At the January 11, 2006 County Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board is scheduled to discuss whether to become a dues paying member of the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development (TJPED). Charlottesville Tomorrow does not have a position on this matter, however we did help document the candidate positions on this issue in the 2005 Supervisor elections. Of the successful candidates, Dennis Rooker and Sally Thomas said they oppose joining TJPED while new Supervisor David Slutzky said he favors joining. There are three other members of the Board and their views will also be important part of this discussion. The topic is to be discussed at the end of their evening meeting agenda.
The excerpts below are taken from the transcripts of various 2005 candidate forums. Please chime in with your comments on our weblog. Brian Wheeler
2005 Board of Supervisors Candidate Forum #2, October 10, 2005
Dennis Rooker: I’ve not been in favor of joining the Thomas Jefferson Economic Development Partnership over the years. It is a non-profit advocacy group with a stated purpose of increasing economic development in the area. It was formed by a group of private businesspeople. They have asked public parties to join. Some of the communities in the area have joined; others have not. We have had a policy on the Board of not joining advocacy program. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission does good work— Excuse me, the TJPED does good work. They bring us good ideas. I’ve talked to prospects that they’ve brought in that they’re interested in having come into the area, but so does PEC, the Piedmont Environmental Council; so does Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population; so does the Chamber of Commerce; so does the League of Woman Voters; so does the Sierra Club. They all do good work. They’re all advocacy groups that can come before the Board to advocate for particular positions. And we have, as a policy matter, decided not to join advocacy groups in the past.
Second, we don’t need to be spending public funds to stimulate additional growth in this community. We need to focus on managing growth and providing for the infrastructure for that growth. Fifteen hundred to two thousand people a year are moving into this community every year. That’s without spending any money, public money, to try to get more people to come here. We have the lowest unemployment rate, one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, one of the fastest rates of job growth in the state. Employers like Sperry Marine added about 75 high-paid employees last year. State Farm is adding a couple hundred employees. UVA has $600 million of construction going on right now which has added 1,200 jobs to the community. They’re expanding their student body, their faculty. They’re expanding the hospital, medical facilities, hiring more people. This year they attracted $313 million of research dollars into the community and according to them, that will produce about a thousand jobs. NGIC just announced that they going to—which is the National Ground Intelligence Center—they’re going to add 1,200 jobs over the next three or four years.
So, the other reason I don’t think we need to attract growth, but one of the other reasons why I don’t think it’s a good idea to join this is there’s a legal prohibition against any member of the Board of Supervisors in sitting on this Board. The statutes don’t authorize us to sit on the Board.
Finally, we belong to the regional planning body that we are authorized by state law to belong to and that’s the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The Board of Supervisors members serve on that Planning District Commission. There is an Economic Development Committee for that Commission that involves six different surrounding jurisdictions and we are one of the two communities that has adopted the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission Economic Development Policy.
2005 Board of Supervisors Candidate Forum #4, October 20, 2005
David Slutzky: ...I strongly believe that the County should join TJPED. I think that it’s an important collaboration of both public and private sector entities and I think its purpose is to try and attract development.
Now, we’ve all talked about our fear of the impact of development but I think the responsibility for managing the impact of development falls on the shoulders of the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have the business community trying to find good matches for deficits in our labor market. I also think it’s important for the County to be participating in the regional dialogue about how growth is going to happen regionally and if we sit out while everybody else is at the party, we don’t have a say, we don’t have a voice, and I think that it’s just a mistake on the part of the County.
As to the issue of participating in non-for-profit, I think public/private partnerships are a positive and productive thing and I don’t have a problem with the County being occasionally willing to select one organization and not another. I don’t feel that there’s an imperative there. I think in this instance it’s an opportunity for the County not to be missed.
2005 Board of Supervisors Candidate Forum #4, October 20, 2005
Sally Thomas: When TJPED was first being formed, I was part of the group that was forming it and I ever since then have been very interested in it. I think I’ve probably attended more of its meetings than many of its members. I set out a series of standards that I thought such a group would have to meet if we were ever going to join it and some of those were that they would have to adopt our Comprehensive Plan as part of their guiding principles. They’ve not done that and I had friends who worked for several years with the leadership trying to get the kind of agreement that would have support of our rural economy as part of their platform and they’ve never been able to find their way to shaping their organization in such a way that I thought it was at all appropriate for Albemarle County to join in.
I’ve also done a lot of research on economic development— No, I haven’t done research, I’ve read research, sorry, and I’m very influenced by someone who researched all the economic development in the sense of local tax dollars being put in as incentives to bring industries to the community which is what TJPED leads up and it only makes sense in two situation or two things have to exist: there has to be a significant distinguishable population of unemployed people and they have to have known, specific skills. In that situation and only in that situation does it make a payback to the community to put your tax dollars into bringing the traditional type of economic development to a community. We are so far from being in that situation. We’re one of the lowest unemployment standards in the nation that I think it doesn’t make any sense to join TJPED.