Albemarle’s Economic Development Tipping Point

Adapted from comments to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Public Hearing September 9, 2015

By. Neil Williamson, President

Good evening, my name is Neil Williamson and I serve as President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization focused on the local governments of Central Virginia.

The decision before you tonight is whether you wish to open a portion of well located land into your development area as a new center for light industrial jobs.  This is likely a tipping point in Albemarle’s economic development history.  The crux of the discussion of this Comprehensive Plan Amendment is about three things: Jobs, Revenue and Growth ControlEverything else is a designed distraction.

Go Big or Go Home.  There have been some who have suggested shrinking the proposed development area expansion to just one or perhaps two parcels.  The Free Enterprise Forum believes the larger the expansion the more flexibility the county will have if and when rezonings come before the board and, perhaps most importantly,  the bigger the expansion, the more career ladder jobs can be located in Albemarle.

JOBS are the building blocks of a community.   Economic diversity helps a local economy weather market cycles. A number of academic studies show that a city’s or region’s economy will perform better with more diversification because risk and market effects are spread out. This CPA will help diversify the job base.

two centsMy Two Cents.  As a Board you are intently aware of the significant demands on your budget.  You have even appointed a Citizen Resource Advisory Committee (AKA CRAC Committee) to find new sources of revenue.  . You spent this afternoon with the School Board discussing funding the future.

If the numbers that have been leaked are correct, the use of just part of the Development area expansion could equate to $.02 on the residential tax rate.

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?  For years Albemarle’s economic policy was that applicants were lucky we are even considering your application regardless if it was an expansion or a new business.

It was not unusual to see other localities market themselves as “not Albemarle”  In recent months, we have seen a warming in favor of economic development and a positive business climate – a positive vote on this CPA will be a strong signal to the world – “ALBEMARLE IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS”

Please know, a negative vote will be equally enlightening.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


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, Louisa and  Nelson County.


  1. My family can trace its roots back in Central Virginia farther back than I know. My father (who would be 90 years old now) was a local business man from the world war II era until the early 2000s and he always told me that the thriving local economy was due in large part to the sustained growth of the area over many decades. And, he said that the forces that want to stifle that growth, did so at the peril of the vitality of the community as a whole.

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