By Sean Tubbs & Brian Wheeler
Friday, July 24, 2009
Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Airport
as a back-drop, Independent candidate for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
(I-Samuel Miller) has called on the County to create a Department of Economic Development. Lowry, who serves as Chair of the County’s
Economic Development Authority
, said it was one of the best ways to help the County recover from the recession.
Lowry selected the airport as the location for his statement because he formerly served as Chair of the Joint Airport Board. He said under his leadership, the Board made a strategic decision to make the airport the “gateway to the community.”
“By the time I left in 1992, this facility was transformed into a driver of economic growth for our community, helping many new businesses create new, high-paying jobs,” Lowry said.
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Lowry said one way the County can solve its budget problems is by increasing the commercial tax base. He pointed to Henrico County and Chesterfield County as localities generating a larger percentage of their revenues from the commercial sector. Calculations by Charlottesville Tomorrow indicate the commercial tax base for Albemarle County in 2008 was 17.9% of all taxable property. That figure is derived from adding the market value of commercial, industrial, and multifamily apartment complexes. Using the same methodology, Henrico County’s commercial tax base was 30.2% for 2008. Albemarle’s commercial tax base has grown at a faster rate than Henrico’s during the past decade.
When asked by Charlottesville Tomorrow if Albemarle County was in a different position then Henrico because of the presence of the University of Virginia (a major tax-exempt commercial entity), Lowry said that James City County might be a more appropriate comparison. He said that James City County, which is home to the College of William and Mary, has diversified over the past few decades by attracting industries such as Anheuser Busch. Lowry said UVA needs more support from Albemarle County in order to fill its two research parks.
“We have a blossom that’s just beginning to bloom,” Lowry said.
Lowry also pointed out that the
Resource Management Review
commissioned by the County called on the County to develop a strategic plan for economic development policy.
Lowry also said growth in the commercial sector was not to be feared as long as it was managed responsibly. He said responsible economic development would ease the financial burdens of the County’s citizens.
“It is one of the best ways of moving the tax burdens from homeowners who see proposals to raise their property taxes every year,” Lowry said.
To reach that goal, he said the County should create a Director of Economic Development to work with businesses looking to relocate their operations. However, Lowry does not support the expansion of Albemarle County’s designated growth areas to create more land for commercial uses. When asked if he would support the Yancey Mills Business Park, a project to build a light industrial business center in the rural area near Crozet, Lowry said he would not make a decision until the proposal makes it way through the County as part of the review of the Crozet Master Plan.
The County only joined the
Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development
in 2006 after Supervisor
(Rio) was elected and provided a tie-breaking fourth vote. Soon after, the position of Business Development Facilitator was created on County staff. Lowry said an Economic Development Director would simply build on the work that Susan Stimart has done in that position.