An in-depth look inside the local economy

The good news: Viewed from a long-term perspective, the local economy grew significantly in the first decade of the 21st century, just shy of 30 percent regionwide as a measure of total taxable sales by locality from 2000-2009.

The not-so-good news: The growth seems to have passed Staunton by, also significantly.

The really-not-so-good news: Yep, we’ve seen some retraction from the highs of 2007 and 2008.

First, to the long-term perspective. The local economy as a measure of total taxable sales in 2000 was valued at $866.5 million; by 2009, we had grown into a billion-dollar-plus economy, at $1.124 billion all told.

The total-taxable-sales numbers, compiled by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, integrate everything from agricultural production to manucturing and warehousing to retail, food, tourism and entertainment.

It’s the best approximation of GDP for local economies that I can find out there.

The biggest growth over the long term, no question, has been in Waynesboro, where the economy nearly doubled in size over the decade, from $223 million in economic activity in 2000 to $401 million in 2009. The growth was most pronounced in two two-year periods – from 2003-2004, which saw a spike from $221 million in economic activity in 2003 to $288 million in economic activity in 2004, and from 2005-2006, which saw growth from a $302 million economy in 2005 to a $369 million in economy in 2006.

The numbers for calendar-year 2009 have Waynesboro as the top local economy of the three at $401 million in economic activity in the calendar year, outpacing Augusta County for the first time in large part due to a serious drop in economic activity in the county, which lost just shy of $50 million from its local economy from 2008 to 2009.

Looking inside the numbers there, more than half of the decline comes in two main economic areas – merchant wholesaling and building equipment and garden equipment and supplies dealers.

The long-term trend in the county is still quite positive. Augusta County registered $316 million in economic activity in 2000 and $394 million in economic activity in 2009, a growth rate over the period of 24.8 percent.

Staunton’s long-term trend isn’t nearly as positive. The economic-activity numbers in 2000 and 2009 are almost identical, in fact – the 2000 economic-activity number at $326.6 million, and the 2009 number at $328.4 million, for a growth rate for the period at one-half of 1 percent.

Worse is the retraction in the Staunton economy from 2007-2009. In 2007, Staunton registered a high of $371.5 million in economic activity; the drop to $328.4 million by 2009 represents a retraction of 11.6 percent.

That retraction seems to be continuing into 2010 for all three localities, according to numbers for the first quarter of 2010. Waynesboro registered economic activity at $95.7 million in the first quarter of 2010, an annualized rate of $382.8 million for the year. Economic activity in Waynesboro in the first quarter of 2009 was at $102.4 million, for comparison sake.

Staunton’s number for the first quarter of 2010 was at $75.6 million, an annualized rate of $302.4 million. Economic activity in Staunton in the first quarter of 2009 was at $91.1 million.

Augusta County had $88.4 million in economic activity in the first quarter of 2010, an annualized rate of $353.6 million. Economic activity in the cuonty in the first quarter of 2009 was at $95.8 million.
 
 

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.


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