Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lighting candles

EDA takes action

Eleanor Roosevelt said she’d rather light candles than curse the darkness.
While the rest of county officialdom has wrung its hands for most of the past decade whining about the evil developers and hard time, the Goochland Economic Development Authority quietly began to look for ways to get something going here.

Late last year, the EDA lit a small candle that may well be the spark that ignites badly needed commercial growth in the county. It partnered with a business to extend water and sewer lines to the northeast corner of Goochland in order to build a car wash/convenience center/food emporium. In exchange for extending the utility lines, the developer will receive the first few connection fees as other businesses connect to the system.
At first glance, this seems like a small potatoes kind of enterprise. Closer examination reveal s that the extension of these utility lines, which are part of Tuckahoe Creek Service District, makes all of the land in the extreme northeast corridor of the county more attractive to business.

The far end of Ashland Road, which intersects with Pouncey Tract Road near both the Henrico and Hanover County lines, had languished because, though part of the TCSD and burdened with the dread ad valorem tax, Goochland ran out of money before the lines could be extended to the limits of the district.

While finger pointing has evolved into a fine art as the blame game goes into extra innings, the EDA, with mostly new faces since the old regime left the building, got on with business.

At its Wednesday, May 18 meeting, members discussed progress on the new enterprise. Don Charles deputy county administrator and director of community development reported that the buildings are “coming out of the ground” and opening is expected this summer.

The location will snag commerce from the west end of Henrico and Hanover and put some dollars into Goochland coffers. It will create jobs and hopefully encourage neighboring land owners to develop their land.
The EDA put up $250,000 for the project. Its funds are separate from those of the county. One member observed that the EDA’s contribution was well worth it if it helped people make up their minds to move forward with the project.

Indeed, that seems to be one of the underlying problems with any economic development project in Goochland. In the past seedlings of economic activity were either crushed under the heel of overzealous regulation or withered by the herbicide of negative vibes from the good old boy network.
The EDA, comprised of members from each district appointed by supervisors and two at large members, languished under the previous regime. It seemed to do little other than serve as a pass through entity for state incentives funneled to Capital One.

Ben Slone, District 3, who also serves as EDA treasurer, reported that the interim county treasurer has been unable to find any documentation on an EDA account in that office. This is yet another thread of past dysfunction that impedes forward progress.

The supervisors are quite adept at ignoring recommendations from the EDA about economic development opportunities. The most glaring example of this was the board’s abject refusal to pursue a joint venture with VDOT to provide water and sewer at the Oilville interchange in 2002. They dismissed this concept a few more times and even paid to have a study completed that was a repeat of one performed by the EDA.

Slone also reported that he plans to meet with county administrator Rebecca Dickson, district 3 supervisor Ned Creasey and Ken Petersen of Manakin-Sabot, who has a wealth of high level experience with bonds, to explore ways for the EDA to offer bonds to any business in Goochland. This will enable the EDA to be more proactive in economic development activities.

This group will also discuss possibilities to refinance TCSD bonds due in 2013.

Leigh Gordon informed the EDA about water quality issues and other ongoing matters concerning the Midpoint Industrial Park near Hadensville. Although economic conditions caused Gordon to lose his lots in Midpoint, he took the time to ensure that the EDA, which owns seven lots and hopes to generate new interest there, has access to information about all issues facing the project.

EDA chair Marshall Bowden, District 5 observed that landowners in Midpoint, including Fulton Bank, which bought Gordon’s lots, need to work together to address issues including grass cutting, water quality measures, road paving and marketing going forward.

John Joyce, District 4 suggested that the EDA send a letter of appreciation to Gordon in recognition of his time and effort to ensure continuity of operations even after he had no interest in the land.

The EDA will meet with the consultant hired to craft a strategic plan for economic development on June 7 at 5:15 p.m. All EDA meetings are open to the public.

Here's hoping that the EDA candle will burn brightly and serve as a beacon to attract commerce to Goochland.

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