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November 04, 2011

Albemarle Supervisor candidates on economic vitality

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In the run up to Election Day on November 8th, Charlottesville Tomorrow will once again mail out our in-depth nonpartisan voter guide, featuring exclusive one-on-one interviews with all the candidates for Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council.  In the weeks before the election, we will feature one to two questions a day so that citizens like you can compare candidates’ answers and make an informed choice November 8th.

Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2011 Election Center website features links to the full written transcript and audio of candidate interviews, as well as links to videos of candidate forums, copies of our 2011 voter guide, information on where to vote, and more.  All the following passages are excerpts from our interviews.

COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, SIXTH IN A SERIES

image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.comWhat role should local government play to stimulate economic vitality?  Do you support Albemarle’s economic vitality plan and are there areas you recommend for improvement?


 

Rivanna District

Ken Boyd (R) - Incumbent

Well, I’ll address the second question first.  Of course I do support the economic vitality plan.  It was an initiative that I put forward to begin with.  I think the only thing that bothers me is that it’s moving a little slowly.  That’s what I would like to see, the process moving a little faster.

I’ve been a proponent of that in this community since coming on the board.  As I mentioned, I initiated the discussions [regarding joining] the Chamber of Commerce and the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development [which] was eventually approved by a majority vote.

I originally proposed the establishment and funding of an economic opportunity fund which was instrumental in keeping over 100 high-paying jobs at MicroAire in our local community under a contract, and people will have to understand it was a contract, which will return our investment in under five years. 

The current Economic Vitality Action Plan was started with a motion by me [to get] jobs that are a high priority in our community.  I have worked with the county’s large and small employers to ensure their success by not overburdening them with excessive government regulation.

 

Cynthia Neff (D) - Challenger

Local government doesn’t create jobs, but local government can certainly do things to make a place more desirable to live in.  I lived and worked in the Silicon Valley during the boom.  I saw very effectively how Sunnyvale and Palo Alto and San Jose worked, to try to do things to make companies want to move to the Valley so that they would be part of this high tech revolution…

And so I think local government has to be engaged and have a development focus.  We need an economic vitality focus within the county…

I think, in terms of the vitality plan that the county put together.  I’m not sure that it has all of the right aspects of it.  I don’t – our vitality plan has to be really tied to UVA.  It has to be really tied to the city…

[It’s] being smart and it’s focusing on the stuff that we do well and really trying to encourage and nurture certain industries.  I think that there are industries coming today out of the University.  They’ve just created their own kind of…economic development and transference of intellectual property.  We should be sitting down with them…on a monthly basis trying to figure out how do we continue to drive that forward and attract businesses here against this backdrop of [having] a place that companies want to come to.  People aren’t going to move here if we have gridlock.  People aren’t going to move here if we let our school quality deteriorate.  And people aren’t going to move here if it’s not gorgeous.  I mean that’s our claim to fame.  This is a gorgeous place to live with lots of smart people and Mr. Jefferson’s university.

 

Scottsville District

Chris Dumler (D) - Open Seat

I think the approach that I would take as far as local government’s role in economic vitality, it’s … a two-pronged approach.  The first prong is identifying unleveraged opportunities like procurement dollars at UVA.  [U]nleveraged opportunities as well as sectors where for whatever reason there’s some kind of market problem, the supply is there or the demand is there, but the other side isn’t stepping up and sometimes there’s work that government can do to help, like I said, grease those skids and other times, government may be the problem.  There may be an overly burdensome regulation or an over-broad regulation that is having unintended consequences. 

I know, for instance, farmers market stands or something, it’s been in the news a lot lately or vineyards.  There’re a lot of examples of rural businesses that as an urbanizing jurisdiction we pass County-wide ordinances and they may make sense in one area but they may not make sense in another and so I think it’s the role of government to identify those unleveraged opportunities, identify those sectors where the market isn’t quite perfect and then remove that barrier and sometimes that barrier is government needs to do a little more and sometimes it’s government needs to do a little less and it’s a case-by-case basis.

I do support the Economic Vitality Plan and I think any recommendations that I would make regarding the plan can sort of go back to what I said a second ago.  Sometimes it’s about ordinances, sometimes it’s about removing regulations, but the other times, it’s about stepping up where we need to step up.  I don’t like the fashion in which the Economic Vitality Plan was sort of done in backrooms and I think transparency is very important and I would encourage, again, any modifications made to that plan as it is being incorporated again into the Comprehensive Plan as we move forward to be part of a public conversation, part of a public debate and having everybody weigh in on that. 

 

Jim Norwood (R) - Open Seat

Yes, I think one of the issues that I am very strongly in favor of and of course economic vitality and economic development are basically where I come from and that’s what I can bring to the board. 

I see our county lacking the ability right now to reach out to attract businesses to our county.  We don’t have the infrastructure set up at this point in time.  For example, we have a growing vineyard/winery business that’s growing in our county which is becoming more and more important to our economic stimulus.  We need to have someone as a part of the city and county – maybe a shared person – who will go out and reach out to attract more people to come to Albemarle County, to invest in vineyards.  And also to help the ones that are here further if need be export their products, enhance their business. 

We need an economic development person to look into IT expansion, work with the University, reach out for these small incubator businesses that can be brought to our county, which will stimulate jobs.  So, you know, in other counties we have, for example to our north, they have in some cases three or four economic development officers that are assigned to different aspects of economic development.  Here we have – we don’t have enough at this point in time.  We need to address that.  That would be something that I would look to do.

[I]t’s a work in progress so to speak and I think it needs to be addressed and updated as we move along.

 

White Hall District

Ann Mallek (D) - Incumbent

The role that local government should play is to find ways to emphasize Albemarle County’s strengths.  Because our strengths, our current quality of life, is what will attract future business investment to our area and bring future residents. 

Essential to our success with the economic vitality plan is the active participation of citizens.  Facing a redirection of regulations in the proposed January, 2010 economic development plan, citizens and board debate changed the plan to one based on the Comprehensive Plan with existing zoning.  The adopted economic vitality plan encourages our local entrepreneurial, agricultural and artisan businesses – rather than focusing on more big boxes – within the existing regulations and guidelines for natural resource protection.  This is a way to continue our quality of life and what people have come to rely on as what we expect in Albemarle County.  The emphasis on our long-held values of the Comprehensive Plan and the inclusion of rural area enterprises made the plan supportable by me and a wide range of other citizens…

We can no longer rely on the University for our economic development.  We must encourage the community to support our startups and our longtime local businesses and keep our dollars local.  Saving a few cents at a national chain sends all that revenue away to other places.  We must also address the workforce mismatch between workers and available work.  According to a study by the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development, over 30,000 people exit the county for work daily, while another 30,000 enter.  The county suffered hyper-inflation of housing prices during the mid-2000s, which has added to this mismatch.  As the available housing stock achieves a more reasonable price, living locally may become more of a possibility for our teachers, police, firefighters and other employees who currently reside in neighboring counties.

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