Board of Supervisors chairman Scott York (R-At large) had "the proof, the numbers and the percentages" that Loudoun is open for business, said Supervisor Eleanore Towe (D-Blue Ridge) following York’s State of the County Address on Friday.
"I hope he has put to rest any perception Loudoun is not business-friendly," Towe said. "It was quite clear from the information that this board has done a good job and the county is thriving."
York addressed the past, present and future outlook of the county for the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce’s first presentation in the 2003 Leadership Series.
"Having chairman York here is key, given the political environment and economic situation we’re in," said Louis Matrone, 1st vice-chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, who introduced York.
York said he had made three promises when he took office in 2000: to revise the county’s 20-year Comprehensive Plan, to align the zoning ordinance with the plan and to do something about the drought, a comment that caused the audience to laugh considering the recent rainy weather.
THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN heads off future growth by reducing the number of new schools to be built by 61, cutting $250 million in infrastructure costs and protecting areas of non-residential uses in the suburban area, York said, adding, "Residential units cost the county because of the services we have to provide."
The county is expected to add 130,800 residents from 2000 to 2010 and another 93,300 residents from 2010-2020. In 2003, the population was 206,000 people and is expected to increase to 225,000 people in 2004. Currently, the county’s population is expanding at a rate of 1 resident every 38 minutes.
"I’m finding a way to help us be able to afford to live here," York said. As the population grows, the board will have to address affordable housing issues as outlined in the Comprehensive Plan and assure the county develops with a mix of housing types, he said.
To address the growth, the county is building and opening new schools every year, opening four in 1999, three in 2000 and again in 2001 and five in 2002 and in 2003. During the board’s four-year term, the county is expected to open a total of 16 new schools. In 1993, the county served 15,800 students, compared to 37,500 students in 2003 and an expected 40,200 students in 2004. As the School District expands, the impact of debt service for school capital projects is expected to increase to $73.7 million in 2004. The debt service in 1992 was $7.4 million.
"We’re not a no-growth county. Please understand that," York said.
The county is expected to lead the region in employment growth from 2000-30, has had a net job gain of 11,967 jobs as the only major metropolitan area to experience job growth during the recession and is at a 3 percent unemployment rate as of March.
"Let me assure you with every fiber of my being, this county is open for business," York said. "Loudoun County should be boasting of this accomplishment. We’re in national slump … yet Loudoun County has fared well through it."
YORK REFLECTED on some of Loudoun’s business and economic development accomplishments.
* MCI named Ashburn as its headquarters in May.
* Howard Hughes Medical Institute broke ground last month at Janelia Farm Research Campus for a biomedical center, which will open in early 2006.
* The First Responders Training Center will be located at the George Washington University Loudoun campus, a decision made in February 2003.
* Tourism increased 11.3 percent this year from 2002 year to date.
* Retail vacancies are down 3 percent this year.
To respond to the residential and business growth, the county expanded services in the areas of public safety and transportation. During the board’s term, the board approved doubling the spending for the Sheriff’s Office and a staff increase from 321 to 471 employees. As for transportation, construction is in process for the Route 7 and Algonkian Parkway interchange, a groundbreaking was held last month for the Route 28 and Route 606 interchange, the commuter bus service was expanded by 30 percent and three major Park and Ride lots were opened.
"The county is a very complex story to tell," said Randy Collins, chamber president, adding that York’s presentation provided "a great overview of where we are and where we’ve been."