.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2008 to the fourth quarter of 2010 as the recession took hold later in the region than in Virginia. However, sales in the region were up 0.6 percent between the fourth quarter of 2009 and fourth quarter of 2010, against a rise of just 0.1 percent in Virginia, suggesting local retail sales are rebounding from their recessionary lows.

New car registrations declined 24.6 percent in 2009 as the recession took hold. Home sales continued their decline. The number of homes sold was off 0.7 percent while the median sales price fell 6.5 percent from 2008-09.

The region has 612 miles of hiking and walking trails, including 3 additional miles of greenways over 2009. Greenway use increased 29 percent in 2010 and visitation to the region’s state parks rose 12 percent. Boat registrations rose 4.3 percent from 2005-2009, compared to 0.9 percent in Virginia.

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