Economic Impact: Those gas signs are a welcome relief

Driving around almost anywhere, you see the glaring signs for the price of a gallon of gasoline.

But these days, those signs are a welcome relief.

Gas prices have dropped dramatically in recent weeks, and that could bode well for the holiday selling season.

The average savings is about $30 to $40 per month. Think about what you could spend that money on.

Every little bit helps the economy as the savings start to add up.

Besides, those signs have an effect on the psyche that can help the economy. When the prices keep going down and we are reminded of it every day when we see those prices while we’re driving, we think we’re saving bundles.

And we are.

I filled up my car with gas last week, and I don’t remember the last time I saw the price below $3 for premium gasoline. Twenty gallons totaled less than $60.

Just a few months ago, I was paying $80 to fill up my tank.

That $20 savings could buy me a nice lunch or a couple of dozen doughnuts at one of the new shops opening across the metro area.

Multiply that type of savings by the thousands of people living in the Richmond area, and it can really provide a boost to consumer spending.

The national average price of a gallon of regular gasoline fell from $3.68 in May to $3.38 in September, and was $2.79 as of Friday, according to AAA.

In the Richmond region, the average price for regular gasoline stood at $2.56 a gallon on Friday, AAA said. In some places, prices were as low as $2.49, according

Drivers are saving an average of $38.62 per month, if we assume their cars get 25.3 miles per gallon (that’s a conservative estimate, based on the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute’s average sales-weighted fuel economy calculation for new 2014 light-duty vehicles). The figure also is based on a car owner driving an average of 13,476 miles a year.

For the entire Richmond metro area, that adds up to $30.3 million in savings per month. That can buy a whole lot of doughnuts.

If that amount was spent at restaurants, it would support an additional 9,415 jobs in the metropolitan area each month.

Some of those jobs are for restaurant employees while the rest are positions in other industries, such as food manufacturers, restaurant supply businesses and transportation. Those people who become employed by the restaurants or who receive longer working hours now have more money to spend.

That “ripple” effect from the lower gasoline prices will contribute to a lower unemployment rate.

Let’s say gasoline prices stay low through February.

In the next three months, that would free up $91 million for spending on holiday gifts, representing about 2.3 percent of the region’s total retail sales.

Such a boost in spending would undoubtedly outstrip the predictions of 4.1 percent sales increase during the holidays that the National Retail Federation predicts.

A year of savings would boost sales in the Richmond area by $363.9 million, if all savings from gasoline are spent in the region.

The sales taxes from all this spending would be welcome at a time when the state continues to bear the weight of reductions in federal government spending.

Those gas signs these days are good for the economy.


Economic Impact: STEM skills are important, but employers also value soft skills

The importance of science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, knowledge in our labor market is talked about a lot.

Jobs requiring that knowledge in STEM fields often pay much more than the average job. Many STEM jobs, such as computer programmers and operators, also are growing much faster than the average of all jobs.

But STEM skills are not sufficient to succeed in the workforce.

A growing number of companies and government agencies around the state and country complain that workers don’t have the necessary “soft skills” - anything from teamwork to communicating and to critical thinking.

The U.S. Department of Labor has a program that enables you to quantify the importance of soft skills in occupations. The program measures knowledge, skills, and abilities in more than 700 occupations in the nation.

A couple of basic skills - active listening, speaking, and critical thinking - can identify the importance of soft skills.

Through surveys, each attribute is ranked from one to seven in terms of the level needed to perform a job.

A score of two in critical thinking, for example, means the worker can “determine whether a subordinate has a good excuse for being late.” A level of four means the worker can “evaluate customer complaints and determine appropriate responses,” and a six means the worker can “write a legal brief challenging a federal law.”

About 97 percent of occupations required soft skills ranging from 2.6 to 6.5. The need for these soft skills, in fact, is even more universal than, say, the need for math skills.

And the three occupations expected to add the most jobs in the U.S. over the next 10 years, according the Labor Department, all have a level of critical thinking over a score of 5 - personal care aides, registered nurses, and retail salespersons.

Compared to math, the level of soft skills needed in all occupations was higher.

And moreover, generally speaking, the greater the level of soft skills required, the higher the pay associated with the occupation.

The bottom line is that STEM skills are important for many occupations, but employers value soft skills in all occupations.

Christine Chmura is president and chief economist at Chmura Economics & Analytics. She can be reached at (804) 649-3640 or receive e-mail at

Teaches kid 14-21 The basic structure of the program is comprised of modular, hands-on, engaging activities that focus on six key skill areas: communication, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, networking, problem solving and critical thinking, and professionalism.


Upcoming Events: October 26-29, 2014 CoreNet Global North American Summit

Event Date: October 26-29, 2014

Location: Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center

Exhibition Booth Number: 1934

CoreNet Global’s “One Summit a Year” Model in North America comes to Washington D.C!


More than 2000 corporate real estate professionals are expected to gather for top notch peer-to-peer education, networking and the opportunity to meet with the service providers and community leaders who make their lives easier every day. Get solutions to your biggest problems, build relationships that will stick with you throughout your career and impart your own lessons-learned over three days of high-impact education and networking.

Conference Website:CoreNet Global North American Summit


Upcoming Events: October 19-22 IEDC Annual Conference: Steering Towards the Future: Convergence, Connectivity, and Creativity

Event Date: October 19-22, 2014

Location: Fort Worth Convention Center

Exhibition Booth Number: 315

Big Data: Raising the Bar in Site Selection

Since the recession there has been an unprecedented convergence of inter-disciplinary research experts such as economists, geo-spatial experts, data scientists and sociologists who are coming together to understand shifting labor supply and demand and how labor trends impact communities. As a result, site selectors, economic developers and prospecting companies are designing innovative approaches that uncover hidden geographies of opportunity at the hyper-local level, from sub markets within urban areas to rural gems. In this session, industry experts and economic developers will dive into real-world examples and share how they are helping companies from multiple sectors identify the right community for their organization based on labor cost, availability and sustainability.

What you will learn:

• How companies are using new and expanded data sources to influence site selection decisions
• Tips for improving the positioning of your community within the new site selection landscape
• Strategies for working with local partners to access important data requested in the site selection process

Moderator:Amy Fobes, Principal and Founder, geoCommunica, Dallas, TX


Josh Bays, Principal, Site Selection Group, LLC, Dallas, TX
Christine Chmura, PhD, President & Chief Economist, Chmura Economics & Analytics, Richmond, VA 

Conference Website: IEDC 2014 Annual Conference