With a fictional company in mind and actual stats on hand, members of the county's Economic Development Commission (EDC) gave an insider’s view why businesses and organizations might choose to move to Loudoun.
Dressed in denim shirts with stickers for nametags, five committee members presented the fictional VitaZoom biotech company at the Jan. 9 EDC meeting. They role-played VitaZoom’s field team for site location company Star ReLoc, Inc. of New York as they presented information on Loudoun as a potential business site. VitaZoom, a manufacturer of food additives, wanted to move its headquarters out of Indianapolis, Ind., they said.
PRETENDING the year was 2008, the "field team" said Loudoun has the infrastructure, adequately zoned land and access to transportation and airport facilities the company needs. However, the field team found the county permit process to be lengthy and was concerned about the availability of affordable housing and the length of commute times for VitaZoom’s 100 employees.
"We wanted to make it interesting … and more interactive for the audience," said Steve Robin, former chairman of the EDC's Policy and Implementation Committee (PIC). "Mr. Parker set out a goal for the beginning of 2003 to identify issues in terms of, if the county kept on its current policies, where would it be five years out?"
Robin referred to EDC chairman David Parker, who tasked the committee with compiling the research EDC conducted last year. The Marketing and Business Retention, Transportation and Infrastructure, Education and Workforce, and PIC committees reviewed the goals and action steps outlined in the county’s economic development strategy, originally developed in 1998 and updated in 2000. The committees studied whether the five goals in the strategy should remain the county’s goals and if any of the goals should be changed or new goals added.
"What’s the best way to posture Loudoun County so it’s business development is the best for the county." Robin said.
The committees researched what the county’s infrastructure and transportation facilities could look like in five years, the county’s future labor pool, education and job training opportunities, business assistance and incentives, and quality of life attributes.
Using the information the committees gathered, the PIC identified the advantages and disadvantages for a fictional company considering Loudoun as a business site and pointed out any facets that appeared to need future attention by the Board of Supervisors and county staff.
THE EDC and county staff divided into four work groups following the PIC’s presentation. The groups discussed and listed what they wanted the county to maintain and change in the next five years and identified future opportunities for the county’s business environment, transportation infrastructure, education and workforce resources, and quality of life. They recommended the county:
* Maintain an adequate supply of commercial and industrial-zoned land for purchase, the county’s cultural heritage, public-private initiatives used to fund transportation projects, support for the Dulles rail proposal, a highly educated workforce and quality schools.
* Make several changes, such as enhancing financing for transportation improvements and increasing the availability of affordable housing.
* Take the opportunity for several growing markets, including tourism, biotechnology and homeland defense, and to develop the Western Transportation Corridor and the Potomac River crossing.
At the February EDC meeting, the PIC will summarize and present these recommendations to the commission. The recommendations will help the EDC focus its work plan for 2004 and the Board of Supervisors update the economic develop strategy and, likewise, guide the Department of Economic Development’s work plan.
"This gives the EDC’s perspective on these issues to the board and the department. Those perspectives can be used to create the work plan," said Larry Rosenstrauch, director of the Department of Economic Development, adding that EDC members "are principle economic development advisors to the Board of Supervisors."
"It did get a number of valid issues and concerns out on the table for future discussion," Robin said. "We didn’t necessarily produce answers, and I’m not even sure if we identified 100 percent of the issues. We didn’t pretend that was the bottom line."