Loudoun County's efforts to lure new business and grow the commercial tax base are largely on the right track, but a slight re-branding may help snag a few more companies, the Board of Supervisors determined Wednesday.
During their second February meeting, supervisors voted to mostly maintain the county's current structure of economic development strategy – one that includes a county Department of Economic Development, a Board of Supervisors Economic Development Committee, an Economic Development Commission that promotes Loudoun for new business and an authority that provides recommendations to the board and issues tax exempt revenue bonds for various commercial facilities.
The small shift will come in the name of that authority. While it's been labeled an Industrial Development Authority in the past, the supervisors voted Wednesday to rename it an Economic Development Authority. The board-appointed authority's function won't change, meaning it will continue to make recommendations whether approval be given to certain organizations, including nonprofits, for lower financing rates for their facilities.
Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) pointed out, however, the mission still exists to create more cooperation and communication between the new authority and the Department of Economic Development.
“An IDA sounds like smoke stacks, industrial. So we're re-branding it an EDA, but the fact is it still has full bonding authority … ,” Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said. “Our challenge now is to create a tighter coupling between what we have as an EDA going forward and the Department of Economic Development and the EDC (Economic Development Commission).”
In 2012, the all-Republican Board of Supervisors upped by hundreds of thousands dollars the Department of Economic Development budget for new positions aimed at landing new companies in the county.
In recent months there was some discussion -- sparked largely from a Government Reform Commission study -- of shifting all economic development efforts under the watch of an Economic Development Authority and doing away with a Department of Economic Development.
Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) agreed with the majority of his colleagues now is not the time to change course.
“Things are going fairly well right now,” York said.
The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce was on board with the supervisors' action. Tony Howard, president of the local chamber, sent board members a letter endorsing keeping the Economic Development Commission and “its role as advisers to the Department of Economic Development and the Board of Supervisors, and to expand the responsibilities of these business and community leaders to include providing counsel to the EDA Board.”
Moreover, Howard wrote, the Board of Supervisors efforts should include “fully equipping the EDA with the financial and strategic resources and support necessary to effectively complement the DED’s work to market Loudoun and to secure new business investments. An additional measure should also include providing the EDA and DED partnership the maximum amount of operational independence it needs to effectively work to recruit new and expanded business investments in the county.”