It’s not what you think: we’re not talking about growing and harvesting people.
Virginia’s economy is driven by a number of factors. Long a magnet for tobacco farmers, agriculture remains a key factor in our economy. Northern Virginia, once our dairy capital, now hosts giant technology firms and defense contractors. Work for the federal government, in fact, has a huge impact. Virginia has the highest defense spending per capita of any state in America.
But when you look at Northern Virginia, you often ignore what else happens there: Wineries. People travel to Virginia to visit wineries – from Stafford to the Route 5 Corridor, along the Northern Neck and nestled against the Blue Ridge Mountains. And when we mention agriculture, we would be remiss to ignore the $11 million pumpkins brought to Virginia in 2018. We shipped pumpkins around the world, and folks from Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and further visited Virginia to pick their own gourd.
We shared an article recently about the loss of coal jobs in Southwest Virginia. That’s been horrible for their economy. But a booming new economy is growing around those who’ve long known that areas like Tazwell, the Roanoke River Gorge, and Catawba offer some of the best rock climbing around.
Virginia has it all when it comes to tourism. One could spend the morning surfing in Virginia Beach, bike the Capital Trail into Richmond, and spend the afternoon rock climbing somewhere along Skyline Drive. When people come to Virginia so kayak and hike, to ski and sail, they spend money. They stop for gas. They stock up on supplies at our local markets. They take a break for a meal in your local restaurant. The rent the equipment they need and buy the equipment they don’t have.
Tourism in Virginia generated $26 billion in visitor spending in 2018.
That’s Billion with a “B.”
That was a 4.4% increase over 2017, and it grows every year. It supported over 235,000 jobs, making it the sixth largest employer in the Commonwealth. With the incredible number of people who either work for or with the federal government in Virginia (from the shipyards of Norfolk to the military contractors in Fairfax), that’s a huge number.
That’s one of the reasons why we’ve been giving away cleanup kits and cigarette butt receptacles through September, and now again in October. Eliminating litter creates better, healthier, and more productive neighborhoods. It makes that autumn drive to enjoy the foliage a more enjoyable excursion for our out-of-state visitors.
And that’s like money in the bank.
All photos courtesy of Dave Parrish Photography