Formerly Rural Areas Urbanizing With Little Job Growth

Jun 15, 2016

As more and more people move to Virginia’s metropolitan areas, the suburban and ex-urban areas surrounding them are experiencing their own growing pains. But they’re changing in ways that might not be obvious.

Credit Payton Knobeloch / WVTF

Think of Floyd County, which has recently become part of the greater Blacksburg area. Or Culpepper becoming part of the DC region. Or Matthews County being added to Hampton Roads. Researchers at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center say these areas present a paradox — they’re growing but they're not adding jobs.

“A local government has a couple of options. They can ride the wave or they can fight the wave." That’s Luke Juday at the Weldon Cooper Center.

“They’re really trying to create a place that has an attractive town to live in that has a lot of neat local businesses and services rather than going hard after incentivizing a car factory to move here or trying to get a chicken plant or something like that," Juday said.

Stephen Fuller at George Mason University says the jobs are moving out but not as far as the people and they’re meeting each other halfway.

“Younger householders are choosing to move out to Winchester or Culpepper, and then they drive in and work in Loudoun where the jobs have moved perhaps from Arlington," Fuller said.

So these formerly rural areas that are becoming urban may not be adding jobs, but they are adding time to their commute. In some counties on the edge of large cities, it’s common to find a third of residents commuting more than an hour to get to work.