VAPDC Connections

Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions - April 2013

In This Issue
President's Message
Thank You 2013 Sponsors
VAPDC Summer Conference
2013 Sponsorship
VAPDC Website
VAPDC Connections
Fields of Gold
Floyd Co Facility
RV-ARC New Website, New Territory
VAPDC Honors Three Virginia Leaders
A Bright Smile on the Face of Halifax County
New River Valley Livability Initiative
Is There a Skills Gap?
HRPDC Region Redefined
Hampton Roads MSA
HRPDC Strategic Planning Process
Good News in a Bad Employment Report
Strong Trends in the Labor Market
Southside PDC...The Tobacco Heritage Trail
From the President

Spring has sprung in Virginia.  With it comes renewal in any number of contexts.  VAPDC continues a renewal of sorts also and is undergoing an examination on how to become more relevant and increase the impact of our message of regional collaboration and cooperation.


In just a few days, the VAPDC Board and Executive Directors will meet in Winchester to review the Strategic Plan and determine how that plan should be updated to provide an effective path to bringing Regionalism to the forefront for our elected officials, our state agencies, our localities, and our citizens. Continuing their work for VAPDC Bill Leighty and partners from DecideSmart are assisting in this process.


The VAPDC Winter Conference, Virginia's PDCs: Saving the Commonwealth and its Localities Money through Regional Efficiencies, featured speakers like Robert T. Skunda, President & CEO, Virginia Biotechnology Research Park who talked about Technology-Focused Economic Development; Tracy R. Smith, Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, providing and update on JLARC Report No. 433: Encouraging Local Collaboration through State Incentives; the Honorable Doug Domenech, Secretary of Natural Resources, Commonwealth of Virginia; Andy Edmunds, Director, Virginia Film Office; and Martin Briley, President & CEO, Virginia Economic Development Partnership. The VAPDC Winter Conference was held, for the third year, in conjunction with VML/VACo Legislative day in Richmond. From completely unscientific and very informal means (your comments at the event or since) this appears to have been our most successful one so far.  The Association also presented three awards at the Winter Conference (be sure to read about the recipients in this newsletter.)

The VAPDC Summer Conference and the end of VAPDC's business year are just a few short months away. The big news for 2013 is that VAPDC will hold the Summer Conference at Wintergreen Resort,
July 25-27.  No need to bring your skis!  To become more accessible to a different geographical area, the group will be traveling in a different direction this year. Stay tuned for details and the new activities that will occur as part of the Summer Conference. VAPDC also has its annual Business Meeting during the conference where we will elect the incoming Board of Directors and officers for 2013-2014. If you were unable to join us in Richmond, I hope you will find the time to participate in all the great sessions that will be offered at the 2013 Summer Conference at Wintergreen.  I never leave one of these without learning things I didn't know. I think you'll find this to be true also. Conference registration will be open in June. You will be able to make your hotel reservations soon on the VAPDC website at Don't miss your opportunity to be a part of a great location and a meaningful conference.


VAPDC and its member commissions face challenges just like everyone else.  By expanding our collaborative approach and finding additional economies of scale to tap into, we can continue to save tax dollars for our citizens and help the Commonwealth prosper. By continuing to tackle issues from a regional perspective to find solutions that work, VAPDC and Virginia will continue to move forward to success.  As always, thanks for your help in making this happen!  Keep up the great work!


Woody Harris

President, VAPDC

Thank You 2013 Sponsors

Virginia's Planning District Commissions

Lenowisco PDC

Cumberland Plateau PDC

Mount Rogers PDC

New River Valley PDC

Roanoke Valley-Alleghany RC 

Central Shenandoah PDC

Northern Shenandoah Valley PDC

Northern Virginia RC

Rappahannock-Rapidan RC

Thomas Jefferson PDC

Region 2000 LGC

West Piedmont PDC

Southside PDC

Commonwealth PDC 

Richmond Regional PDC

George Washington RC

Northern Neck PDC

Crater PDC

Middle Peninsula PDC

Accomack-Northampton PDC

Hampton Roads PDC

Join Our Mailing List 

Mark Your Calendar for  the VAPDC 2013 Summer Conference


July 25-27, 2013 


Wintergreen Resort & Conference Center


Registration Opening in June!

