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New report: the Blacksburg-Christiansburg metro area is doing well economically

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While Virginia’s large metro areas – like Richmond and Hampton Roads – often get most of the attention, a new economic report from Old Dominion University looks at one of the state’s smaller metros.

The Blacksburg-Christiansburg metro area covers those two towns – but also Radford and Giles, Montgomery and Pulaski Counties.

Prior to the pandemic, the region lagged behind the nation when it came to economic performance.

Bob McNab is an economics professor at ODU who helped compile the State of the Commonwealth report.

“The Blacksburg metro area has not only largely recovered from the pandemic – it’s essentially is entering a new economic expansion," he explains. "So, it’s in a much stronger position than other metro areas in the state if we enter into a recession.”

Much like the defense industry buoys northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, economic fortunes in the Blacksburg area are tied to higher ed, McNabb says – especially Virginia Tech.

And while he adds that school has weathered the pandemic well, the area’s success is tied in some ways to enrollment numbers.

“We know just by looking at demographic data that the number of high school students who could potentially become freshmen at colleges and universities is going to decline at the middle of this decade."

McNab says the region’s challenge – like Hampton Roads – is to increase economic growth outside of the large, primary employer. He adds Blacksburg has been doing a good job at that by attracting entrepreneurial activity.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Nick Gilmore is a meteorologist, news producer and reporter/anchor for RADIO IQ.