Region One includes the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington Wise, and Wythe; and the cities of Bristol, Galax and Norton.
GO Virginia Region One, located in the most southwest corner of the state, is mainly rural and has the weakest economic growth of all the GO Virginia regions in the state based on its 0.9% employment decline in the four quarters ending with the second quarter of 2016. By comparison, employment grew 0.9% in the state and 1.5% in the nation over the same period. The Appalachian Mountains run through many of the 13 counties and 3 cities that comprise the region. The beauty of the mountains along with the rural amenities of the region also bring the challenges of a sparsely populated area where mountains can make navigation difficult to connect residents with jobs.
Much of GO Virginia One has been dependent upon natural resources – such as coal, timber, and natural gas – as its economic base for many generations, enjoying economic growth during boom times but enduring extreme economic difficulties during primary industry contractions.
Echoing one of the forces behind the formation of GO Virginia, the economic leaders of the region have identified the volatility of relying upon a single source economy – regardless of what industry it may be – and are embracing the creation of a varied and robust economic base for its citizenry.
At the time of organization, the Region One estimated population was just over 393,000, one of the least populated of the GO VA regions. The age cohorts in GO VA One are skewed toward a lower percentage of younger individuals presumably because some of the younger residents leave the region for better job opportunities. In the GO VA One region, 19.2% of the population is aged 18 to 34 years. In contrast, 17.5% of the population in GO VA One is 65 years and older.
The high unemployment rate in the GO VA 1 region reflects its relatively weak economy when compared the state of Virginia. The unemployment rate in GO VA 1 has been higher than its labor shed and the state since at least 1990. As of May 2017, the seasonally adjusted GO VA 1 unemployment rate was 5.6% compared to 4.6% in the labor shed and 3.8% in the state.
The GO VA 1 region borders on four states that provide job opportunities for residents of GO VA One. As shown in the accompanying map, commuting patterns indicate that three counties in Tennessee, and one each in Kentucky, West Virginia, and North Carolina have enough migration in and out of the GO VA 1 region to warrant inclusion in the GO VA 1 labor shed. The location of Interstate 81 that runs through the region also provides easy access for some residents to commute northeast. Consequently, the GO VA 1 labor shed includes six additional Virginia localities. Including Virginia and other states, the twelve additional localities are:
- City of Roanoke, Virginia
- City of Salem, Virginia
- Hawkins County, Tennessee
- Mercer County West Virginia
- Montgomery County, Virginia
- Pike County, Kentucky
- Pulaski County, Virginia
- Radford City, Virginia
- Roanoke County, Virginia
- Sullivan County, Tennessee
- Surry County, North Carolina
- Washington County, Tennessee