Job numbers keep rising for Prince Edward County and region

Published 8:03 pm Friday, August 18, 2023

The numbers keep going up and that’s a good thing in this case. From Buckingham to Cumberland to Prince Edward, all of the counties in this region are seeing two things: an increasing labor force and a growing employment number. 

This isn’t a one-time thing. The latest numbers, which show where we were at the end of June, continue a trend that’s been moving forward for several months now in Virginia. All three counties show month to month and year over year growth. That’s due to a post-pandemic “return to normal” of sorts for the region, financial officials say. 

Here and other places across the state, it’s being done in different ways. People move into an area and decide they want to launch businesses. That produces a demand for more workers and in some cases encourages people to move in. 

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“That’s sort of robustified economies in (some) geographic regions and now they need a lot more labor,” Schoenberger said. 

A look at Prince Edward 

Out of our area, Prince Edward County’s seen the largest year over year increases. That starts with the workforce. Last year in June, it came in at 9,752 people. In June 2023, that workforce stands at 10,274. Employed residents also climbed year over year, going from 9,298 in June 2022 to 9,813 this year. That leaves just 461 people unemployed from that workforce, or a 4.5% rate. 

And state officials from the Virginia Employment Commission, where we pulled these numbers, point out that the labor force will likely keep climbing, now that Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College students are returning.

“The increase in employment in Prince Edward County is a very positive sign of our improving economy,” said County Administrator Doug Stanley. “Part of this, as we see it, is the return to “full employment” post-COVID. The IDA and Board of Supervisors are focused on bringing additional investment and creating additional job opportunities for our residents. With the planning opening of four to five new businesses in the coming year, we anticipate that this trend will continue.” 

This year, we’ve seen several projects approved, including an expansion of Sandy River Distillery, to allow a restaurant on the property. Also, construction is going on for a Dollar General near the Old Fish N’ Pig site on Farmville Road and a Wawa store is in the works as well. 

One of the keys that could help Prince Edward is the expansion of the Sandy River Reservoir. The main problem with recruiting a company involves the requirements a facility like the recently closed Tyson plant needs. Space isn’t an issue. The situation in this area often comes down to water. And with the Sandy River expansion, Prince Edward can provide a million gallons of water a day. 

Numbers climb in Buckingham 

Across the county line in Buckingham, the story is similar, with somewhat smaller results. The labor force in Buckingham was at 6,742 as of June. That’s up from 6,652 in May and 6,421 in June 2022. But the positive number here is 335. That’s how many people have been hired when you compare June 2022 to June 2023. The number of employed residents came in at 6,506 in June. That’s up from 6,432 in May and 6,171 in June 2023. Buckingham officials point to the internet expansion taking place as one reason for growth. 

“Buckingham, specifically my district, District 3, served as a test site for pole-to-pole, house-to-house internet service through Central Virginia,” said supervisor Don Matthews. “This was a success and the Board was instrumental in pushing this project across the entire county for internet service enhancement.” 

This helped more families have the opportunity to work from home, Matthews said. He also pointed to the fact supervisors were working on keeping taxes low with inflation going strong as another reason people are living here, as well as the success of local schools. Matthews said he looks for that job growth to continue in the months to come. 

Medical facilities and sports have been the driver so far this summer. Troublesome Creek Medicine opened its doors on July 17, filling a void left when Sentara Buckingham Family Medicine closed in the county in 2020, leaving many without a primary care physician. 

Troublesome Creek operates out of 15911 North James Madison Highway in Dillwyn, the brainchild of Chris Hucks, a nurse practitioner and independent business owner. 

Then a week after Troublesome Creek launched, Centra Medical Group announced plans for a primary care clinic to open at 65 Brickyard Road. 

If that address sounds familiar, there’s a good reason. This was formerly the location for Buckingham Family Medicine, Sentara’s primary care clinic, before the company shut that down in 2021. The building and land was donated to the county, which in turn gave it to Centra.

Supervisors also signed off on a proposal for a softball complex, GRIT Academy. The academy will be open from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and after church every other Sunday at the old Gold Hill Elementary School, 59 Gold Hill Elementary School Road. A fully turfed facility with batting cages and room for softball workouts will move into the old cafeteria.

Almost 300 new jobs coming in 

For Cumberland County, the numbers point up as well. For June, Cumberland had a labor force of 5,011. That’s up from 4,960 in May and 4,740 in June 2022. But the big thing here was job growth. There were 4,843 people employed in Cumberland as of June. That’s up from 4,811 in May and 4,571 last year. 

One of the big successes for Cumberland is the Firefly fiber broadband project. Already, anybody who has Central Virginia Electrical Cooperative (CVEC) is already connected and can sign up at any time. Those under Dominion Energy in the northern part of the county are expected to be connected in the fall. That’ll bring high-speed internet to the area for the first time.