Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
An ‘economic roadmap’ for Spotsy
The agenda for tonight’s Board of Supervisors meeting is pretty packed. The meeting will include a work session on the county’s fire and rescue issues, an update on redistricting and a public hearing on UDAs. Also, Supervisor Hap Connors plans to unveil his “economic roadmap” for the county. Here’s a preview:
I want to spend my third term building and expanding on those economic development efforts to launch Innovate Spotsy!, a comprehensive economic development and marketing campaign that advances new ideas and builds on existing policies so that we can move forward to the innovation economy and create new, sustainable job growth.
During the financial crisis, we have been hit hard like everyone else, especially in the housing industry, but we’ve worked with businesses to create opportunities that have opened new businesses and created jobs. Since 2008, working with the business community, we have created almost 2000 new jobs here, with 909 more in that incentive pipeline (source: VJIP, VEDP).
But, given the discord in Washington that has created more uncertainty in the economy, which has also led to low consumer confidence, we must find ways to do more here, on our own. We can’t rely on or wait for Washington or Richmond to lead, because it seems that they are more interested in playing politics than coming together to solve our challenges.
Therefore, I am proposing this plan to send a message to the marketplace that this Board is serious about working with businesses and consumers to grow our local economy and continue to create the high-paying jobs in the technology industry, as well as shore up our housing industry and boost tourism – all of which enhance our County’s reputation and our bottom line.
Strengthen Economic Development office and Economic Development Authority
- New full-time Director (in progress)
- New full-time strategic federal agency/contractor expert (in progress)
- Transfer all or part of County surplus property portfolio (estimated value: $6 million) to EDA to sell or leverage, use proceeds for new incentives/initiatives
- Use EDA bonding authority to develop public/private partnerships where we can leverage resources.
- Develop closer relationship with State VEDP and Tourism Office
We know that innovation will drive us out of this old economy into a new innovation economy that will create high-growth, high-technology companies of the future and high-paying jobs. We have planted seeds, and are seeing results in new jobs, but we need to ramp up our efforts and launch a new marketing initiative called “Innovate Spotsy.” Innovate Spotsy! will package new and existing policies that will 1) send a message that we have the assets and the willingness to transform the county to the new innovation economy; 2) take advantage of the military assets we have in our three bases and our proximity to Hampton Roads, Richmond and DC; and 3) engage the business and higher education community to work with government leaders in a partnership that will take us there.
a. Industry Clusters
To strategically steer the County to an innovation economy, we need to identify and market three industry clusters in the Massapponax/Jackson Gateway area:
1. National Security – Stretching from Hood Dr. along Rte. 1 to Rte 17 and eventually to the new VRE station – capturing agencies and contractors with missions and/or business in one or more of the bases.
2. Healthcare – around the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center.
3. Green Technology – at Ni Village/Jackson Gateway.
Using the technology and innovation zone incentives, we need to use the ED office and EDA authority to aggressively market these areas with new incentives. In addition, we need to accelerate the construction of the new Jackson Gateway interchange.
b. Technology and Innovation Zones
- Extend incentive period to 8 years (from 5).
- Extend 100% tax rebate to 5 years, then 75% in year 6, and 50% in year 7, 25% in year 8. If special legislation is needed to stretch it to 8 years, then extend the 100% rebate to all five years immediately.
- Extend to existing and new high-tech, high-growth businesses. We can continue to attract new businesses, but we also need to find ways to nurture and grow existing businesses.
- Review fast track program to see if improvements are needed.
- Credits and/or assistance from Germanna and UMW for workforce retraining needs.
c. Innovation Park
I have been working with business leaders in the national security cluster to develop an Innovation Park that would bring several elements together to create synergy:
- GMU Enterprise Center – incubator for high-tech and other small businesses.
- STEM Academy and Cyber University – bring university and community colleges, schools, businesses together to use new tools and internships to develop new workforce to meet future needs.
- Federal Center – This is the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and nothing has been done to improve I-95, the major southern evacuation route out of DC. Other than HOT Lanes, nothing more will be done. That’s a national security failure that calls for a solution. Since there is no money for an I-95 fix, we need to work with Congressman Wittman and others to keep the federal workers and contractors commuting north here at a new, upgraded federal facility that would double as a telework and COOP center (mandated after 9/11). Discussions have started, and the new federal advocate we hire can pursue opportunities with GSA to locate a multi-tenant federal building south of the Rappahannock and out of the “blast zone” that can house the federal workers who are currently commuting north and keep them OFF congested 95, alleviating congestion, and keep them closer to home. Private sector contractors should and can be part of that discussion and participation in the complex.
- We can actually have two anchor innovation parks – one along the I-95/Rte. 1 corridor and another one at or near the VRE station that attract more businesses over the next 20 years.
In the next few weeks, I will present plans for shoring up our housing industry and boosting tourism, especially to take advantage of the opportunities with the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
Meanwhile, I want to also explore BPOL tax reform that lowers the rate to equate to net revenues. The major complaint I hear from business owners is not the tax itself, but how it’s based on gross revenues. We already discount the rate and exempt thousands of small businesses. (Keep in mind also that Stafford County, whose tax policies we are told to emulate, has a property tax that is .22 HIGHER than Spotsylvania County.) I would like to direct the finance committee to come back to the Board with options for rational, 5-year transition plan that doesn’t gut funding for education, public safety and other core services, and creates a more fair and equitable tax structure for the business community.
I would like to also create tax credits or incentives to companies hiring veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I offer this as a vision, a plan that the Board can offer to our incoming Economic Development director and advocate so that we can accelerate their work. I would also suggest that we engage the EDA, planning commission, school board, business leaders, and representatives from Germanna and UMW in this discussion, as success hinges upon bringing all these parties together.