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Data centers to trucking: Prince William County wants to review its ‘target industries’ list

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY — The Prince William County Board of Supervisors is considering to fund a Targeted Industry and Competitive Analysis Study, requiring a transfer of $125,000 from contingency to the Department of Economic Development Fiscal Year 2018 budget to conduct the study.

Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland moved to table the measure during the Board’s Sept. 5, 2017, and requested more information from members of county’s economic development staff.

“We’re hiring so many consultants, and it seems our own economic development staff has to say,” said Candland. “We send them to so many conferences; it would be a good idea to get their opinion.”

The county has long touted its “targeted industry” list as a guiding document used to identify which types of companies it would like to attract to the region. The current list includes biosecurity, drug manufacturing, data centers, federal contractors, to short-haul trucking operations, like trucking firm that delivers food to retail stores.  

“The Targeted Industry Study serves many purposes,” said Jeffrey A. Kaczmarek, Executive Director, Prince William County Department of Economic Development. “However, its findings and conclusions help solidify a ‘roadmap’ aimed at increased business attraction efforts and identifying ideal industry clusters, while taking into consideration the region’s values, assets, resources, and trends.

“All business plans, public or private, need to be constantly reviewed and updated to assess the competition and the overall business environment and how to best respond.”

A study with history

In 1995, the Board of Supervisors (BOCS) approved a Targeted List of Industries established under the 1992 Strategic Plan. The Targeted List of Industries has been amended several times since then. The most recent amendment occurred in February 2014.

At that time, the BOCS expanded the list of targeted industries to include medical networks, computer game design and visualization/simulation, cyber security, bioinformatics and nanotechnologies, and advanced logistics/advanced manufacturing to the list of target industries available to participate in the fee reduction program.

According to Kaczmarek, to maintain a competitive market position, a new study is needed to update the targeted list of industries.

“The opportunity to perform a new customized, targeted analysis was born from a variety of reasons, namely to be consistent with a newly Board-adopted 2017-2020 Strategic Plan and continue to be proactive in our economic development efforts,” Kaczmarek said.
“This new Board adopted Strategic Plan is the perfect opportunity to assess our changed conditions, just as we did with the original competitiveness analysis/targeted industry study at the beginning of our last [2012-2016] County Strategic Plan.”

The county is not an island

Kaczmarek said the study is a way “to ensure diversification in the marketplace and to define our approach to building a ‘Robust Economy’ to accelerate the quality of life for our businesses, residents, and visitors.

To do this, it’s important to get outside and independent verification of our approach to a robust economy, not just relying on internal assessments.”

Local, state, national and international trends all affect the way the Strategic Plan is developed.

“The world changes. And in industry, coupled with new technology, it moves very quickly,” Kaczmarek said.
“Federal sequestration, downsizing of the corporate office real estate, workforce development and increased competition are always determining factors for consideration. On the opposite spectrum, Prince William County is growing at an accelerated rate.”

In the first half of 2017, the Department logged $746 million in intended capital investment and 636 new jobs from nine projects.

Before this, in the last five calendar years [2012-2016], projects closed by the Prince William County Department of Economic Development alone intend to invest a record of nearly $4 billion and create approximately 2,600 new jobs.

The study will be performed in parallel and in context to the broader statewide studies to generate further opportunities to increase business attraction and retention.

Location, location, innovation

The location has always been one of Prince William County’s advantages, according to Kaczmarek. “Prince William County’s growth is owed in part to its strategic location and excellent competitive advantages, such as a ready supply of skilled, young professionals, affordable and available land, which result in a strong value proposition within the Greater Washington, DC metropolitan area.”

Prince William County has long sought advanced manufacturing, data centers, life sciences and biotechnology, information technology communications, cyber security, specialized logistics and supply chains.

When these types of businesses expand in the county, it creates a ripple effect for increased business through the supply chain.

“A prime example is Innovation Park, which continues to evolve. As companies move in and expand, they shift the working paradigm and bring with them a new set of demographics to the area. These types of shifting factors require closer attention to ensure that we are meeting and delivering on the expectations of our business community,” added Economic Development spokeswoman Ginny Person.
Having George Mason University, Virginia’s largest public research university, central to Innovation Park, has significant advantages to life sciences and biotechnology focused enterprises and startups,” she said.

Kaczmarek highlighted the importance entrepreneurs have in the county. “Innovation and entrepreneurs go hand-in-hand,” he said.

The exact date of when the proposal will be reviewed on the BOCS’s agenda is still to be determined.

If approved, the Targeted Industry Competitive Analysis Study is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2018.

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