Roadmap for economic development unveiled
White smoke did not rise from the Goochland County administration building on October 4 when John Rhodes presented the strategic plan for economic development he has been crafting since late spring.
While many of the suggestions are not new, Rhodes wove them into a countywide approach. Goochland is not a one size fits all kind of place and this strategic plan is very careful to make place appropriate suggestions.
The plan is not rocket science, but it never occurred to the space cadets that made county policy ten years ago that such a plan was needed then. Their approach to economic development was like putting a boat into a pond churning with fish and expecting the fish to jump into the boat while others dangle enticing lures and tasty bait. Guess who got all the big fish?
The report is in Part II of the board packet, which is in the supervisors’ section of the county website at www.co.goochland.va.us. A recording of Rhodes’ presentation is in the same place.
Rhodes explained that current conditions in the real estate market do not favor the large supply of raw developable land that Goochland has banked on for the last decade. The county has no existing buildings with space to lease, which is in greatest demand right now.
The good news is that major companies that are in West Creek want small businesses including a hotel, restaurants, gas stations, dry cleaners and day care providers nearby so their employees don’t have to go to Short Pump.
That means opportunities for small business, which everyone says they support, but county policy discourages. Rhodes said that the county must streamline its procedures to encourage, not deter creation of business. A survey of existing businesses in the report included complaints that Goochland is, at best, not business friendly.
A new element in this strategic plan for economic development is a timetable and tracking to measure results.
Recommended steps to be taken include creation of mixed use zoning for the TCSD; streamline county processes; create an economic development website and hiring an economic development director. The existing Economic Development Authority, comprised of appointees from the county, will be an integral part of this initiative.
While Goochland need to attract economic growth, Rhodes said, it must define itself in a way that reflects our rural character. To this end Rhodes’ plan includes creation of a master plan for Centerville that would include mixed use on a less intense scale, reflective of a rural community, in order to differentiate it from Short Pump.
A key component of this strategy is creation of an economic development website that touts Goochland’s resources in detail.
Rhodes observed that the Interstate 64 interchanges lack public utilities and high speed internet access, which make them less attractive for development in spite of location. Plans for enhancing water, sewer and telecom in these areas must be crafted, perhaps in conjunction with Louisa County.
A conceptual plan for Courthouse Village needs to be drawn. Rhodes suggested building on the strength of the J. Sergeant Reynolds horticulture program to create a horticulture and garden center that could attract serious gardeners.
There is a need for some sort of lodging in Courthouse Village for students at the JSRCC automotive training program who now must travel out of the county for this service. Rhodes was careful to characterize this lodging facility as an inn rather than a hotel keeping with the less intense scale of Courthouse Village.
Outdoor enthusiasts should also be ta
rgeted, said Rhodes, by finding ways to make the James River and our scenic byways more accessible to affluent city dwellers looking for a recreational dose of the great outdoors.
Rhodes pointed out that “pad ready sites,” parcels of zoned land with utilities and roads in place are needed to get new businesses to even consider a locality. Goochland, he said, has few of these. Even West Creek, which is zoned, is mostly covered by timber. It’s lovely to drive through, but if you’re shopping for a place to put your company, trees are a turn off.
This leads to; pardon the expression, a teachable moment that is unfolding in Centerville. Remember the contentious Goodwill zoning application for land in front of a subdivision on Broad Street Road that was withdrawn after intense citizen opposition?
Well, Goodwill is in the design review stage of bringing the same store to property on the west side of St. Matthew’s Lane between Broad Street Road and Plaza Drive. The land was zoned, cleared, served by roads and utilities and ready to go. Had someone been paying attention about a year ago, the Goodwill Store might already be in operation.
The plan also suggests elimination of land use taxation in the TCSD, which will be implemented about two days after hell freezes over.
Rhodes has delivered a workable plan to get economic development on track in Goochland. Encouraging creation of small businesses to target employees of large companies in West Creek is a little like harvesting anchovies. If done well, the whales will follow.
The real question here is will the board elected in November use this plan as a blueprint for action or add it to the pile gathering dust on a shelf.
If you believe that the actions outlined in the strategic plan for economic development are sound, please let all candidates know it’s time for action.