By. Neil Williamson, President
Imagine you are a mayor or a City Manager, if a major employer and economic driver in your city was poised to leave, how would you respond?
Perhaps its just me, but I would likely fight like heck to keep them in the city. It is much easier to retain a major employer than to attract one.
But what if the employer is actually an arm of a neighboring government, should that matter?
What if that neighboring government annually gives your city millions in revenue sharing dollars, does that enter into the equation?
As most readers know, Albemarle County is evaluating five options for the needed expansion of their courts system. The Free Enterprise Forum is currently reviewing the cost analysis provided by Albemarle and will weigh in on Monday (10/24) prior to the public input meeting regarding our thoughts on the various options.
Only one, the most expensive, of the five options keeps the courts in their current position in Charlottesville’s Court Square.
This summer, the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce issued a report: An Economic Assessment of the Current Unified Court Square. The report found $34 million in salaries could be tied to the courts and the related legal enterprises. Further the report highlighted $1.6 million in employee meals spending and another $3 million in “other court attendee spending” . Accepted at face value, the combined courts complex has in excess of $38 million dollars in economic impact.
According to the Chamber report:
- 45.9% of all 2015 General District Court hearings are Albemarle cases
- 43% of Juvenile and Domestic Relation cases are Albemarle cases
- 73.9% of the Depositions are Albemarle cases.
Allow me a little cocktail napkin math – A conservative estimate of the impact of Albemarle pulling both courts out of Court Square would be 47% of the case load. Cocktail napkin math (not a true arithmetic discipline) projects the annual economic impact of moving both courts to be up to $17.86 million dollars (47% of $38 million).
With almost $18 Million dollars on the table, one has to ask – Where is the City of Charlottesville?
Where is the economic development arm that has supported businesses relocating to the city in the past?
Considering the documents released by Albemarle yesterday indicate keeping the courts in court square is the most expensive option ($42.4 million), shouldn’t the city make any offers NOW before the Board of Supervisors hears from the public and chooses to literally “leave town”?
Perhaps Charlottesville is already having such discussions with Albemarle – if so, the public should know.
If Albemarle decides to bring $17.86 million of ‘County’ economic activity back to Albemarle, Charlottesville may end up looking as wise as the Court Jester this Halloween.
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
Photo Credits: dinardaily.net