GRAPH: Job growth

HERE’S a statistic to celebrate: the Greater Fredericksburg Region has added more jobs than any other region of the commonwealth since 2016.

According to a recent study by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the number of new jobs in the Fredericksburg Region grew 1.39 percent, with the Greater Williamsburg Region close behind in second place, with a 1.38 percent rate of job growth. Fredericksburg was one of six regions that exceeded Virginia’s overall job growth rate of .76 percent, including Northern Virginia and Richmond.

Curry Roberts, president of the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance, told The Free Lance-Star that most of the new jobs in the region are in the high-paying health care and technology sectors, which are projected to continue growing (2 percent and 1.8 percent respectively) over the next year. Although more workers will also be hired in the lower-paying service and retail industries, their rate of job growth will likely be lower.

Roberts said the Fredericksburg Region is reaping the benefits of its geographical location along Interstate 95, close to military installations and academic institutions, and within easy reach of Northern Virginia, D.C., and suburban Maryland, “but with a much lower cost-of-living.”

But the region’s workforce is the real draw. “The first question companies ask me is about our workforce,” Roberts explained. “Our workforce can’t be underestimated.” More workers in the region have a college degree (40 percent) than the national average, and the local workforce participation rate is high.

Local educational institutions, including the University of Mary Washington and Germanna Community College, provide students with the skills that growing companies are looking for, he added. Some don’t even care if potential hires have college degrees. Roberts says they are looking for “adaptability”—the ability to think in a certain way—and are willing to hire at-risk members of the community with that ability and train them for new jobs in fast-growing fields like cybersecurity.

Job growth is both a cause and a symptom of increased economic activity. Gains in the regional workforce are a sign of thriving companies seeking to expand. A larger workforce means more money is being spent supporting local businesses. And more economic activity means more tax money to tackle the region’s perennial transportation problems. Roberts says he hopes that more jobs in the region will “better balance our in/out commute,” easing at least partially the daily traffic congestion on I–95.

Most importantly, more high-paying jobs means that more Fredericksburg area residents are able to buy homes, save for college or pay off their student loans, plan for a comfortable retirement, and enjoy the many benefits of financial independence and economic stability that no government program can provide. That’s why being No. 1 in the commonwealth for job growth is very good news indeed.

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