Localities look to partner for economic development opportunities
WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - Unemployment rates are down in Virginia, and so are the value of products. Business leaders say that reflects a lack of high-wage jobs. A new state initiative is expected to change that. Southwest Virginia has had its fair share of company layoffs, business bankruptcies, and a loss of jobs in the past decade. Many other regions across the state are now feeling impacts of similar economic circumstances. That is why the initiative for growth and opportunity known as GO Virginia was created. "What we're seeing is we're getting jobs, which is great, but they're not the higher paying jobs that turn over the economic activity," Region 1 chairman Mike Quillen said. Region 1 covers all of southwest Virginia. Quillen said some mountainous areas of our region, which are still lacking good roads, struggle to overcome the isolation and recruit good paying jobs. However, he said they can offer incentives that other areas cannot. "We actually with the Tobacco Commission, the coal severance and gas taxes, the Appalachian Regional Commission, we actually have more resources for incentives than most of the rest of the Commonwealth," Quillen said. GO Virginia encourages localities to cooperate and partner, rather than compete for business. "If we don't start working together, we're all going to die on the vine," Washington County administrator Jason Berry said. Washington County and Bristol, Virginia leaders are now looking at the potential to partner for business and industry developments. "We've got some pretty nice properties and sites for advanced manufacturing. They have some nice office space, so working together, I think we can accomplish a lot more," Washington County Board of Supervisors Vice-Chair Saul Hernandez said. Hernandez said working together should allow the two to pool resources and see a better return on investments. They have already targeted priorities like marketing the old Alpha Natural Resources building. "If we were work together to relocate a corporate headquarters to that building, you're talking a large, couple-hundred sized company, that could be a large payroll. We'll get a large portion of those payroll taxes rebated back to Bristol and Washington County," Berry said.