More jobs have come to Prince William County during the first three quarters of 2004 than in the same period last year, county economic development officials said Tuesday.
More than 2,100 jobs have been announced so far this year in Prince William, a 75 percent increase from the 1,200 jobs this time last year. The percentage of "targeted" jobs -- those the county wants to attract in technology or biomedicine, for example -- has also risen.
"The highly educated workforce of Prince William County wants to work close to home, and we want to increase that opportunity," said Martin J. Briley, director of the county Department of Economic Development. Briley reported the third-quarter results at the Board of County Supervisors meeting Tuesday. "And we want to increase our investment base."
The jobs news keeps the county's streak of fortune going. Prince William recently announced a series of major projects -- including a luxury hotel and golf course for Harbor Station on the east side of the county and a performing arts center at George Mason University outside Manassas.
Briley also noted that Prince William County added jobs at the fastest rate in the country from March 2003 to March 2004, and that its bond rating increased to AAA, which is awarded to less than 1 percent of local governments in the nation.
Briley also bridled some enthusiasm. When Supervisor Corey A. Stewart (R-Occoquan) asked him during the meeting about recent U.S. Census Bureau data reporting that Prince William has the third-highest median income in the nation -- $83,000 annually -- Briley said it is too early to take that figure seriously.
"We're looking at the trend analysis [over time] and making sure it's not a one-time spike," he said.
In the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, 519 jobs were announced in Prince William, most of them non-retail positions such as construction jobs. Of those, 35 were targeted jobs in the high-tech field.
Briley told the supervisors Tuesday that a solid indicator of Prince William's rising fortunes is the increasing investment by companies over the past several years, a portion of which the county reaps through taxes.
In 1997, Prince William persuaded 19 companies to relocate or expand, and those firms invested about $20 million, according to a county report. In subsequent years, the number of companies setting up shop in Prince William increased by about a handful, but the investment dollars skyrocketed. In the boom years of 2000 and 2001, 57 companies moved here and invested more than $1.2 billion, according to county figures.
In 2003, 24 companies moved here and spent about $465 million. This year, 19 companies have announced plans to move here or expand and have so far invested $102 million, Briley said.
In an interview, board Chairman Sean T. Connaughton (R) said the county will probably not face any real pitfalls in the coming years, especially "as the economy strengthens . . . and companies are seeing that we are actually following through with our plans" to build schools, roads and quality residential developments.
Supervisor Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles) said in an interview that his major concern is sustaining the growth of targeted jobs, not just any jobs.
"Construction jobs are well paying but they're short term," he said. "We want to focus on getting the jobs that are going to be here for a long time."