2013 VAPDC Sponsorship Opportunities

The Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions (VAPDC)

Sponsorship opportunities are now available for 2013.


Three level of sponsorship are available: Gold, Silver, and Bronze. All sponsors receive the following:


~Recognition on the VAPDC Website

Company profile in Winter and Summer conference registration materials


~Company logo or listing on signage at the Winter and Summer conferences


New this Year:

~Sponsors become Associate Members of VAPDC, receiving member discounts on conference registration along with other benefits.


Other recognition and perks are offered for each level of sponsorship.

To view all the details of 2013 sponsorship opportunities and to become a sponsor, 

click here


2013 VAPDC Website:

We are very excited to announce the completion of the new VAPDC membership management system on our VAPDC Website. As you know the new website has been up and running for a while and is being populated with new information frequently. This newest feature will serve you better allows potential Associate Members to join online, register for conferences, sign up to be a sponsor and much more! VAPDC members can also login to the system and update their personal profiles.


Check the website often for new information and features. 


Email Jeanne Ali with any questions or comments.


VAPDC Connections 

VAPDC Connections is published quarterly by the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions.


The deadline for the next issue of the newsletter is

July 15, 2013

Please share your news with your peers by submitting your articles to VAPDC.

Fields of Gold Receives Building Collaborative Communities Grant

Staunton--February 14, 2013


Agritourism in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia will be able to roll out a whole new range of activities in the coming years thanks to a recent $60,000 grant from the Building Collaborative Communities program. The Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission will administer the grant on behalf of the Fields of Gold region. Funds will be allocated to develop partnerships, create business support services for farmers and agritourism operators, market the Valley's rich agricultural offerings and build a sustainable organizational structure for long-term viability. 


Senator Emmett W. Hanger, Jr., 24th Senatorial District of Virginia commented on the importance of the Fields of Gold program to the Shenandoah Valley's economy: "Promoting the Shenandoah Valley as a diverse agritourism destination through the Fields of Gold initiative is a solid economic development tool that will enhance the economic viability of area agricultural enterprises. The award of the Building Collaborative Communities grant provides program planners the resources necessary to build an infrastructure that ensures the longevity and effectiveness of the initiative."


Fields of Gold is a collaborative regional economic development program serving seven counties and five cities in the Shenandoah Valley: Counties of Augusta, Bath, Highland, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Page and the Cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton, and Waynesboro. Fields of Gold is focused on promoting the Shenandoah Valley as an agritourism destination, creating and retaining jobs on the farm, expanding tourism jobs off the farm, and nurturing an environment for entrepreneurism.


Program participants like Julie Haushalter of White Oak Lavender Farm see the program as an invaluable support for agricultural businesses: "The Fields of Gold agritourism program allows producers like White Oak Lavender to attract more visitors to the farm and more effectively market our lavender products. Establishing the Shenandoah Valley as a destination for agricultural activities raises awareness that our region is an amazing destination for a unique vacation. The award of the Building Collaborative Communities grant allows for creating an even stronger network of farmers, regional organizations and tourism programs." 


Building Collaborative Communities is a broad-based program that brings to bear resources from a number of state entities, including the Lieutenant Governor's Office, Department of Business Assistance, Virginia Tourism Corporation, the Tobacco Commission, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Virginia Community College System and other agencies as appropriate. "In its first year, Building Collaborative Communities jump started several regional collaborative efforts across the Commonwealth," said Governor McDonnell. "The selected projects focus on and facilitate involvement from the private sector, community organizations and various other regional organizations that can make the collaboration a success."

