Tourism in Hanover County is booming, according to the number of travelers who have visited the area’s two visitor centers in recent years.
“It’s at its highest level in five years,” said Edwin Gaskin, economic development director, at an Oct. 9 board of supervisors meeting.
The county’s main visitor centers – one in Ashland and another at Bass Pro Shops – saw 24,500 travelers in fiscal year 2012-2013, according to the department’s data.
To extend tourist attraction across the county and to other hotspots, Gaskin said staff is trying to “create a reason to linger longer in Hanover and visit our less traveled venues.”
In November, almost 4,000 people stopped in at one of the centers. Compared to other months, the county’s total visits in the fall topped all other months in 2013 as well as in previous years.
Although tourism has increased, the county’s average wage of $34,545 lags behind nearby areas such as Chesterfield and Henrico. Richmond City leads the region with $54,483 as its yearly average pay.
Gaskin stressed a problem that needs more attention – a large number of low-paying jobs in the county.
“It needs to transcend the four-year election cycle, even transcend the five-year Comprehensive Plans,” Gaskin said. “We need to think about long term, in terms of the future of Hanoverians.”
During the meeting, supervisors pointed out that the neighboring areas vary in the job fields they have. Wayne T. Hazzard, South Anna District supervisor, said that Richmond has mostly office jobs and Henrico has diverse employment opportunities. Hazzard added that comparing the amount of money workers make in the county to other areas “may be unrealistic.”
The healthcare and industrial fields are supplying the most work opportunities for Hanoverians, Gaskin said.
There were roughly 5,381 jobs in the medical field in 2012 where the average weekly wage was between $2,000 and $2,500, according to economic development department’s data. In the same year, data showed 3,206 work opportunities in the manufacturing field. Both industries have remained leaders with the amount of occupations they supplied in Hanover within the past five years.
Henry District Supervisor Sean Davis emphasized the importance of diversity, but added that there are many factors that play into determining a county’s average pay.
“I don’t want somebody to think that if they took up a job in Hanover that they’re going to be making 15 or 16 percent less for the same job [in another county],” Davis said. “There’s a lot of other factors in it and diversity probably wasn’t able to be used in [determining] that.”
Gaskin said that this issue would not be solved in a short period of time because the solution involves looking at the problem “from all angles.”
In comparison to pay in the state and nation, the data show Hanover has a low percentage of people employed in professions paying more than $125,000. While unemployment is decreasing and Gaskin said he expects this trend to continue, the department hopes to create higher paying jobs in Hanover. He added that this would, in return, improve the county’s average wage
“We need to focus on it as the leaders of the community,” Gaskin said.