Friday, December 9Hampton Roads Weekly

Why is Virginia Beach…

Why is Virginia Beach among Nation’s Best Large Cities to Live in? The answer could be our thriving local business community


On July 23, 2018, Virginia Beach was given a figurative silver medal by WalletHub, who placed it as number two on the list of Best Large Cities to live in, behind only Seattle.  Our strongest distinction from our competition was affordability.  But what makes a large city affordable?

In determining a city’s affordability, WalletHub’s methodology assigned the greatest weight to its cost of living, that is: the expenses residents can expect to incur when meeting their basic needs in the region. To put it simply, in a city with a low cost of living each dollar we earn goes further.  One reason for this is the availability of alternatives when the cost of a certain good or service becomes too expensive.

Since emerging from the recession, the nation’s economy has experienced variable growth, with certain sectors returning to pre-2008 figures and other gains being counterbalanced by inflation or wage stagnation.  The failure of the recent recovery to create opportunities for many, especially millennials, has lead some to question whether capitalism remains the best economic system for increasing prosperity. Many who would say the answer to that question is “no” would blame simple greed among Corporate America for driving prices up and wages down.  However, few realize that the law prescribes serious consequences for corporate directors who fail to generate maximum profit for their company’s shareholders.  This duty is the driving force behind most corporate decision making. It encourages price gouging, benefits cuts for employees, and aggressive collection upon debt: all things most of us associate as the price of doing business with big corporations. Whichever side of the debate one subscribes to, the legal foundation for these consequences does not appear subject to change anytime soon.

By contrast, closely held corporations or small and family owned businesses with ties to one community enjoy wider discretion in their business practices and are more in tune with the consequences thereof.  They are far less likely to ignore the needs of the community in their efforts to make a profit.  They are better positioned to tailor their prices and services to the unique needs of the local market. When difficult times strike they are far more likely to fight to protect what they have built than to simply cut bait and leave the area for greener pastures. Finally, they are far more involved in serving as patrons and donors to events promoting unique local culture and identity.

Unlike other large cities, Virginia Beach residents need not go far to find a business owned by someone with whom they are on a first-name basis. Rather than choosing from a blinding myriad of national chains whose prices and policies are set by corporate officers with little knowledge of our unique community, we enjoy an abundance of locally owned businesses with great prices and service whom we can reward with our patronage. In such a community, when the going gets tough, mutual trust and dependence encourage us to stand together rather than resort to an every-business-for-itself mentality.  Locals know and love this little-known fact about our area and it is one of the unique aspects that make life in Virginia Beach so affordable.

We can all take some pride and ownership over Virginia Beach’s high ratings. But if we want to do our part to actively maintain it, we should buy our next coffee at Java Surf instead of Dunkin Donuts; we should have our next lunch at Zero’s instead of Subway; we could plan our next dinner date at Esoteric instead of McCormick and Schmick, and perhaps buy our next car from Beach Ford instead of Carmax.

Virginia Beach native, Jeff S. Howell, Jr., Esq. is a business attorney and President of The Law Offices of Howell & Young in Virginia Beach.  His practice specializes in providing affordable legal solutions for small, family owned, and closely held businesses in Hampton Roads. He can be reached by telephone at (757) 227-5030 and by e-mail at


By Jeff S. Howell, Jr., Esq.