For more information on the Fields of Gold agritourism initiative and upcoming events, visit the CSPDC website or Facebook

Shenandoah Valley Regional Energy Efficiency Strategy Yields Impressive Results


The Shenandoah Valley Regional Energy Efficiency Strategy developed and executed by the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission (CSPDC), is being touted by Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) Projects Coordinator, Ron Hachey, as a "shining star" among other state energy efficiency projects. Funded by a Virginia Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) and administered by the DMME, this initiative identified collective energy savings in excess of $300,000 annually for participating localities.

LED lights at Grand Caverns

Said Hachey, "When thinking about the 41 energy efficiency projects that I oversaw across the Commonwealth, I always considered the CSPDC's Project to be the shining star of them all. Well-designed, well-organized, well-communicated, well-executed and fully embraced by the 20 Central Shenandoah localities both big and small. My hat's off to the staff at the Commission for their hard work that made this project such a valley-wide success. High praise to the local leaders and staff in the 20 localities for leading by example in an emerging world where all of us will need to become more energy efficient in our daily lives."


 The EECBG funding was used to help local governments reduce energy use and save on energy costs. The program included energy audits of 50 public buildings, funding of improvements to buildings and facilities and an educational outreach program on energy efficiency and conservation. A total investment of $640,000 was spent implementing this program in the region, and each jurisdiction received $22,000 from the grant to complete upgrades recommended by Roanoke-based Spectrum Design who conducted the audits. Participating localities included the counties of Augusta, Bath, Highland, Rockbridge, and Rockingham; the cities of Buena Vista, Lexington, Staunton, and Waynesboro; and the towns of Bridgewater, Broadway, Craigsville, Dayton, Elkton, Goshen, Glasgow, Grottoes, Monterey, Mount Crawford, and Timberville. The City of Harrisonburg received a direct allocation under the EECBG Program from the U.S. Department of Energy.


Solar Lights at Dayton's Artisan Park

Specific improvements included weatherization and insulation, HVAC retrofits, lighting upgrades, window/door replacements and renewable energy installations. The expectation is that activities like retrofitting energy deficient buildings, distributing hundreds of energy efficiency kits, providing green job training, utility bill analysis, and numerous other awareness-raising events will increase the impact of this program for years to come. Robbie Huff, Project Administrator from the CSPDC reiterated the ongoing benefits from the Energy Efficiency Strategy: "The savings resulting from this program has everyone looking at energy efficiency when considering renovations to their buildings or during the design of new buildings. Some projects will pay for themselves in energy savings if designed properly."

New Website, New Territory Expand Regional Commission's Commuter Services


The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commissions Transportation Demand Management Program, RIDE Solutions, has undergone two significant changes in the last year, that have seen both its reach and significance expand.  The program was started in 2001 as part of a larger effort to address mounting air quality concerns in the Roanoke Valley, primarily through carpool matching.  Over the intervening years, both the character of the program and its goals have grown to match the growing needs of the areas it serves.


In 2006, RIDE Solutions underwent its first geographic expansion, partnering with the New River Valley Planning District Commission to offer employer-focused commuter services to commuters in the greater Blacksburg area.  Virginia Tech was, and remains, a key partner in that initial expansion, which required RIDE Solutions to work with commuters traveling from as far away as Wytheville and Bluefield, West Virginia.  The program focused on the commuter traffic traveling into the metro New River Valley area, as well as those commuters traveling the I-81 corridor between Roanoke and Blacksburg.  The Smart Way Commuter bus, which connects downtown Roanoke to Virginia Tech's Corporate Research Center and the Squires Student Center on campus, became a main feature of the services RIDE Solutions promoted.


Since 2008, more requests came from localities as commuters to examine bike commuting resources in the region.  Coupled with a focus on marketing the Roanoke Valley's outdoor amenities undertaken by the Roanoke Regional Partnership and its Roanoke Outside program, RIDE Solutions began working with the City of Roanoke on its Bicycle Friendly Community designation, as well as businesses such as Carilion Clinic, Norfolk Southern and Novozymes Biologicals on ways to encourage riders, perform safety programs, and build infrastructure.  Coupled with the gas price spike of 2008 that saw the price for a gallon of gas approach $4, mode shift to bike commuting - along with transit and carpool - grew at an enormous rate.


