Virginia has an economy that is highly diversified. Agriculture, once its mainstay, now follows other sectors in employment and income generation. Tobacco, Virginia's traditional staple, is still the leading crop, and grains, corn, soybeans, peanuts, sweet potatoes, cotton, and apples (especially in the Shenandoah Valley) are all important. Wine production is also important; but the major sources of agricultural income are now poultry, dairy goods, and cattle, raised especially in the Valley of Virginia. The coastal fisheries are large, bringing in especially shellfish—largely oysters and crabs.
Coal is Virginia's chief mineral; stone, cement, sand, and gravel are also important. Roanoke is a center for the rail transport equipment industry, and a high proportion of the nation's shipyards are concentrated at Hampton Roads, especially in Newport News. Norfolk is a major U.S. naval base, and Portsmouth is a U.S. naval shipyard; Hampton is a center for aeronautical research. N Virginia has become the home of one of the largest concentrations of computer communications firms in the U.S. Other leading industries include tourism and the manufacture of chemicals, electrical equipment, and food, textile, and paper products. Tens of thousands of Virginians work in government, especially in the District of Columbia or in nearby "Beltway" suburbs like Reston and Langley.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.