By Neil Williamson, President
In recent days, the Route 29 Solutions advisory panel has received a number of seemingly coordinated e-mails casting doubt over the accuracy and integrity of The Free Enterprise Forum’s 2007 economic impact report known as Workplace 29.
Using such terms as “ridiculous” and “canard” these misguided advocate e-mails seem to desire the Advisory Board ignore the economic realities identified in Workplace 29. As the late Senator Daniel Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to their his own opinion, but not his own facts”.
In 2007 in an effort to further inform the Places 29 planning process, The North Charlottesville Business Council (NCBC) of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce requested The Free Enterprise Forum determine the approximate tax revenue generated by business activities as well as the Capital Improvement expenditures in the study area. Workplace 29 seeks to quantify the economic importance of North U.S. 29 businesses to the region.
Workplace 29, authored by then University of Virginia graduate student and Free Enterprise Forum Research Associate Natasha Sienitsky, is meticulous in its definition of geographic scope (see figure 1) and methodology (pages 7 -10). The four appendices included in the report provide the sources and the data used to develop the conclusions.
Workplace 29 finds:
Workplace 29 serves as the Charlottesville region’s most important commercial district, providing citizens with opportunities to live, shop, work and play. Over 20,000 area residents work in this vital economic artery. For visitors, US 29 functions as the primary entrance corridor to the Charlottesville region. In addition to providing essential services and serving as the main gateway to our community, the Workplace 29 study area represents a substantial portion of the tax base for Charlottesville City and Albemarle County.
The Workplace 29 study area:
• supports more than 20,000 jobs, conservatively providing more than $800 million ($874,216,408) alone in direct salaries each year.
• generates 35% of taxes by all non-residential uses in Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville; approximately $ 33,019,354 in total tax revenue paid to Albemarle County and Charlottesville City in 2006.
• provides per acre tax revenue of $24,700 for non-residential uses, compared to the entire county average of $335 per acre.
• produces approximately 45% of the county’s total tax revenue in 2006.
It is important to note Workplace 29 does not advocate any specific position regarding transportation solutions it merely provides an economic snapshot of the corridor. To be fair, this snapshot is now dated as it used 2006 tax data and significant changes have occurred since Workplace 29 was completed.
Even now, seven years later, the conclusion of Workplace 29 rings true:
Non-residential uses in Workplace 29 generate significant jobs and taxes for Albemarle County. The master planning process must continue to engage owners of these properties as the economic vitality and level of government service in Albemarle County and Charlottesville City have a close relationship to revenues generated by non-residential properties in the Workplace 29 area. The current Places 29 plan calls for a reconfiguration of the road network which will cause significant business disruptions along US Route 29 during an extended construction period. Neither the extent nor time frame of disruptions has been addressed.
Although changes in the character of US Route 29 may have long term economic benefits, short term disruptions, through extended construction periods, most likely would negatively impact business and as a result the revenue stream for Charlottesville City and Albemarle County. Therefore, careful consideration should be given to the impact of master plan formulation and implementation on business.
The Free Enterprise Forum is proud of our 2007 Workplace 29 . We stand by the scope, methodologies and results. We encourage anyone with serious questions to engage us in conversation so as a community we can evaluate the economic impacts of transportation infrastructure decisions.
Neil Williamson, President
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a 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