As the demand for programs outside of its traditional role as a carpool matching service grew, RIDE Solutions had to examine the way it delivered its services as well as the growing market for active transportation.  The Commission had maintained a fairly basic website for RIDE Solutions that was no longer meeting the needs of serving a growing diversity of commuters, and the manpower involved in managing information coming through the website was getting out of control.  For example, a partnership with Virginia Tech in 2010 saw over a thousand student and faculty registrations come through the website in just a matter of days, each of which had to be processed manually into the program's carpool matching GIS system.


In 2011, the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission and the Region 2000 Local Government Council partnered to launch RIDE Solutions in the greater Lynchburg area, predicated in part on the program's success in encouraging bike commuting and other active transportation.  The Lynchburg MSA had recently been designated one of the country's most overweight MSAs and was looking to the work RIDE Solutions had done on bike encouragement events and employer-based bike commuter programs.  As RIDE Solutions had been created to address air quality in Roanoke, now was the same range of services being brought to bear to address public health in Lynchburg.  Further, census data showed that over 10,000 commuters a day travelled between the Roanoke and Lynchburg MSA, a larger number than traveled between the Roanoke and Blacksburg MSAs.  The opportunity to address congestion, air quality, and commuter transportation expenses between the two regions was enormous.


Under a grant from DRPT, RIDE Solutions used the growth opportunity to address the deficiencies in its website.  Combining the different goals of the regions it served with a need to make it easier for commuters to enter the RIDE Solutions program and get the services they needed quickly, RIDE Solutions staff worked with a developer to create not only a new, streamlined look for the site, but a robust, customized database backend that allowed for a myriad of account management features that's automates much of the work that had previously been accomplished manually, and gave access to commuters to better manage their own information.  In addition, the refreshed visual look of the website provided a more balanced representation of the programs RIDE Solutions offered - rather than just a carpool matching service, or even a bicycle advocacy organization - the site was developed to highlight the entire range of services the program offered and make sure that no one mode dominated the program.


The website revision was undertaken along with an overall rebranding effort initiated by the Commission, which brought its various programs more in line visually and thematically with its own image and logos, and helped make the development of the new RIDE Solutions logo and look more efficient.


RIDE Solutions publicly launched the partnership with Region 2000 at the beginning of April, and has soft-launched its website in anticipation of May's Bike Month events.

VAPDC Honors Three Virginia Leaders

Thomas G. Shepperd, Bill Shelton and Delegate Kirkland Cox honored at VAPDC Winter Conference


VAPDC presented Thomas G Sheppard with the Gordon N. Dixon Award; Bill Shelton with the Robert W. Baker Achievement Award;  and Delegate Kirkland Cox with the Legislator of the Year Award, at the Association's annual Winter Conference in Richmond earlier this month.


Thomas Shepperd serves as the Chairman of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. He is a member of the York County Board of Supervisors where he formerly served as Chairman. He has proactively engaged the elected leadership on the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission Board and promoted the technical capabilities of PDC staff across the Commonwealth. He has spent considerable time and energy on the region's TMDL initiative including close coordination of local, state and federal officials. Shepperd is committed to promoting VAPDC's role in regional and statewide issues. The Gordon Dixon Award is intended to recognize a VAPDC commissioner or executive director who has provided leadership and make outstanding contributions to promoting the concept of regionalism in the Commonwealth of Virginia.


Bill Shelton serves as the Director of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Responsible for the management and policy oversight of DHCD, Shelton is an ex-officio member of the Virginia Housing and Development Authority's Board of Commissioners and serves on the board of Virginia Community Capital, Inc., the Commonwealth's community development bank.  Shelton was recognized for being the PDCs' number one advocate among state agencies, supporting PDC partnerships through programs offered by DHCD in housing and community development.  He has provided consistent leadership for 14 years at the helm of DHCD and understands the value to regional approaches. The Robert W. Baker Achievement Award is intended to recognize persons who have been involved directly in planning district commission activities and who have contributed significantly to promoting regional planning and development in Virginia. Past recipients include A. Linwood Holton, W. Tayloe Murphy and other notable Virginians.


