- Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 18:21
- Published on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 18:21
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District 3 Supervisor Lynn Brownley has spent his life in Westmoreland County and considers himself a fairly keen observer of what has worked and what has failed to deliver the desired economic development objectives in the still rural jurisdiction he calls home.
Brownley had a special place on the Supervisors’ meeting agenda last Monday night, presenting the white paper he had promised during the previous month’s session that outlined portions of the economic development initiative he hopes Board colleagues will embrace.
“I believe that Westmoreland County needs to undertake a specific, targeted and comprehensive initiative to better promote our County and foster business and commercial growth, both from within and without,” the Supervisor told Board colleagues and county residents.
“Our County Administrators, Planning District Commission, Regional Partnership and State Economic Development representatives have worked hard in the past, occasionally with some reasonable success. At other times we have just missed sealing the deal.
“Opportunities have been created and certainly a few have been realized, yet we must do much more to avoid continued stagnation and dependence solely on a growing retiree tax base.”
The presence of the manufacturing enterprise known as Carry-On Trailer in the county’s industrial park was cited as an example of a successful past economic development initiative. The failure to recruit an industry willing to locate in the industrial park’s shell building is a glaring reminder of one or more missed opportunities.
Brownley presented a warning about allowing the local government to continue to rely on creation of ever more retirement communities on the county’s waterfront. With limited opportunities to raise the necessary revenue, ever more pressure is placed on the county’s landowners, a trend the District 3 Supervisor hopes his economic development proposal might offset.
“Given the general economic landscape our county faces and the special challenges facing our rural community, we should locate and consider engaging a specialist,” Brownley reasoned.
“That person would articulate and lead in the development of a strategy to increase our community potential, identify businesses that fit a desired profile, those that have compatible goals, that can utilize existing governmental and private resources and can grow with us in the foreseeable future.
“Most especially, we need direct assistance to broaden and encourage our current entrepreneur class. I conclude that we can no longer be passive or merely react to inquiries. We surely must make some of our own luck and be diligent about it.”
Brownley cited the Montross establishment known as The Art of Coffee as being a successful example of the kind of entrepreneurial initiative needed in Westmoreland.
“After many months of study, numerous discussions, several meetings, and probing ideas and approaches with certain persons in the field, I suggest to the Board that we pursue our own county version of economic encouragement.
“Along the way we might also truly conserve some of our natural resources in a meaningful way. We should market proactively Westmoreland County.
“We should promote and enhance tourism and recreational values, create more options for landowners, and develop, including promotional schemes, value-added events. I can provide some examples of successful efforts in other jurisdictions.”
Brownley presented a list of interrelated activities he considered essential to launch a successful economic development initiative. Public relations, communications, target marketing, identification of compatible businesses and encouragement and assistance for entrepreneurs already operating in Westmoreland were included near the top of the activity list he shared.
Other initiatives included fundraising help for broader community endeavors, creating a liaison between businesses and the Board of Supervisors, revitalizing and supporting the Chambers of Commerce in Westmoreland County and the Town of Colonial Beach, creating and improving content for the county government’s new website, assisting with parts of the Comprehensive Plan amendment and “anything else related and productive.”
“If strategically planned, these tasks and engagements can be complementary, one to another, and benefits would accrue as multi-motivated effects,” Supervisor Brownley reasoned.
“I have some further thoughts on budgeting, describing what we should expect, how we may utilize some funds, how to approach costs and investment, and how we can readily build a team.
“Several citizens and a few other officials have effectively reached similar conclusions. Some see parallel paths with involvement of community investors and recreational/tourist experiences.
“People’s use of their property must prove profitable. We can harness certain change and use it to propel us toward more community capacity and a sustainable lifestyle in the long run.”
Brownley then related that despite his belief in the initiatives he has proposed, he continues “to harbor grave concerns as to the present need and obligation to preserve and retain not just the properties that have been set aside as open land, but larger areas of mature forest, buffered productive agricultural tracks, and corridors along the county’s waterways.
“I have come to realize that successful, forward-reaching initiatives of commerce may serve to predicate the literal ‘heritage-keeping’ of more of the lands, woods and waters that can still provide us and others with some pride and peace,” he said.
“Most pertinently, we should try harder now to define and invent our future here. To revere the past and supercharge our history is important to us and to our visitors.
Brownley advised that the actions he proposes are needed is Westmoreland County is to improve its “tax base and [create] opportunities for our own citizens to really improve our community, to help us direct growth, and to give us the impetus we need to continue our rural lifestyle.
“I am certain,” he then stated, “we can make provision if we describe our vision and pursue a planned approach to economic encouragement.
“We must face, and to a large extent, embrace our future. Tough times are here, but we can use wisdom long-term and prepare for action now.
“I would appreciate your thoughts, concerns, queries, suggestions, modifications and objections to what I outline here. This,” said Brownley, “is an elementary approach, but it is a better model for tomorrow in the Northern Neck.”