HD48 - Biennial Report on the Economic Growth and Stability in Virginia's Urban Areas

Executive Summary:
Dramatic economic changes during the last quarter century have altered the role of urban areas throughout the country. Generally, cities no longer serve as the sole centers of commercial and retail activity. Major shifts in housing construction, commercial activity and of middle class residents to the suburbs often have led to economic distress and deepened social and spatial polarization of urban areas. The problems of economically depressed inner city neighborhoods are often the result of these shifts.

Although national trends have been toward increased urban economic distress, many urban areas in Virginia have remained vital and dynamic economic centers. Some of Virginia's cities continue to serve as major financial districts and as centers for education, entertainment and cultural enrichment. Office construction and university expansion are major factors for economic growth in several Virginia cities. However, other urban areas of the Commonwealth have not experienced such continued economic growth or stability. Some of these areas have seen little or no new investment or growth. Government programs designed to assist in economic growth often have not been used in these areas. One of the purposes of this report is to catalog state programs available to assist in fostering economic growth or stability in urban areas, particularly those economically distressed areas.

Governor Gilmore's economic development strategy for Virginia, referred to as the "Virginia Strategy," specifies that state resources available to support economic growth should place special emphasis on areas of greatest economic distress. This includes the urban areas and neighborhoods of the Commonwealth that have not prospered during recent years.

Many factors contribute to the economic well-being of a particular area. Education, housing, transportation, infrastructure, labor supply and quality of life indicators all lay the foundation for what will happen in the area of economic development in a particular region or locality. There is historically a strong connection between economic and community development. Economic development usually has occurred in communities that are able to support new development. Communities seeking to improve or even maintain their economic position must assure that the labor force, housing, services and infrastructure would allow firms to compete successfully in the marketplace. Communities that have become responsive to the competitive needs of businesses have been able to attract investment and jobs. One of the goals specified in the Governor Gilmore's "Virginia Strategy" is to make resources available to provide the critical community infrastructure needed to support business retention, expansion, and growth.

Government efforts (state and local) to encourage and support urban economic development have primarily been directed toward assuring that urban areas are able to serve the economic prospects considering or seeking location or expansion in the city. Other efforts are focused on assisting areas to attract economic growth and investment. The programs available through state government that reinforce these local efforts are listed and described in this section of the report.