Delegate Kirk Cox (66th District) has served as House Majority Leader for the Virginia House of Delegates since December 2010. In addition to his role as Majority Leader, Delegate Cox serves as the Vice Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee's Higher Education Subcommittee, and is a Budget Conferee.  Delegate Cox has championed regional efforts and has a strong record of achievement in a number of areas, including reducing unnecessary government spending, creating Virginia jobs, helping veterans, supporting families, and protecting the environment.  In 2012, Delegate Cox earned a score of 95 and an "A" rating from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce Legislative Report Card for his support of business and job creation efforts completed during the legislative session. VAPDC's Legislator of the Year Award is intended to recognize a State Legislator who has provided leadership or has contributed significantly to promoting regional planning and the Planning District Commissions in Virginia.

A Bright Smile on the Face of Halifax County--Southside PDC Secures Grant Funding for New Dental Clinic


Until recently, Halifax County residents had to get in line for affordable dental care. Thanks to the efforts of Halifax Regional Health Services and their partners, a new dental clinic has opened inside South Boston's Halifax Primary Care.

"Cutting the Floss"
picture courtesy of The News & Record

The need for affordable dental care was great in the Halifax region. The HRHS reported about 1,000 lower income residents annually visit the ER with dental complaints, instead of a dentist, because they couldn't afford dental care and had no dental insurance. Before the  opening of the Halifax Dental Clinic only two  dentists in the region were using Smiles for Children/Medicaid. Of those two, the first was not taking new patients and the second had a waiting list. 


In January of 2013, a floss-cutting ceremony, in place of the traditional ribbon-cutting, inaugurated the 10,000 square foot expansion of Halifax Primary Care in South Boston's Houghton Industrial Park. This facility focuses on providing critical early prevention and dental care treatment for underprivileged children. Dr. Bridget McDowell Brown, a Halifax native, the clinic's dental director, began seeing patients on February 1. Eighty percent of her patient base is projected to be ages 21 or younger.  


Deborah Gosney of Southside Planning District Commission was the point person for the PDC on this dental clinic project. Gosney, along other members of the Halifax Dental Clinic Management Team, researched the need for dental care in the Halifax region and sought and applied for grant monies to make the clinic a reality. Halifax Regional Health Services, SPDC and South Boston partnered and the Town was awarded a $700,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.


Other supporters include the Virginia Tobacco Commission which contributed a $400,000 grant for equipment, and VA Healthcare Foundation which gave $150,000 for the first year's operational costs and also contributions came from: Delta Dental, Wells Fargo, Suntrust, Cap Trust, and Morgan Trust. 

New River Valley Livability Initiative

Outreach and Citizen Feedback Update


In December, the New River Valley Livability Initiative conducted a Community Priorities Survey. The survey sought citizen feedback on the proposed goals developed from public input during earlier phases of outreach and a set of topic area goals that resulted from a year's worth of research and discussion on the part of the Livability Initiative's seven working groups. The purpose of this survey was to better understand how citizens in the New River Valley Region would prioritize the draft goals identified to date. The results of this survey will be used to better focus scenario and strategy development over the next six months.


There were 465 completed surveys and 192 partial responses received. The survey obtained a proportional sample of responses based on the region's total population, using respondent zip codes as the mechanism for ensuring proportional representation. By doing so, there is better understanding of which priorities are common across the region and which ones differ by locality.


