Loudoun County is changing from a bedroom community to one where people can work where they live, according to new figures released by the county's economic development department.
"We are able to provide a lot of jobs for our residents, and they don't have to travel that far in the county or even out of the county to get to work," said Larry Rosenstrauch, the department's director.
"Now we're becoming more of an urbanized place with a broad range of services and jobs for people. It gives people more family time, more free time and more opportunity to spend their dollars in Loudoun County."
Rosenstrauch's comments were based on his department's 2003 Growth Summary, a synopsis of demographic and economic trends in the county. The annual analysis is used by residents, businesses and policymakers to evaluate the county's development and to plan for the future.
The report shows that 5,501 jobs were created in Loudoun last year. The figures echo those recently released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which said Loudoun's job-growth rate of 5.4 percent for the third quarter of 2003 was the second-highest rate of the nation's largest counties and compares with a national decline of 0.4 percent.
"Some of the people are coming for jobs, and some of the jobs are coming for people," Rosenstrauch said.
Rosenstrauch attributed about half the new jobs to population growth in Loudoun, the fastest-growing county in the United States. "The people who move here want dentists, doctors, lawyers and landscapers."
The other new jobs are a result of overall improvements in the economy, as well as growth in federal agencies -- such as the Department of Homeland Security -- and in industries with government contracts and those relating to Dulles International Airport. Small- and medium-size companies played a critical role in job creation, Rosenstrauch said, and, for the first time since 1999, office vacancy rates decreased, from 19.5 percent to 16.3 percent.
Rosenstrauch said other recent surveys by the county show that only 6 percent of Loudoun's workers commute to the District for jobs, while more than three-quarters work in Loudoun or Fairfax counties.
Rosenstrauch said one of the biggest surprises in the report was that Loudoun issued permits last year to build more than 6,600 homes, which will account for more than one-quarter of Northern Virginia's new homes.
"We would continue to do a lot, but we would like to see others do more," he said. "We're housing a lot of Fairfax's workforce."
Building in areas close to job centers and with existing infrastructure makes sense, said Mike Gorman, past president of the Loudoun chapter of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association, which represents home builders.
"Smart growth is all about putting jobs, people and services together," said Gorman, who said the alternative would be to build more highways.
The survey showed that the average household income in Loudoun in 2003 was $112,448, second only to Fairfax in Northern Virginia where it is $156,541. Loudoun, however, has fewer low-income residents than Fairfax does and boasts the smallest percentage of households in the region making less than $30,000 a year. Two-thirds of Loudoun households earn $50,000 to $150,000 a year, a well-to-do base that officials expect to help attract and retain such businesses as a Wegmans grocery store, a Nordstrom department store and a Ferrari dealership.
Purcellville is the fastest-growing of Loudoun's seven incorporated towns, having grown from 3,584 people in 2000 to 4,787 in 2003, a 33.6 percent increase.
Robert W. Lohr Jr., Purcellville's town manager, said such rapid growth can put pressure on town planning and services, such as fire and rescue.
"There's an appeal to living in our community, and we're very proud of it, but we would like to see not so much pressure all at once," Lohr said.
Loudoun County, whose population was just over 86,000 in 1990, now has about 212,000 residents, nearly 10 percent of the population of Northern Virginia. The report predicts continued population growth -- to 312,000 by the end of the decade and to 417,000 or more by 2020, if county plans for residential construction are carried out.
"This is a community debate that public officials are going to wrestle with," Rosenstrauch said. "If you think of a community as a person, this is just one way of telling the vital statistics."