The Free Enterprise Forum Five–Q1 Economic Development

By. Neil Williamson, President

As a part of the Free Enterprise Forum mission to inform the public, we posed five questions to the eight candidates for Albemarle Board of Supervisors.  Other than minor formatting, the candidate answers are reprinted exactly as they responded.  One Question will be answered by each of the candidates each day this week. 

  • Economic Development Monday
  • Transportation Tuesday
  • Development Area Expansion Wednesday
  • Environmental Mandates Thursday
  • Proffer Policy Friday 


1. Economic Development has been advocated by the current Board of Supervisors.  What is your vision for the proper role of government in economic development?  How do you grade Albemarle’s recent three year effort in gaining and retaining business? 

Scottsville Candidates:

Burket campaignCindi Burket – The proper role of government in dealing with economic development is to streamline regulations for new and established businesses, setting common sense regulations that promotes growth while protecting our environment.

Making Albemarle County an attractive place for businesses to move to by keeping taxes low, having a ready workforce from which they can hire and by setting an optimistic and enthusiastic tone to make it all happen.

dittmar campaignJane Dittmar In 1995 I was proud to be on a team of private and public sector officials who launched the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development (now called the Central Virginia Partnership) and eventually chaired the partnership from 2003-4

I authored the original plan that was used to eventually write the agreement with the unusual funding formula drawing 50% of the funds from the private sector and 50 % from the public sector with leadership of the partnership switching each year between the private and the public sectors. I chose this model because in the partnerships I studied across the commonwealth, those that relied totally on public funds, tended to exclude private sector leadership. The partnerships that relied totally on private funds were not as stable because they shrank or went out of existence during recessionary times. The one jurisdiction that did not join the Partnership at its inception was Albemarle County. By 2000 Albemarle was reconsidering this and in 2011 the chairman of the partnership that year was Tom Foley, the County Executive.

I am very pleased by the progress our Boards of Supervisors have made in recent years supporting the hiring a professional staff member to focus on business services. If elected, I would like to ensure that the next comprehensive plan thoughtfully lays out a vision for economic development that focuses on business retention and attraction. I would also like to continue efforts to streamline the development timeline if there are more efficiencies to be found.

Rio Candidates:

Sheffield campaignBrad Sheffield: The role of government, with respect to economic development, is to provide good, competitive infrastructure and public-private partnerships necessary to attract new business and to enhance existing business. I give Albemarle County a “C.”

The County is failing at maintaining the infrastructure to existing businesses, which not only hurts those businesses, but affects the decisions of new businesses who might consider locating here. We could be doing a better job with attracting more innovation and small business growth by building better “places” that create the environment needed to build on energy and activity.

Also, over the last three years we have failed to capitalize on the City of Charlottesville’s shift to residential growth. We should have been establishing policies and approaches to making Albemarle County’s growth area the strongest economic hub in the region.

Thomas campaignRodney Thomas:  The action plan deserves high marks for designing a plan. The next step is to fund and implement it. The targeted industry study was a valued effort to match the skill sets of our workers with the jobs of the future.

What we must not lose sight of is that there are many skilled level support jobs that go along with the targeted jobs. We are still going to need electricians, carpenters, etc.. In a vibrant economy. These are career level jobs that should also be referenced in the study as an important part and we need to recognize this when considering government action.

Jack Jouett Candidates:

McKeel campaignDiantha McKeel: I fully subscribe to the purpose of government as promoting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s my view that government should be a catalyst in bringing together those components that achieve each of these goals. Economic development is a vital path for the pursuit of happiness and on the local level that means creating a climate where our workforce is well-educated and in alignment with workforce needs; our community is safe and we are tapping into our natural resources, which in Albemarle is the creativity and innovation of all of our partners, including the university.

This reliance on building partnerships is why I proposed and led the way for our school division to join and become an active participant in the regional Chamber of Commerce. I supported the 2010 BOS’ adopted Economic Vitality Action Plan. As public officials it is our responsibility to work to expand our commercial tax base to reduce the reliance upon property taxes in support of county services and infrastructure improvements. Over the past three years, I would grade the county as achieving a B—for example we’ve made some good grades with the Target Industry Study and we’ve protected our exemplary bond rating. We’ve moderated tax rate increases.

We need to be A-plus, however, and that will come from taking steps that achieve the promise of our growth potential, leveraging our high quality of life and our intellectual and creative resources to become a national model of excellence.

seay campaignPhillip Seay: Our County government should encourage and demonstrate economic development. Implement and fund The Economic Action Vitality Plan with the understanding of the needs and wants of the community.

Samuel Miller Candidates:

Palmer campaignLiz Palmer: As the economy slowly recovers, everyone can claim credit for our local situation, and probably we all should claim credit. The local government can set the tone, express interest, review ordinances, engage the public in discussions and, in other ways, affect the morale and reality of our local economy.  Its own human resource decisions enlarge, or shrink, the number of employed people, and its salary scale affects other employers’ pay scale decisions (and vice versa).

I believe that retaining the attractiveness of our county is a subtle but major part of what government can do to attract and retain businesses.  We must not assault the county in the name of economic development. Likewise, the quality of our schools is a major expense and a major part of what local government does to attract residents and business-owners.  Taking this broader view, I think the last three years are a mixed bag, with some words of encouragement but some doubts planted regarding the County’s interest in assuring the quality of life that is so important to present and prospective employers.

Snow campaignDuane Snow: Prior to 2010 Albemarle County did not have an economic development plan, with action steps. They had an economic development statement. We are now in the implementation part of the plan.

Economic Development is a major part of the County’s responsibility.

· provides well paying jobs for our community/career opportunities for our children.

· Provides additional tax revenue to fund the core responsibilities of Government . Thereby reducing the pressure to raise property Tax.


Tuesday – Candidates answer Q2 – Transportation of the Free Enterprise Forum Five.


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

Photo Credits : Candidate Websites, Facebook, Newsplex


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