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An industrial facility authority could address an identified barrier to economic growth.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Last spring, government and business leaders from localities across the region got a sobering economics lesson: In the competition to snag new businesses in Virginia, they are not even in the game.
Despite successful efforts to create strong community college training programs? Good utilities? The region’s vaunted quality of life: its stunning outdoor recreation opportunities; its lack of gridlock?
These wonderful advantages, they learned from a site-selection consultant, are offset by a critical lack of suitable industrial building sites of 100 acres or more.
Officials of localities represented at the Economic Regional Summit, which was convened in March by the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, rose one by one to commit staff time to explore forming a Western Virginia Regional Industrial Facility Authority.
This week, Vinton Town Manager Chris Lawrence gave town council an update. His reminder that “we keep losing potential prospects” should be taken as encouragement to act.
Virginia’s odd system of independent cities, divorced on paper from adjoining counties, puts localities in competition for development that each needs to grow its own tax base — fracturing shared economies along artificial political boundaries-turned-barriers to regional growth.
In recent years, the Roanoke Valley has relegated old intergovernmental jealousies and squabbles to the past and embraced regional cooperation on many fronts, change that has served it well.
A Western Virginia Regional Industrial Facility Authority that widens the circle to include Botetourt, Franklin and Montgomery counties with the valley’s four localities is a logical and essential step to compete successfully as a region.
The competition can no longer be between city and county, county and town. As the sprawling megalopolises of Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads grow in wealth, Virginia’s mountain-valley communities only fall further behind.
Working at shared prosperity is the wise course.
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