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Fredericksburg still at top of Virginia growth list

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

The two things passers-by on Interstate 95 notice about Fredericksburg are the signs for its Civil War sites and the Central Park commercial center.

But residents see the numerous housing developments under construction that signal the continued resurgence of the area’s population growth.

Fredericksburg, which has been the fastest-growing locality in the state since 2010, retained that title in 2013. Between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2013, the city grew by 15.1 percent, or 3,659 people, according to the latest estimates from the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

While the city had the highest percentage growth in the state, other Fredericksburg-area localities grew, as well.

Stafford and Spotsylvania counties, which were among the nation’s fastest-growing localities in the previous decade, also posted strong numbers.

Stafford had the second-highest growth rate in the region, adding 6,180 people for a 4.8 percent increase since 2010. Spotsylvania County grew 2.6 percent, adding 3,158 people.

King George outpaced Spotsylvania to rank third, with a growth rate of 3.7 percent, or 876 people.

Elisabeth Hyatt is one of the new Stafford residents. When she moved into the developing Rappahannock Landing Community off U.S. 17 in July 2012, she was surrounded by new construction.

“At the time, there wasn’t too much to see besides unfinished town homes and yards. But the idea that every new house being built meant a new family meant that we would be welcoming not a new house but new friends,” Hyatt said.

Fredericksburg’s location, halfway between Richmond and Washington, has made it attractive to commuters. But the boom has fueled job growth in the last decade as many of those new residents look to work closer to home.

Along with Stafford’s new residents, the last five years have also brought 4,220 new jobs to the county. While a good portion of the population still commutes to the Washington metro area for work, almost 40,000 people work in Stafford.

The region’s population and business growth has fueled an increase in the area’s gross regional product from $5.6 billion in 2001 to an estimated $14.5 billion in 2013, according to Todd Gillingham, vice president of marketing and operations for Fredericksburg Regional Alliance.

Gross regional product is similar to a nation’s gross domestic product because it is measured by the market value of all goods and services provided within a metropolitan area. The GRP’s increase is also driven by the needs of the population living and migrating to the area such as health care, education and professional and retail services.

“A lot of our success, especially in the first 10 years, you could directly point to the fact that the Fredericksburg area was growing at the rate it was,” Eric Watkins, co-founder of Infinity Technologies, said in a recent interview.

When Watkins and two others formed Infinity Technologies in 1996, it was a retail store that sold software. The company changed its business model to meet the changing needs of the region; it now provides information technology support to small businesses, with 90 percent of its clients being within 20 miles of Fredericksburg.

In addition, government contractors have moved from Washington and Northern Virginia into the Fredericksburg area to be closer to the bulk of their workforce, said Brian Baker, the executive director for the University of Mary Washington Small Business Development Center.

“What we are seeing is, Quantico Corporate Center is an example, of a new type of development,” Baker said. “The jobs that used to hang around the Beltway for so many years are starting to migrate to our area.”

Jessica Koers: 540/374-5444

jkoers@freelancestar.com

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