Opinion Prince William County needs more economic development, but it doesn’t have to copy Fairfax or Fauquier counties models to get it
Letter to the Editor
Now that this years’ election has concluded and budget season is here, it is time for the Prince William Board of County Supervisors to make good on their campaign promises.
At the December 1 Board meeting, Chairman Stewart took the first steps to follow through on his promises to improve the County’s business climate and expand the commercial tax base by announcing the introduction of an aggressive economic development agenda in the coming weeks. What exactly can we hope to expect from the Chairman’s economic development plan?
The Prince William Chamber of Commerce has a few recommendations: First, the county should continue to invest in local transportation infrastructure. Prince William County has invested $1.4 billion in local roads over the past seven years. This is the most significant local investment in the Commonwealth, and justifiably so considering Northern Virginia’s unfortunate reputation for having some of the worst traffic congestion in the United States.
To attract businesses that would normally locate inside the beltway, Prince William County needs to be able to ensure businesses that they will be able to move their goods, services, and workforce efficiently from local roadways to the larger highway system that connects our region to areas like Washington, D.C. and Dulles International Airport.
Secondly, the County must further incentivize small business and continue to reinvent itself as a center for innovation. Aside from traffic congestion, interjurisdictional competition is a tremendous challenge for the county.
Neighboring localities are all competing for the same pool of businesses and offering a variety of “carrots” to encourage entry into their market. Last year, the Board of County Supervisors put forth a plan to gradually increase the number of businesses exempted from paying the Business, Professional, and Occupational Licensing (BPOL) tax over the next five years. Once the plan is fully implemented, nearly 75% of all businesses in the county will be exempt from the tax levied on their gross receipts. That is an impressive statistic for any locality to champion but it should be noted that the types of businesses that are still not exempt from the tax number in the thousands.
By definition, the overwhelming majority of businesses still impacted by this tax are small businesses. The county has the opportunity to brand itself as the small business community as well as a hub for innovation by continuing down the path it started on last year and fully exempting all small businesses.
Finally, the County needs to continue to invest in its own economic development department; especially when it comes to advertising and supporting the type of analytical research necessary to identify new and innovative economic development opportunities. Our region is strategically located between I-66 and I-95 offering easy access to Washington, D.C. and two major airports. It is anchored by George Mason University’s Science and Technology Campus and two Northern Virginia Community College campuses which are part of the largest community college system in the country. Our public school system is among the largest in the nation and one of the best in the state.
And finally, the County’s quality of life is outstanding when looking at the cost of living in Northern Virginia. As a community we have gone through something of an identity crisis the past few years as a formerly rural area that has experienced rapid growth. The Prince William region has its own winning brand and does not need to be Fairfax or Fauquier County to be successful.
The business community, represented by the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, is looking forward to working alongside the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. Our community is poised for incredible economic growth over the next few years if we pursue these types of initiatives.
Brendon Shaw is the Director of Government Relations for the Prince William Chamber of Commerce.Send news and photos to Potomac Local
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