We could use this space to toot our own horn about how Chesterfield is an exceptional place to live, work and play. But it’s so much more meaningful when others do it for us.
Over the past three months, several national organizations have reaffirmed Chesterfield’s status as a First Choice Community – honoring the local government’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, recognizing it as a best-in-state employer, and selecting the county as one of the 50 best places to live in the United States.
Chesterfield residents also got to have their say. The county conducted a citizen satisfaction survey this year for the first time since 2016, and the results indicate the populace overwhelmingly believes we’re on the right track.
“The experience we gained managing through a pandemic, along with feedback gathered through our citizen satisfaction survey, have informed and influenced us on how to better serve our citizens,” said Dale District Supervisor Jim Holland, chairman of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors.
Of course, the loudest vote anyone ever makes is with their feet. Chesterfield continues to lead the Richmond region in sales of new and existing residential properties, and is experiencing high demand for quality rental units from both young people just starting out and empty-nesters looking to downsize. As a result, we are seeing many relocations within the county and attracting new residents at a rate that outpaces Virginia overall.
Colonial Village at Waterford apartments
It all culminated recently when Moody’s, one of the nation’s three largest bond rating agencies, gave Chesterfield the highest possible score on its first-ever ESG assessment – an analysis of the environmental (E), social (S) and governmental (G) risks and benefits that can affect an organization’s credit rating.
“This serves as a reflection of our values and priorities, including safety, diversity and environmental responsibility,” Holland said.
For many years, Chesterfield has been one of a select few local governments across the country to hold Triple-A ratings from each of the Big 3 rating agencies: Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poors. Effectively the same as a household’s credit score, having a pristine bond rating reflects the county’s strong financial management and allows it to borrow money at the lowest rates.
Through ESG, the rating agencies are now taking a more holistic approach to inform potential investors about an organization’s stability, resilience and capacity to respond to “shocks,” such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our overall stability is serving as a model for communities throughout the country and because of the leadership I see and hear about throughout the county, I am confident we will find even more opportunities to better support and engage those who work, live, and play in Chesterfield,” Holland added.
Chesterfield is one of the first local governments in Virginia to have completed the ESG process.
Westchester Commons shopping center
“This is more than a bond rating – it’s a national benchmark the private sector is paying close attention to,” said Chesterfield County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey. “It helps our business community better understand what it takes to invest here, and it further differentiates Chesterfield from our peer localities when companies are making expansion or relocation decisions.”
In one of the most competitive labor markets on record, having access to a large, diverse pool of qualified workers is the lifeblood of any business. Chesterfield’s population has grown from about 316,000 to more than 365,000 over the past decade, making it one of the five largest jurisdictions in the state.
At the same time, the county is uniquely positioned to capitalize on a paradigm shift created by the pandemic. With the surge in teleworking, more people are no longer deciding where to live based primarily on proximity to their employer. Chesterfield offers compelling quality-of-life advantages for those who can work remotely and are looking for a safe, relatively affordable place to call home.
When it placed Chesterfield at No. 41 on its 2021 list of the top 50 places to live in the U.S., Money magazine acknowledged our award-winning school system, job growth and low unemployment, and the Board of Supervisors’ July vote to allocate $25 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds for enhancements to the countywide network of public parks.
“Bordered by the James and Appomattox rivers, it’s a perfect place for those who love the outdoors, boating and fishing,” reads Money’s summary.
Boating on the James River
The board’s action, which aligns with county administration’s commitment to increase public access to Chesterfield’s natural resources, also addresses one of the few “areas for improvement” identified in this year’s citizen satisfaction survey: recreational amenities.
Overall, 92% of survey respondents rated Chesterfield as a desirable place to live. About eight in 10 residents gave positive marks to the county as a great place to work, a slight increase from the 2016 survey and higher than national averages.
Citizens continue to prioritize public safety, with nine in 10 responses deeming it an important focus area for the near future. More than three-quarters of respondents praised the overall feeling of safety in Chesterfield and about 90% reported feeling very or somewhat safe in their neighborhoods during the day.
Asked about inclusivity, about six in 10 gave Chesterfield positive marks for making all residents feel welcome and attracting people from diverse backgrounds.
Based on data from the 2020 U.S. Census, Chesterfield’s population growth over the past decade has been driven largely by people of color.
The county’s Hispanic population nearly doubled, from about 23,000 to more than 40,000, between 2010 and 2020. Its Black population also grew by almost 25% to about 81,000 over the same span.
In October, the Chesterfield government received a national award from TopWorkplaces.com for its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) practices. It ranked fourth among companies and organizations with workforces greater than 2,500, and was the only governmental agency to be honored.
That came on the heels of Chesterfield’s recognition by Forbes magazine as one of America’s best-in-state employers for 2021.
The award list was created through a survey of 80,000 U.S. employees across 25 different industry sectors. The survey considered every aspect of an employees’ experience such as working conditions, salary, potential for growth, and diversity. Forbes collected direct feedback from employees, as well as indirect recommendations from workers in the industry.
“During a time when employees in all industries are challenged to continue providing great customer service, Chesterfield County government employees are no different. They have managed to continue providing services to our residents and customers without missing a beat,” said Mary Martin Selby, Chesterfield’s director of human resources. “What is so unique about the recent employee recognitions received from Forbes and Top Workplaces is that these organizations ask the employees how they feel about Chesterfield County as an employer. It shows just how much our focus on recruitment, retention, compensation and employee development continues to work for all who come here.
“In Chesterfield, we’ve found the key to success during good times and challenging times is to invest in the county’s most valued resource, our employees,” she added, “because that investment is guaranteed to pay off tenfold.”