In the survey, respondents were asked to indicate how much emphasis they would place on the 6-8 goals listed for each topic area: arts & culture, community health, economic development, energy, housing, natural resources, and transportation. Options included "not a priority", "low priority", "medium priority", "high priority", and "essential priority", with a score of 1-5 assigned to each, respectively. Respondents were then asked to select their top three goals for each topic area, although the top three were not ranked. Below is a snapshot of the energy section analysis and its goals. A more detailed report of results is available on the Livability Initiative website Here.



Proposed Energy Goals:

Energy Reliability: Power outages and other energy disruptions are minimized.
Efficiency & Conservation:

Energy use (and therefore cost) is reduced in households, businesses, institutions and municipalities through efficiency and conservation.

Environmental Stewardship: Negative impacts of energy production and consumption (air and water pollution, transportation costs, land consumption, etc.) are reduced.

Transportation Options & Efficiency: Expanded and/or improved transportation choices reduce household expenses and improve air quality.

Renewable & Alternative Energy: Renewable and alternative energy use continues to expand in the New River Valley.

Public Policy - Local/Renewable Energy: State, regional and local leaders are working together to create policies that support renewable energy, such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass.

Public Policy - Traditional Energy: State, regional and local leaders are working together to create policies that support traditional energy sources, such as coal and natural gas.

For further information, contact Kim Thurlow at 540-639-9313 ext. 202 or Carol Davis at 540-639-9313, ext. 222. 

Is There a Skills Gap? This Study Aims to Uncover the Figures - And the Facts. 


One of the key workforce data needs of the region is whether our workers' skills match the needs of employers.  In order to discover this data, the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Investment Area Consortium Board and the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Investment Board have contracted with Virginia Tech's Office of Economic Development (OED) to perform a Skills Gap Analysis.  The service region includes the New River Valley and Mount Rogers Planning Districts.  The regional study collects the data necessary to develop a skills development "Talent Pipeline" approach to future workforce training and resource allocation for the region.  The study engages both public agencies and private businesses to identify appropriate strategies for all communities in the region.


The study started in January, and will continue until September 2013. The study includes:

  • Collection and analysis of public and private data
  • Engagement of economic developers and business/industry leaders through surveys and interviews, identifying regional industry trends and how they impact current and future workforce skill needs
  • Engagement of regional workforce development stakeholders, including educators from pre-school to post graduate levels, to identify and catalog existing workforce development resources and initiatives
  • Research "best practices" programs in workforce development in Virginia and nationwide to provide examples specific to addressing skills development needs
  • Engagement of all regional stakeholders to develop an "implementation plan" to pursue strategies to improve regional initiatives to address workforce skills gaps 

The implementation plan will have regional strategies as well as more localized strategies. 



For more information about the Skills Gap Analysis please contact:  Marty HollidayNew River/Mount Rogers Workforce Investment Area at 540-633-6764 or Whitney Bonham VT OED at 540-231-8891 or Patrick OBrien, VT OED at 540-231-8324

Region Redefined to Include Gates County, NC 

PDC Boundaries Unaffected 

By Joe Turner, HRPDC Communications Manager


Data collected by the 2010 Census has redefined the region's Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has determined that the latest Census data indicates that Surry County is no longer in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). However, Gates County in North Carolina has joined the MSA. In addition, Elizabeth City Micropolitan Area and the Kill Devil Hills Micropolitan Area join the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA MSA to form the Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC Combined Statistical Area (CSA). A CSA depicts a complementary relationship between Micropolitan and Metropolitan Statistical Areas, but a CSA designation does not supersede the individual areas. The CSA merely suggests a larger sharing of economic and social interests among the Micropolitan and Metropolitan Statistical Areas.


According to OMB, a Metropolitan Statistical Areas has at least "one urbanized area of 50,000 or more population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties." To be considered a Micropolitan Statistical Area by OMB, a region has to "have at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties." 


These are just a few classifications that OMB establishes and maintains solely for providing consistent statistics across the country.  Such classifications are intended to provide nothing more than a basis on which to compare data from set geographic areas in the U.S. Because they periodically change as a result of Census updates, they are not intended to be used to establish program boundaries or participation, or as part of a funding decisions.  


