by. Neil Williamson, President
The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization, is strongly supportive of Albemarle’s Draft Economic Development Action Plan. While the document is not perfect, we believe the specific tactics described in the plan are strategically aligned with the goals of the economic vitality chapter of the Comprehensive Plan, which we supported and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors enacted unanimously.
This action plan contains specific steps, many that have already been initiated and objective metrics to measure the effectiveness of the economic development activities. Those projects that generate results in the short term should be continued and expanded; those projects that fail to add value should be discontinued.
We firmly believe economic vitality will be beneficial to everyone who lives here now or chooses to do so in the future. Albemarle’s greatest asset is not the rolling mountains to the south, not the economic engine of US 29 North, not the new hospital going up in Pantops nor the moneyed horse estates scattered throughout the county. While all of these contribute to our community, Albemarle’s greatest asset is its citizens (both current and future).
The Free Enterprise Forum is diametrically opposed to government population control and questions the validity of including any such statements in an economic development action plan.
The Free Enterprise Forum takes issue with those in the community who are opposed with the concept of economic vitality for fear of population growth. This Action Plan is designed to address the 30% of our regional workforce who earn less than $22,000 a year. Those in opposition to economic vitality are, consciously or not, perpetuating a permanent underclass.
The latest version of the Action Plan has struck the verbiage “Albemarle County is ‘Open for Business’” this should be restored. The revision, while technically correct, is weak and fails to convey the urgency the Board of Supervisors has given to economic development.
Albemarle is home to hundreds of employers that do not fit into the category of business. Start-ups, entrepreneurs, and not for profit organizations contribute greatly to the economic vitality of our community. The Free Enterprise Forum suggests replacing “business” with “enterprises”.
The Action Plan calls for the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau (CACVB) to work with staff in coordinating rural roundtables. This is neither an area of expertise nor a good use of time for the CACVB. Many of the recommended strategies for rural economic development are already enumerated in the comprehensive plan; staff should be directed to work with The Farm Bureau, Piedmont Environmental Council, Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Roundtable and other stakeholders to select the actionable support activities that promote ecologically sound agricultural activities that provide economic viability by December 31, 2010.
Promoting Albemarle County’s economic vitality is in the best interest of all citizens.