IG of the Day: Has Virginia Lost Its Mojo?

Virginians engage in a lot of mutual back slapping. Yes, Republicans and Democrats agree, we’ve got one heckuva business climate. Thanks to our bipartisan, pro-business consensus, we’ve ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the country practically since the dawn of time. Yessiree, we really are awesome.

Indeed, it’s a beautiful thing to be ranked No. 1 as the best place to do business. But there is a big piece missing from the story.

Virginia may rank as the top (or runner-up) state in various rankings, but we must ask ourselves, what are we ranking? For the most part, the “best state” surveys compare the relative attractiveness of states for corporate investment, whether manufacturing, back office or corporate headquarters. Corporate investment is an important source of economic dynamism, but it is only one source. Internally generated growth through start-ups and organic growth of existing industry is just as important, if not more.

Which brings me to the Information Graphic of the day. Throughout the past decade of scoring top honors in the Best Place to Do Business sweepstakes, how well have Virginia’s major metropolitan regions actually fared in key indicators such as job creation and, even more importantly, income growth? While we’re asking, how have we fared in comparison not only to other U.S. regions but to metropolises around the world?

This map from the Brookings Institution compares the growth performance of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas with 200 of the world’s largest metropolitan economies. (For background and details, see the Global MetroMonitor.) This particular view compares metro performance for 2010-2011. But the results aren’t much better for 2007-2010 or 1993-2007.

In a global context, Virginia’s three largest metro areas (Washington, Hampton Roads and Richmond) are the very opposite of hot stuff. And the 2000s were a decade of unprecedented growth in government spending. What happens when the federal gravy train runs off the rails?

My sense is that we are collectively way too complacent, too wedded to inefficient human settlement patterns, and too resistant to reforming under-performing institutions like education and health care. Someone or something needs to light a fire under our asses.


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8 responses to “IG of the Day: Has Virginia Lost Its Mojo?”

  1. DJRippert Avatar

    I have just under half a billion reasons to be hopeful about the DC Metropolitan Area’s start-up culture.


    Perhaps you should try “passing the VC hat” over at the Country Club of Virginia, Jim.

  2. Glad to see that NoVa is getting some serious venture capital to “rebuild” the region’s start-up culture. I don’t see anything like that emerging in Richmond. Passing the VC hat at the Commonwealth Club would be a futile gesture. There’s plenty of equity capital if you’re an established business with $20 million in sales…. but not too much if you’re a start-up.

  3. accurate Avatar

    Jim –
    You’re pounding on that ‘inefficient human settlement patterns’ horse again, but one of the areas that you (and EMR) most like to dislike regarding human settlement patterns … Houston and Texas in general; is/are some of the areas that are booming. Obama certainly hasn’t gone out of his way to make things easy for Texas but we continue to move ahead. While the settlement patterns might be a part of some success/failures, doesn’t Texas cast a bit of doubt on your conclusions?

    And yes, this is the same person who has always signed in as ‘Accurate’, I’ve been lurking as the board and discussion has focused on Virginia. Not all THAT familiar with your area (outside what I read here and elsewhere).

  4. Accurate, you raise an interesting point. Texas metros are kicking butt right now — good for them! Texas has one of the nation’s best business climates, it has a strong entrepreneurial economy, and it’s benefiting from the oil/gas boom.

    I’ve been to Texas (Austin) only once, and not long enough to appraise its human settlement patterns (HSPs). I don’t know if the HSPs are more or less fiscally efficient than Virginia’s. Insofar as Houston’s lack of zoning has allowed that metro to avoid the perversities created by Virginia zoning, they may well be more efficient. Insofar as Texas road-building subsidies have subsidized sprawl, HSPs may be less efficient. I don’t know enough about Texas to comment intelligently.

  5. the traffic in Houston is ungodly… and my understanding is that many, many tolls roads are either already a reality or deep into planning.

    I personally believe that toll roads will have a bigger impact on settlement patterns than anything else especially to those who “drive til you qualify”.

    Now.. you have to trade off the lower price of the house with the higher price of the commute.

  6. accurate Avatar

    Ahhh, Larry my old friend, glad to see you again; no, really. For an update, we bought a house in October, it’s twice the house at less than half the price for a comparible house in the Portland, Oregon area; couldn’t be much happier. The ‘commute’ is about 20 miles one way, very comparible to the commute distance that I had up in Oregon. And as someone who has sat in traffic in both the Portland metro area and the Houston metro area, they are very comparible. In both areas it depends on where are you at what time of day. Honestly, the traffic congestion here isn’t worse (it might be a smug better) than in the Portland area.

    Jim – Austin is not the best (in my opinion and from what I’ve seen) indicator of the HSP’s in Texas. Austin is different than Dallas, Houston is different than San Antonio. We like to ‘joke’ that Austin is where we have hurded up the liberals in the state.

    FYI – to both Jim and Larry, I thank the Lord every day that I wake up that the Lord made things fall in such a way to send me to Texas; it has been a real boon to my life. Oh, I still do check on the Portland area, they have now mandated that Portland residents only get garbage pickup twice a month AND they have recycle their food waste scraps; thank you Lord for freeing me for the bunch of whack jobs that are running things up there (by comparision we get garbage pickup twice a week and I’m paying 1/3 for water, sewer and garbage than what it costs in Portland).

  7. Accurate, people will “vote with their feet” to where the best job opportunities exist and where they get the best quality of life per dollar. I guess you’re a living, breathing example of what makes Texas great. I enjoy your observations.

  8. Hi Accurate! glad to hear you back .. I think…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Accurate – I have been to Portland, Austin and Houston and I have to tell you that Houston is a hell hole in comparison as far as I am concerned.

    Traffic in Portland is a mess but Austin seems pretty civilized while in Houston it’s overrun with heathens… mean heathens… that drive on the shoulder … to pass.. and worse!

    I’m glad you like Houston. I would suggest that more folks who are unhappy with other places and liberals.. move to Houston where I’m sure is a right-wing Mecca. I’d like to see more right wingers move to Houston to tell the truth.


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