The familiar "Virginia Is for Lovers" slogan could be changed to "Virginia Is for Millionaires."
U.S. Trust Corporation, a New York investment banking concern, has calculated that Virginia now has 6,769 residents with a net worth of $1 million or more -- twice the number of millionaires in Maryland and the District of Columbia combined.
"Doesn't surprise me one bit," said Paul G. Edwards, spokesman for Virginia Gov. John N. Dalton. "Those folks in Maryland and Washington aren't doing as well as we are."
According to the U.S. Trust study, a mathematical projection based on the latest Census Bureau and Internal Revenue Service data, Maryland and the District of Columbia boast only 3,220 millionaires.
Broken down into "millionaire density," the study shows Virginia has 1.29 millionaires per 1,000 residents. In Maryland and the District of Columbia, there are only .66 millionaires per 1,000 residents, according to U.S. Trust.
"I have always felt that Virginia is the land of promise and prosperity," said Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. (Ind.-Va.) yesterday.
Those who have prospered in the state include Byrd himself, Gov. Dalton, Sen. John W. Warner (R.-Va.) -- all members of the Old Dominion's millionaire club.
"I suppose it's amusing," said Virginia Lt. Gov. Charles S. Robb of McLean, "I'm not a millionaire."
But asked if his wife, the former Lynda Byrd Johnson, was a member of the club, Robb deadpanned: "I really don't know what her assets would be."
If Virginians are rolling in dough, where is most of the money concentrated?
"That's a real interesting question," said Walter Craigie Jr., Richmond banker and former Virginia state secretary of finance.
Craigie said Virginia is not generally known as a state for millionaires. "B ut there's a lot of old money and you have people like the Paul Mellons in Upperville, some in Albermarle County and Charlottesville area, there's Middleburg, Warrenton and the horse country."
According to Craigie, "You have lots of millionaires in Northern Virginia. Some that are not well known. [They are] very big in real estate."
Where does the money go?
"They don't spend it," Craigie laughed. "That's how they build their wealth."
Virginia's government has made an effort to attract the wealthy just as it attracts new industry. "We have a fairly moderate income tax, we've eliminated the inheritance tax, and we've created a political-economic climate which is very attractive to retired persons," Cragie said.
That climate, he said, is "tradition."
But according to the U.S. Trust study, being a millionaire is not what it used to be. The once-exclusive group of citizens with debt-free assets of more than $1 million has risen by 15 percent over the last year.Currently, there are 520,000 American millionaires, the company said.
New York heads the list, with 51,031 millionaires. Wyoming is last, with only 84 millionaires. Overall, Virginia ranks thirty-sixth, with Maryland and the District of Columbia, which were combined in the study, lagging behind at forty-second.
"It's a lot easier to be a millionaire now," said John Knapp, research director of the Tayloe-Murphy Institute at the University of Virginia. "I saw a funny skit on television where they had Jimmy Carter promising everyone he'd make them a millionaire," he added. With the current rate of inflation, "it might come true" Knapp said.
The purpose of the millionaire survey, a U.S. Trust spokesman said yesterday, was to "pinpoint where potential customers are located."
That might be of help to some Washington businesses as well. Bruce Ellis, coowner of the Bethesda caterers "Ridgewells" said yesterday he had more customers in Maryland and the District of Columbia than in Virginia.
"That might make sense though," Ellis said of the study. "The people in Virginia could probably afford their own private staffs. They don't need a caterer."