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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Report: Virginia Economy Sluggish; Jobs, Effective Community Cooperation Needed

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Second verse, same as the first.

In the second annual State of the Commonwealth report, Old Dominion University researchers will show how sluggish Virginia's economy is, how its transportation infrastructure is under stress and how the commonwealth would be better off if communities worked more effectively together.

In essence, the report is a statewide version of the Hampton Roads State of the Region report, delivered in October by a team of economists led by Old Dominion President Emeritus James V. Koch.

In fact, the state report has offered a similar message for the past several years.

"Stagnant economic growth; a struggle getting private-sector job creation. People are aware of the issues facing Virginia," said Koch, Board of Visitors professor of economics at Old Dominion.

The contents of this year's State of the Commonwealth report will be revealed at the seventh annual Virginia Economic Summit, Friday, Dec. 2 at the Williamsburg Lodge. The report will also be presented in Roanoke on Tuesday, Dec. 6; in McLean in Northern Virginia on Tuesday, Dec. 13, and in Lynchburg on Thursday, Dec. 15.

The events are hosted by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

Register for the Williamsburg event at the Virginia Chamber website.

While Northern Virginia has seen relatively strong growth since the economic slowdown of 2007 to 2009, that success has not been replicated in much of the rest of the state, Koch said. And the unwillingness of communities to work together for statewide benefit has the potential of holding Virginia back.

"We want to keep what we have with respect to our share of the regional economy," Koch said.

Issues of inequality - more than 80 percent of the Virginia economy is clustered in Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads - are among the subjects that Koch and fellow Old Dominion economists Bob McNab and Chip Filer will discuss in their State of the Commonwealth presentations across Virginia. The report comprises eight chapters:

The Virginia economy in transition: The commonwealth is experiencing relatively slow economic growth as it gradually transitions from an economy highly dependent upon federal spending to one that has more value-added private-sector activities, entrepreneurial ventures and participation in international trade.

Northern Virginia: Turning the Corner? NOVA now accounts for 37 percent of all employment in Virginia and 45 percent of the value of the commonwealth's economic activity. Recent growth in professional and business services employment suggests that the region may have turned the corner toward a more diverse, private-sector-oriented economy.

The Hotel Industry in the Commonwealth: Over the past quarter-century, the hotel industry has become a relatively less important part of the Virginia economy. Occupancy rates have yet to recover to pre-recession levels, and 2015 data for price-adjusted hotel revenue and revenue per available room data were also below their previous peaks.

Will Robots Take Your Job? A Look at Virginia's Opportunities and Vulnerabilities: A recent study found that 47 percent of current jobs are susceptible to loss because of automation and the use of artificial intelligence. The degree of a worker's job vulnerability relates primarily to whether the worker is engaged in repetitive work that can be replicated by a machine or software using artificial intelligence.

Broadband in Virginia: Vital for Economic Development: Up to 70 percent of the world's internet traffic flows through Northern Virginia, but some areas of the commonwealth still do not enjoy broadband internet connections. Robust broadband access now is as important as roads, bridges and airports in terms of economic development and population growth.

Stock Car Racing in Virginia: The Sport and the Business: In addition to its nationally prominent Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond International Speedway, the Commonwealth hosts nine racetracks and eight drag racing strips. While stock car racing remains an important economic phenomenon, attendance and revenue data suggest that it has fallen from its peak of popularity.

The Rise of Single-Earner Households in Virginia: Why It Matters: Forty-seven percent of all households in Virginia are headed by one or more single individuals, and these households include all adult age groups. Nevertheless, the current legal and regulatory structure continues to focus on "Ozzie and Harriet" households.

Liberty University: A Higher Education Phenomenon: Christian-centered Liberty University has a combined on-campus and online enrollment of more than 100,000 students and has accumulated an endowment of $1.4 billion. The university's long-term aspiration is to be what Notre Dame is for Catholics and Brigham Young is for Mormons.

The State of the Commonwealth report is produced by Old Dominion University's Center for Economic Analysis and Policy. After the Dec. 2 presentation, the report will be posted on the State of the Commonwealth website.

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