Those of us who live “in the Gooch” know that our county is a special place. We have wonderful people, beautiful country, and easy access to other places via Interstate 64 and state Route 288. Our schools are excellent, tax rates low, and local government that lives within its means.
Many Goochlanders lamenting that growth, both residential and commercial, signals the end of our rural culture. However, most new construction is concentrated east of Manakin Road, enabled by public utilities—water and sewer. In fact, the county’s 2035 comprehensive land use plan (https://www.goochlandva.us/Search?searchPhrase=2035%20Comprehensive%20Plan%20) indicates that about 85 percent of Goochland will remain rural for the foreseeable future.
The remaining 15 percent, mostly contained in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District, much in the West Creek Business Park, is destined for development. The county’s goal is to derive 30 percent of tax revenue from business, the remainder from residential property tax. Currently, the split is about 80/20 non-business/commercial. Thanks to Jonathan Lyle for catching an error in the initial posting.
In recent years two apartment communities; an Audi dealership; a rehabilitation hospital; medical office buildings; Drive Shack; Hardywood Park Craft Brewing; Tractor Supply; a hotel, and high-density residential subdivisions have sprouted east of Manakin Road. Mixed use enclaves in the heart of the Centerville Village, and on the “Oak Hill” site north of Rt. 6 in West Creek are on the horizon.
So far, economic development has been a bit scattershot—the county was grateful for any kind of investment, especially in the TCSD. That is changing.
Casey Verberg and Sara Worley, economic development coordinators for Goochland County, have created a detailed database of existing businesses, and available properties. The women work with state and regional economic development agencies to put Goochland on the radar screen of site selection scouts, and make sure the county is not overlooked by prospects investigating moving facilities to Virginia.
At May meeting of the Goochland Economic Development Authority, Verberg introduced via Zoom, representatives from the Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development (OED), which has been retained to perform an industry cluster analysis for Goochland. This agency works to fulfill the land grant mission of Tech helping localities capitalize on resources to improve their economies.
The presentation can be viewed at https://www.goochlandva.us/960/Video-of-Past-EDA-Meetings for May 20.
Verberg said the cost of the project is approximately $15,000, about half charged by private firms.
Dr. Sarah Lyon-Hill of the Tech OED explained that an industry cluster is comprised of businesses that interact with each other. For instance, an automotive cluster includes auto manufacturers and related suppliers. The analysis will combine secondary data collected from public and private sources with local knowledge to create a final document and strategy to recruit new companies to come to Goochland. It will list the county’s strengths, potential growth, and competitive advantages compared to similar localities. Public focus groups, which OED has used in similar projects, will not be used here.
Data collection, said Zach Jackson, Tech OED analyst, will use proprietary software to understand where strengths of Goochland’s labor force and other resources lie. Federal databases will supply an understanding of the “overall direction” of county demographics, including regional labor force assets. The study would likely concentrate on greater Richmond, within a certain proximity of Goochland. The analysis will use projected trends supplemented by national and statewide market research from industry specific perspectives.
Lyon-Hill said that they examine existing industry clusters to ascertain how Goochland works and functions with its neighbors. County ED staff and EDA members will provide local knowledge and gather feedback from local businesses and major landowners.
The EDA will receive periodic feedback from Lyon-Hill and Jackson during the analysis. A final report, expected in September will include trends, both backward and forward looking specific to Goochland’s unique assets.
Verberg said that at least two EDA members will be involved in the process. The final report will include specifics about expansion possibilities for local businesses and a list of companies that do not currently operate in Virginia. Results will be used to craft marketing messages touting the advantages of locating in Goochland for targeted companies.
Feedback from discussions with major employers in the county will be part of the analysis. Major land and business owners, said Verberg, including those in West Creek, have asked what kind of businesses the county wants to attract.
Verberg said that Goochland has no interest in heavy smokestack manufacturing but otherwise has no specific wish list, yet. She is hopeful that the cluster analysis will identify enterprises that complement existing businesses and find new ones that need what we have to offer.