How Economic Vitality is Like the Weather


By. Neil Williamson, President

With Albemarle County poised to vote on their Economic Development Vitality Action Plan and the City of Charlottesville discussing using incentives to draw an employer from Albemarle County to the City, the Free Enterprise Forum is considering if economic development/vitality should be considered in meteorological terms.

weather When a thunderstorm approaches from the South, it generally does not stop at the Charlottesville City limits.  No, in most cases the rain will move through without any concern for the local government subdivisions.  If the storm is strong enough it may follow US 29 North into Greene County or shift East along the River to Fluvanna County. 

The same can be said for economic development.  If a major employer comes into one locality, the strength of that business will determine the ripple effects their operation will have on surrounding localities.

Just as the mountains stop many a rainstorm before they ever reach the valley, onerous regulatory burdens that drive up cost of housing/business operation clearly have an impact on the distance of the ripples.

The relocation of the Defense Intelligence Agency to Rivanna Station in Albemarle County clearly is having an impact on Greene County and the City of Charlottesville.

From the DIA Survey conducted by Center For Regional Economic Competitiveness, a non-profit research organization affiliated with George Mason University in 2009:

As for where they are most interested in buying or renting a home, most reported that Albemarle County would be their first choice, followed by Greene County and Charlottesville.
Respondents indicated that several factors are likely to influence their housing choice: high school options for their children, potential job opportunities for their spouses, the commuting distance to work, and more general quality of life amenities.

Therefore, it could be argued that rather than Mayor Dave Norris and Supervisor Ken Boyd going toe to toe regarding who “lured” what business across the jurisdictional line, perhaps Charlottesville could focus their energy on developing an economically sustainable business development plan for the Martha Jefferson Hospital site and Albemarle County could market a recently vacated large corporate business space on Pantops.

The Free Enterprise Forum recognizes that the resources for economic development are not endless and believes the available resources should be focused directly on projects and proposals that actually increase economic opportunities for current and future residents.  In addition, significant effort should be made to reduce regulatory hurdles and streamline operations to improve the business climate in the region.  Such an “Open for Business” attitude will generate interest from outside companies AND allow current enterprises to grow here at home.

Only by working together, can our localities survive the continuing economic storm.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website


One response

  1. Which business recently left Pantops and how much space is available?

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