Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Goochland County pursues economic plan

Published: October 20, 2010
By Amy Condra

Goochland’s Board of Supervisors and Economic Development Authority met Monday night to discuss ways to enhance the county’s economic future.

Board Chairman William E. Quarles Jr., said he hopes the meeting will be the first of several as Goochland County decides how it wants to develop.

“We might differ in our opinions as to what economic development means and how to go about it, but our goal is the same,” said Quarles. “Quality economic development enhances the quality of life in Goochland.”

Guest speakers at the meeting included Jeffrey M. Anderson, President and CEO, Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), and Robert W. McClintock Jr., Research Director, VEDP.

Anderson said that Virginia’s target sectors are advanced manufacturing, security and services, science and research, and transportation.

Anderson explained the importance of asset-based marketing as a county determines its economic development strategy, such as which economic sector to pursue.

A community’s assets could be its workforce, worksites, markets, business climate and quality of life, said McClintock.

“The quality of life permeates everything,” said McClintock. “It’s dependent on talent and workforce. And having the amenities to attract the right kind of labor force is even more important today than 15 years ago.”

Such amenities, he added, could be schools, parks and recreational opportunities.

Competition for projects is more intense than he’s ever seen, said McClintock, noting that such competition comes not just from other regions but also from other countries.

“What sells your community is the people who are already there,” said Anderson. “Clients come in and the first thing they say is, who else has been successful in this community?”

Both Anderson and McClintock stressed the importance of a community developing a sustainable strategic plan.

What should Goochland’s first step be toward accomplishing that goal?

An honest assessment of the county’s strengths and weaknesses, said Anderson.

In response to a question from the EDA, Anderson said that he believes Goochland’s strongest assets are its existing industries, its workforce and its location.

The next step would be to pursue opportunities that are based on the county’s strengths and being aware of threats based on its weaknesses.

“Position yourself with the clear idea of what you believe makes you different,” said Anderson.

By going to industries that already operate in the county—both small businesses and large ones such as CarMax, Capital One and Performance Foods—the county can gain awareness of how it is currently serving its economic stakeholders.

When EDA member Ben Slone asked about the process of developing a sustainable economic plan, McClintock pointed out that it wouldn’t be a short-term exercise.

“When we got the TCSD (Tuckahoe Creek Service District) utilities in 2000, everybody wanted water and sewer in eastern Goochland, we thought all we would have to do is bring water and sewer in and life would be good and nobody would struggle,” said District 5 Supervisor James W. Eads.

“The idea was, all along, to have corporate offices like CarMax and Capital One, but I think that whole equation is gone, there’s going to have be a whole new creation,” Eads added. “Who fits Goochland?”

Quarles asked what the role of an economic director would be for the county.

“You have to be real clear what your burning need is,” said Anderson. “If you need someone to develop a strategy, that’s a different person than one who comes in to execute a strategy. Be sure you recruit for what you believe your highest need is.”

County Administrator Rebecca Dickson said that developing an economic plan is a time-intensive effort that will require a lot of staff time and effort.

“I am asking for a consensus around the dedication of resources, and perhaps we come back with a plan around that,” said Dickson.

Supervisors voted unanimously to support that proposal.

The next Board of Supervisors meeting will be November 3.

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