With jobs and the economy on everyone’s mind, what would be on your agenda to help make Chesterfield County more attractive to job creators?
MARK FAUSZ - BERMUDA
Chesterfield County has always had a hard time attracting mega employers and small businesses alike. Since the mid 1900s we have seen little growth in business that hires a lot of people, pays well and offers good benefit packages. It used to be that a worker could spend 25 or 30 years at one company and retire comfortably. There are very few businesses that offer that kind of security anymore.
Chesterfield’s economic development department has worked hard to land one of the big corporations that hire many and pay well but there is one thing that is quickly slipping away as a viable sales tool -- excellent schools and our outstanding public safety. These factors, in a formula needed to attract business, are stressed due to declining working conditions (over 35 children in some school classes and police who work overtime just to make ends meet) and the least pay of any other jurisdiction in the area.
Our county has somehow mixed up its priorities. If we don’t take care of our police, firefighters and school teachers, the people on the front lines of success for this county, how will we be able to attract new business? At the same time we can’t take care of our greatest assets without getting new business.
The circle goes round and round. Fiscal responsibility is what is needed so we can plant the seeds of success. It will take intelligent decisions and not ideology or coddling to special interests to get there.
DOROTHY JAECKLE - BERMUDA
One of my fundamental beliefs is that providing job opportunities improves the quality of life for Chesterfield citizens. Job creators are interested in several things: A business-friendly community, quality of life issues for employees, and an educated work force.
I will continue to work in a collaborative spirit with Chesterfield County Administration, the Economic Development Department, and business leaders to provide this business-friendly environment for investment to create jobs and enhance our community. I am honest with businesses; they know if I say I will support their project, I will consistently fight for it. However, I always ask them to involve the affected community, beyond the minimum requirement, in their planning.
Our region attracts employers with its reasonable cost of living and relatively simple commutes from homes to jobs. We must not create burdensome regulation that drives up housing costs nor expand government programs forcing higher taxes. We also need to ensure the county and state continue to fund road and infrastructure improvements here, such as the Meadowville interchange, the extension of Powhite into Centerpoint, and the widening of Route 10. Such projects bring job growth and attract better housing. Our new comprehensive plan will align growth with infrastructure to prevent the traffic problems experienced in other areas.
Our school system has always attracted employers. It must stay aligned with the standards and expectations of a high quality workforce that employers expect. The renovation of the old Clover Hill High School also provides an opportunity to work with the business community to deliver a first class technical education facility.
JAMES "JIM" HOLLAND - DALE
Chesterfield County has made significant progress in attracting business investment and creating jobs over the last four years. Last year, Chesterfield County received $142.7 million in business investment and created 762 new jobs. Whiling landing new investment and jobs, Chesterfield County was named for the fifth consecutive time “One of the 100 Best Communities in America for Young People” by America’s Promise – the Alliance for Youth. Chesterfield County continued to maintain a AAA bond rating, saving the county millions of dollars. This past summer Chesterfield County received a number of national awards for the efficient delivery of services to its citizens and for having the best county web site in the country.
A major focus of my agenda will include promoting economic development in Chesterfield County to attract job creators. In addition to maintaining a high quality of life, I will:
Last September I launched a new initiative, “Your Business Starts Here” at the Meadowdale Library with a web portal that will continue to create businesses and jobs. At the business center, job creators can improve existing products and services and create new products with library assistance.
In last week’s “Ask the Candidate” question, Supervisor Jim Holland did not receive the question by email, therefore not answering for the series. Our apologies for the miscommunication.
CLIFF BICKFORD - DALE
The business community perceives Chesterfield’s planning process as simply too long and drawn-out when compared to other jurisdictions in the Greater Richmond area, and perception is reality when the county is competing to attract new businesses and jobs. While I would never advocate that the county take short cuts in the planning process, it’s vitally important that streamlining of the process continues to be a priority in order to offset the negative perception that exists. Meeting regularly with developers & engineers to review ordinances that restrict or slow development will be one important aspect of this effort.
The no-growth stance of years past in the county was a perspective that lacked an understanding of what no-growth would truly mean to each of us individually and to the county as a whole. All trades & occupations are affected by this, whether they are roofers, painters, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and anyone else that has a business or job that contributes to development. Sensible and well thought out decisions need to be made bearing in mind the important relationship between jobs and development in order to keep residents gainfully employed. Rights, responsibility, and reality are all critical components to consider while planning wisely for the county’s future.
MARLEEN DURFEE - MATOACA
In 2007, four out of the five new supervisors were elected. Shortly after taking office, the new Board identified three key priorities, which included economic development, education and public safety.
Specifically, the Economic Development Department has been working to strengthen our small business sector working closely with individuals and business leaders. They developed an initiative titled “Our Business Starts Here” to further assist entrepreneurs. Even though the economy has been the most challenging in Chesterfield’s history, new business investment during FY 2010-2011 was $142.7 million. During 2008 - 2011, 2,382 new jobs were created in the County. The Board also adopted a fee holiday to help businesses during this time.
In Matoaca alone, there were 850+ new jobs created (Hancock Village, Commonwealth 20). The most recent investment in Matoaca is “Uptown Alley”, the largest entertainment complex in Virginia, a $20 million dollar investment that will create 100 additional jobs to start.
Going forward, we need to expand our marketing efforts of Chesterfield as an ideal place for a business to be formed or to relocate to. With its abundance of resources (including a strong educational system) and a great quality of life, it provides an ideal location for any employer.
Two areas of focus going forward will be to expand our historic and sports tourism industries.
Strengthening our economic development component can only create a better balance for the tax revenue needed for our public facilities and service needs. The current Board is working diligently to continue the push for future economic growth and new job creation.
STEVE ELSWICK - MATOACA
I think Chesterfield County’s economic climate is a sleeping giant. We have so much potential in the county for economic development, however we have focused so much attention on the “big hits” that we don’t recognize the value of small businesses role in the positive growth of the county. We need to focus on business and manufacturing, as well as the huge opportunity for positive growth in the Ettrick Community, supporting and synergizing with VSU. We should continue to work on reducing economic barriers to existing and new businesses locating in the county.
Our commercial tax rate percentages are too low. Homeowners bear too much of the tax burden. While we are sustaining government with the current tax breakdown, we simply cannot afford to proactively build our infrastructure cost on new businesses. This drives up the cost for businesses to open up in Chesterfield County. Businesses often look elsewhere. While this concept seems ok at face value, in essence the cost is passed onto the citizenry thus another form of taxation.