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Sisley a ‘Paladin’ for economic development

Jim Sisley LeesburgJim Sisley, owner of Paladin Real Estate, also serves as the chair of the Leesburg Economic Development Commission. Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny
Commitment. Passion. Dedication.

These are the common words used by friends and colleagues to describe the man who is in large part shaping the economic future of Leesburg – Jim Sisley, president of the Leesburg Economic Development Commission.

These are the common words used by friends and colleagues to describe the man who is in large part shaping the economic future of Leesburg – Jim Sisley, president of the Leesburg Economic Development Commission.

Sisley moved to Leesburg from Texas almost twenty years ago to be closer to his children after they moved to the area with their mother. He found a job in Reston and traveled around the country selling telecommunications.

Sisley now owns Paladin Real Estate, which deals with commercial properties in Northern Virginia.

He started his involvement with Leesburg in 1996, becoming active with a group who wanted to promote the historic downtown area while preserving its architectural feel and community.

"At that time, we tried to create great events that would bring people into Leesburg," Sisley said.

They began by organizing an art festival and music events, which continues today.

"I was involved in the first and most of the subsequent Art Festivals in Leesburg. It's my favorite Leesburg event," Sisley said.

He adds he also enjoyed the Mardi Gras event organized by the Leesburg Downtown Business Association a few years ago. "I hope that Leesburg can do that event again in the future," Sisley said.

"Leesburg is my chosen hometown. My involvement began as a way of learning how the town creates and manages zoning ordinance because of its critical impact on commercial real estate. I learned how interconnected zoning ordinance is with the success or challenges faced by Leesburg businesses and most importantly the citizens. That led me to seek a commission appointment and the related work proved fascinating," Sisley said.

Sisley explains some of the challenges Leesburg is currently facing, which include the parking and construction on King Street, as well as the water tax fees which he says can be very costly to businesses.

"Our community needs private sector and citizen involvement to help identify issues and advance the best possible solutions for consideration by town staff and elected officials. I'm trying to help the community achieve progress toward its full potential while preserving its historic assets, charm and character," said Sisley.

Part of Leesburg's economic success recently is due to the number of federal contractors located in the hub zone, Sisley notes. "It's the highest profile driver."

"Restaurants continue to show strong interest due to the wealth in our community. People are eating out more," Sisley said. However, he added that the town needs to draw more restaurants to the area.

Another potential for growth is the travel and tourism industry, which continues to benefit from industry demand. It is 12 percent greater than in 2012, Sisley said. There are many retail openings, such as we need sporting goods, kitchen and home furnishings, computer software and hardware supplies.

"The goal is to fill that gap," Sisley said.

Sisley has the support of Kelly Burk, who serves on the Leesburg Town Council.

"Jim Sisley is very committed to the Town of Leesburg and to Leesburg's economic growth. He is an innovative thinker and is always looking for ways to attract new businesses and support established Leesburg businesses. The Leesburg Economic Development Commission is very lucky to have him as chair of the commission," said Burk.

"Jim is very intelligent and focused. He runs a very good meeting and had a great love for Leesburg," said Gwen Pangle, president of the Leesburg Downtown Business Association. "Everything he does is to benefit Leesburg and economic development," she added.

Looking ahead 20 years, Sisley has a vision for Leesburg to "make the leap to city status for all the benefits that our citizens would realize due to local management and control of tax revenues. Obviously, Leesburg will have more citizens that enjoy and jealously protect our ‘small town’ vibe. I trust that our elected officials, government staff and citizen volunteers have been successful in attracting the high paying employers that provide enough jobs so that every Leesburger who wants to work can do so right here without a big commute. Finally, I envision a well-managed municipality overseeing a safe community producing the highest quality of life in Virginia and is 20 years closer to becoming an architecturally well preserved, 350 year old version of the Leesburg we enjoy today,"

Don Chapman, who serves as vice chairman for the Leesburg Economic Development Commission, says Sisley has the drive to help develop the town's business growth in a positive way.

"Jim’s passion for Leesburg coupled with his in-depth knowledge of Leesburg commercial real estate history and local business issues is a tremendous asset to the town and a key element as to why the EDC is having a direct impact on reducing barriers for new businesses to find a home in our town. His leadership of the commission is always professional, fair, and concise," said Chapman.

This profile originally appeared the the Times-Mirror's "Downtown Leesburg" publication for the fourth quarter of 2013.


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