During the creation of Planning District Commissions in the late 1960s, such classifications were used as the basis for PDC boundaries, however given a PDC's scope of purpose, PDC boundaries were further refined.  PDC boundaries required at least three independent local governments and considered:

  • Whether the combination of jurisdictions created a land area that could effectively perform and support true regional planning;
  • If the combined jurisdictions have a population of a 100,000 or more;
  • Whether or not there was political compatibility or existing relationships and cooperation already existed among the jurisdictions;
  • What natural geographic elements - mountains, rivers, bays, etc. - provided natural barriers to jurisdictional cooperation, and
  • What socio-economic factors were shared among the jurisdictions.

To review the entire list of MSAs, click here 

By Sara Kidd, Senior Regional Planner


HRPDC staff has further analyzed the recent change in the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) delineation of the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). This change is based on Census 2010 and American Community Survey 2006-2010 commuting data, and as reported earlier, removes Surry County, VA and adds Gates County, NC to the MSA for

Hampton Roads (See Map).  The Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC MSA now comprises:

Principal Cities: Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Newport News, Hampton, Portsmouth

Central Counties (includes Independent Cities): Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Newport News, Hampton, Portsmouth Chesapeake, Suffolk, Poquoson, York County, Gloucester County

Outlying Counties (includes Independent Cities): Isle of Wight County, Mathews County, James City County, Williamsburg, Currituck County (NC), Gates County (NC)


Removal of Surry County, VA

The removal of Surry County from the MSA is likely a consequence of the delineation of a new "urbanized area" in Williamsburg and James City County.  Because of this new delineation, Williamsburg and James City County are no longer "central counties" to the MSA so the commuters from Surry County to Williamsburg and James City County are not counted towards the required threshold to be considered an "outlying county" in the MSA.

Surry County did not reach the required 25% threshold of workers who live in the County that commute to central counties of the MSA. This is because Williamsburg and James City County are no longer central counties in the MSA due to the creation of the newly designated urbanized area of Williamsburg, VA (see Map 2 below). Approximately 20% of the workers in Surry County commute to the central counties of the MSA. Approximately 9% work in James City County and Williamsburg. Surry County does not currently belong to any MSA.


Why Gates County, NC is Now Included

Gates County, NC was added to the MSA because it reached the required 25% threshold of workers who live in Gates County and commute to central counties of the MSA. This is likely because Suffolk is now considered a central county (it was not a central county previously). Nearly 50% of Gates County workers commute to the central counties of the MSA, including 19% to Suffolk alone.


Future Revisions

There is no appeals process to change the current delineation but the Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSA) will be reviewed and possibly redelineated in 2018 after the release of the 2011-2015 American Community Survey commuting data. However, the urban areas and central counties will still be based on 2010 Census data so only a change in commuting patterns could potentially alter the MSA delineation in 2018.

The MSA designation does not affect membership to the HRPDC.

By Julia B. Hillegass, HRPDC Public Information & Community Affairs Administrator


At its annual retreat last week, HRPDC Commissioners gave the green light to begin developing a regional strategic planning process.  The effort will include the evaluation of the region's strengths, capacity and similar challenges faced by localities.  Ultimately, the process will culminate in a tool that can be used to pre-evaluate suggested strategic initiatives for the region.

Traditionally, the myriad of plans for the region have been cobbled together.  This new initiative would focus area elected officials on aligning resources based on objective evaluation criteria.  The process will focus on using best practices to advance implementable strategic initiatives.

"We are excited about the possibilities of facilitating our local elected officials in clarifying an actionable vision for Hampton Roads," said Executive Director, Dwight Farmer. 

Good News in a Bad Employment Report  

By Greg Grootendorst, Chief Economist and James Clary, Economist


The annual employment revision makes a good employment report

The Bureau of Labor Statistics completed its annual revision of previous payroll estimates, and this showed that the region had experienced a stronger recovery in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2012 than initial estimates had indicated. The revised employment estimate for December 2012 was 753,700, which was 4,700 positions higher than previous estimates. Those 4,700 positions represent a very positive and significant revision, as they amount to 76% of an average year's growth.

