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Bill Freehling is a business writer for The Free Lance-Star and Fredericksburg.com. This blog is on Fredericksburg-area business. Send an e-mail to Bill Freehling.
Area EDAs have been active of late
This article (by yours truly) is in today’s FLS but did not appear online. Here it is:
Economic Development Authority groups have been active in the Fredericksburg area of late.
Both the Stafford County and Fredericksburg EDAs have made major announcements recently, and Spotsylvania’s EDA is starting a grant program to boost business development.
EDAs are quasi-governmental organizations tasked with helping economic development. Their members are appointed by elected officials. EDAs can issue tax-exempt municipal bonds for private borrowers; the borrowers pay them fees that fund other projects.
Some EDAs, including Spotsylvania’s and Stafford’s, receive taxpayer money, while others, including Fredericksburg’s, do not.
Earlier this month, Stafford’s EDA pledged $1 million toward the creation of a permanent campus for Germanna Community College in Stafford. The matching grant will likely be funded through the sale of 104 acres that the EDA owns next to Stafford Regional Airport. Stafford EDA Chairman Don Newlin said that the fundraising campaign hasn’t started, and that there is no deal to sell the land to the airport.
Stafford’s EDA also recently pledged $75,000 to help move Germanna’s automotive training program to the county. The EDA in 2008 granted $300,000 to Germanna over three years to lease classroom space in Stafford’s Aquia Park shopping center.
Not long after the $1 million pledge was made, the Fredericksburg EDA announced it is under contract to buy the 0.64-acre Masonic Lodge property at 609 Sophia St. for $925,000. The EDA, which sees that as a key parcel in developing the city’s Riverfront Park, has a 90-day study period to evaluate the property before closing. Fredericksburg’s EDA has also made numerous JumpStart grants to private businesses and civic organizations in the city for events, building improvements and more.
Though Spotsylvania’s EDA hasn’t been quite as active, it is seeking a more prominent role. The Board of Supervisors funded a $100,000 EDA program starting July 1 that will allow the group to make grants of up to $20,000 to help existing small businesses expand and attract new ones to the county. The program is patterned after Fredericksburg’s JumpStart. The first deadline for applications is Sept. 1, and the first grants will be announced in October.
Newlin thinks it’s a coincidence that the major announcements made by the city and Stafford EDAs came so close together. But he said the region has been growing quickly, and the various EDAs have a role in helping it develop right.
Fredericksburg EDA Chairman Joe Wilson agrees that the timing of the Stafford and city announcements was mere coincidence. But he does think Spotsylvania’s efforts to launch an EDA grant program are related to the success of the city’s JumpStart program.
“They have seen what’s happened in the city, and that’s been a catalyst,” Wilson said.