Will Albemarle’s Lame Ducks Support Economic Development?

By. Neil Williamson, President

lame duckEconomic development deferred equals jobs denied.

The 2013 election is over.  Three new Albemarle County supervisors will be sworn in on December 19th.  What, if anything, should the existing Board of Supervisors due in the interim?

In a comment to the Free Enterprise Forum blog retiring Supervisor Dennis Rooker suggests that important decisions like the direction of an economic development office should not be decided by the lame duck board:

“It would be wise for the new Board of Supervisors to have this information and make this decision after they take office; after all, they will be living with the economic consequences.”

Read Mr. Rooker’s entire comment here.

I must heartily, and politely, disagree with Supervisor Rooker we will ALL be living with the economic consequences.  Last time I checked, Supervisors were elected to four year terms, not 3 years and eleven months.  The supervisors should not accept Mr. Rooker’s delay tactic and should vote up or down on the permanent establishment of an economic development office.

Mr. Rooker raises a fair point in understanding the return on investment on economic development.  While the Free Enterprise Forum applauds the concept of objective metrics for success at all levels of government, we do not feel the establishment decision must wait until these metrics are determined. 

A little context for those just joining the discussion, for many years the economic development attitude in Albemarle County was one of affluent arrogance.  Commercial interests were lucky to be coming to the great Albemarle and if they really want to be here they will not mind answering to a higher standard than anytown USA.  There was a time in the recent past when Albemarle County  (one of the regions largest employers) was neither a member of the Chamber of Commerce nor a participant in the Regional Economic Development Partnership.

In the last few years we have seen a much more vibrant embrace of economic development.  There was unanimous support for the Economic Vitality Action Plan.  Albemarle County Executive Tom Foley served as Chairman of the Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development.  These are all advancements but with a new Board are we headed back to the previous paradoxical paradigm?

Only time will tell.

The question before the CURRENT Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday is one of investment and intent.  Does the Board intend to take the next logical step for economic vitality and move forward with an office of Economic Development or (pardon the mixed metaphor) will the lame ducks choose to punt?

I know which way I am betting.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org


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