The January employment release makes for bad news

Seasonally adjusted payrolls declined by 1,300 in January 2013 to a total of 752,400. While this was not a large decline, it did end six consecutive months of growth, which was the longest expansion in regional employment since July 2007. This single month of decline generates concern, as the impact of the sequester looms over the region.




The Recession and the Recovery: HR and the U.S.

In February of 2010, regional employment had declined by 6.2% from peak employment in July of 2007. National employment realized a similar decline over a different timeframe; national employment declined 6.3% in February of 2010 from peak employment in January of 2008. For the past 3 years the nation has been experiencing a recovery in employment, while Hampton Roads has only recently begun to realize a sustained trend toward recovery. It is evident that the U.S. had a shorter recession and faster recovery than Hampton Roads experienced, despite the U.S. not having fully recovered.  



Strong Trends in the Labor Market 

By James Clary, HRPDC Economist


Hampton Roads payroll employment has experienced strong growth in recent months, adding 9,800 positions in three months. Seasonally adjusted civilian payroll employment experienced an increase of 4,400 jobs from November to December of 2012. Despite this strong growth in the past few months, the region only added 11,400 for the year of 2012 because of declining employment in August and September of 2012. The average growth rate of 950 jobs per months in 2012 was far above the long term average of 513 jobs per month.



Since July of 2009, the region had been recovering much more slowly than the nation as a whole, despite losing a similar percentage of employment. The U.S. had recovered almost 50% of its payroll employment loss, while the region has only recovered 33% of its employment losses, and half of those gains were made in the previous three months. The region remains 32,700 payroll jobs below the peak employment of July 2007, and could return to pre-recession levels  in November 2015, if employment continues to expand at the 2012 pace.


Southside PDC Welcomes Section of the Tobacco Heritage Trail 


In the Fall of 2012, the Southside PDC, partnered with Roanoke River Rails-to-Trails, Inc. to develop a brand new section of the Tobacco Heritage Trail (THT) in South Boston, VA. Southside PDC worked closely with engineers from Anderson & Associates on the design and direction of this second phase of the trail project.

 The PDC has been responsible for obtaining grant monies for the purchase of abandoned railroad corridor and trail construction. Regional Planner, Robyn Fowler, oversaw the progress of the South Boston section, liaising with engineers, contractors, and VDOT representatives.


Several historic features of this segment of the THT make the South Boston section a trail worth visiting! The trailhead is situated at the base of a former cotton mill. All that remains of the mill are two brick towers marking the once thriving cotton industry in South Boston. A short 0.4 miles from the trailhead is the Prizery, which used to be a tobacco warehouse. At one time, the rail system would transport the tobacco along the trail corridor for trade. Other historic features of the trail are an aged sluice gate, Diamond Hill (a     former slave cemetery), and Berry Hill  Plantation Resort and Conference Center. As you journey on horse, bicycle or foot down the THT, you will notice the stone wall that separates Berry Hill Plantation from the trail. Each stone was hand placed by slaves who used to work the plantation.


In addition to the unique historic sights of the new trail section, there are interesting natural features. Approximately two miles down the trail, there is a duck impoundment that birdwatchers and amateurs can enjoy. The impoundment brings a variety of waterfowl as well as foxes, deer and other wildlife. A natural spring trickles down the side bank at one point of the trail and, at the terminus, you may sit at a picnic table and view the scenic Dan River. 

This newly built section of the Tobacco Heritage Trail is a small taste of what's to come. This was Phase II of the future 150 mile trail that will eventually loop through Southern Virginia. Step by step, the Southside PDC will continue to work with its outstanding partners to drive the development of this outdoor contribution to the community. Until then, both local and out of town visitors enjoy using the trail.  For more information visit our website here: or "Tobacco Heritage Trail" on Facebook.