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The Vinton Town Council voiced interest in joing the Western Virginia Regional Industrial Facility Authority.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
In an effort to spur economic activity across the Roanoke Valley, officials from seven local governments this summer will consider joining a new regional authority that will allow them to share resources to lure new business into the region.
The Vinton Town Council on Tuesday was one of the first of the localities to discuss the benefits of joining the Western Virginia Regional Industrial Facility Authority during a council work session. Town Manager Chris Lawrence has expressed his interest in joining the authority.
"I think the Roanoke Valley has always been fairly good at regional cooperation," Lawrence said. "But I think in 2008, when the economy tanked, we have all had to re-evaluate again and re-decide what's important, what we can do together and what we can do as individuals."
The authority would include Roanoke, Botetourt, Franklin and Montgomery counties, along with Vinton, Salem and Roanoke. Lawrence said that, together, the localities would work to identify and create 100-plus acre industrial paths to bring in larger business. The land is available, he said, but in many cases it has not been for businesses that seek an industrial park.
"We keep losing potential prospects because of that," he said.
The idea of the authority came out of the Economic Regional Summit held in March. The summit was convened by the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors and facilitated discussion about what area localities could do to improve the environment for new and existing businesses. As part of the agreement, participating localities will be allowed to select which regional projects they want to support. Any expense to the localities would be tied to those projects.
The town council voiced approval of the move.
"I don't see any drawbacks to this type of regional cooperation," said Councilman Wes Nance.
In Salem, City Manager Kevin Boggess said joining the authority would alter some aspects of how his city cooperates with neighboring jurisdictions. As an example, Boggess mentioned the possibility of selling a Salem-owned parcel of land in Roanoke County that used to serve as a water treatment plant.
"We're simply a landowner at that point," he said, "and in terms of economic development, we need to sell the land for the very highest price we can because there's no tax revenue coming back to us."
But as a member of the authority, officials in Salem would be able to work out a deal with the county and focus on a long-term investment rather than a one-time land deal.
"We might give away the land, and in exchange the county might give us back a portion of the tax revenue for a set amount of time," he said.
David Moorman, the deputy county administrator for Botetourt County, echoed Boggess' observations.
"The localities that wanted to participate, they could share the cost of developing a piece of property," he said. "And they could then share in revenue."
With the ability to share tax dollars, regional cooperation can be less focused on the physical location of a new business and more on the net impact of bringing it into the area. Lawrence agreed, adding that while an industrial site might never wind up in Vinton, his town could still reap some of the benefits.
"If one county gets the site, it's going to help everybody," Lawrence said. "All those employees have to live somewhere, they have to shop somewhere."
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