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County Keeps Growing

Despite national downturn, Loudoun experiences growing gains.

In economic downtimes, Loudoun kept on growing and growing, energized by residential and commercial construction, new jobs and population growth as outlined in the county’s 2002 Annual Growth Summary.

"The Growth Summary proves what a lot of people know about Loudoun. We seem to have survived the downturn in the economy very well," said Randy Collins, president of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce. "People are still coming to Loudoun, relocating to Loudoun in a big way. Ironically, the fast-growing nature of the county has helped us through a downturn in the economy. Its residential real estate sales continued to be strong, propping up an otherwise sagging economy."

The Annual Growth Summary provides 58 pages of charts and graphs with statistics from a regional and local perspective for population and employment growth, income levels, labor force and unemployment rates, and residential and commercial construction.

"What it shows is that Loudoun County will continue to grow based on its availability of housing units and what we anticipate in terms of non-residential construction," said Board of Supervisors chairman Scott York (R-At large).

Commercial construction can increase the county’s tax base and help pay for the growth, while residential growth presents a challenge to the county, York said. The state does not allow localities to charge impact fees and implement adequate public facilities ordinances that would require developers to help pay for new infrastructure. "When we start to grow, we have to put money into infrastructure," he said. "The state has to understand Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads are the goose that lays the eggs to feed the rest of the state."

THE ANNUAL GROWTH Summary provides the following statistics for population, business and employment growth:

* The county’s population was 205,800 residents in 2002, according to regional estimates and 196,314 residents according to county estimates. Regionally, the population increased by 7.1 percent and the county by 21.3 percent, or 36,201 residents, in the last two years. The county is projected to be the fastest growing jurisdiction in Northern Virginia from 2000-2010 with an estimated 77.1 percent population increase to 300,400 residents by 2010, compared to Northern Virginia’s 23.3 percent estimated population increase.

* The county is projected to lead Northern Virginia in employment growth for three decades until 2030. The county is expected to become the third largest employment center in the region by 2010.

* The county experienced 146.2 percent job growth from 1992 and 2002. In 2002, employment increased by 1,813 jobs in contrast to national declines in employment.

* The number of business establishments increased by 250 in 2002, bringing the total number to 5,300 businesses. Most of the businesses were in the service and retail industries.

"We’ve been able to continue to attract new businesses," Collins said. "We always have been and will continue to be open to new businesses and expansions of existing businesses."

* Regionally, about 50 percent of employees were in management and professional occupations in 2002, "reflecting the strong government, technology and business service sector base of the region," as stated in the Annual Growth Summary.

* The county’s per capita income was $43,113 in 2002 and is expected to reach $46,636 by 2004. The average household income was $120,979 in 2002 and is expected to increase to $130,576 in the two years.

* The unemployment rate in the county in 2002 was 4.1 percent compared to 3 percent in Northern Virginia. This year, the county’s unemployment rate was 3.2 percent in February and 3 percent in March and has been continuing to decline in the past five months, said Sean Lacroix, regional economist for the Department of Economic Development.

"We’ve seen employment growth in Loudoun County in contrast to declines nationally," Lacroix said. "Part of that was Loudoun’s economy was healthy and vibrant and was able to withstand a national recession. Part of that was we’re arguably in one of the national healthiest areas."

THE GROWTH SUMMARY provides several statistics on residential and commercial growth, including:

* The county issued 24 percent of the more than 25,400 residential permits issued in Northern Virginia in 2002. The county issued 5,976 residential building permits and is expected to issue 10,000 this year.

"A lot of these units were sold before they were completed. We are building houses that are in demand. Houses are not sitting on the market unsold," Collins said. "There is no speculative housing in Loudoun."

"You can't stop housing by stopping economic development," said Larry Rosenstrauch, director of the Department of Economic Development, in reference to the smart growth debate on whether Loudoun can and should slow growth in the county. "The economy slowed the growth for you. The experiment was brought to you courtesy of the global economy. ... Even when construction slows up and job growth slows up, you're still getting 6,000 building permits."

* The average selling price of the nearly 9,500 housing units sold in 2002 was about $324,400.

* The county permitted 1.9 million square feet of nonresidential space, compared to a record 8 million in 2000 and 4.5 million in 2001.

"We went through a period for about three years of extraordinary economic growth," Rosenstrauch said, adding that in 2002, "We were back to the trend line for growth that would have existed if growth had stayed at the same rate in 1996 and 1996. The late '90s was unsustainable."

Rosenstrauch compared the Annual Growth Summary to an owner's manual for county residents. "There is no better place to understand what's happening in your community than a quick look at the summary," he said.

"This summary reinforces Loudoun is a popular place to live and work," Collins said. "We offer a high quality of life that people seek, and that’s great."