Bacon Bits: $$$$$ Edition

They didn’t ask this question until now? Will the wave of Amazon-inspired development in the Pentagon City area of Arlington County overwhelm the region’s transportation network? “Arlington planners, and nervous neighbors, want to know,” reports the Washington Business Journal. Some neighborhood groups are wary that the point of the planning review is to clear the way for a major up-zoning in the area. “They fear the county could determine that the neighborhood has the transportation infrastructure to handle more residents and allow for density increases — even though they believe the opposite is true.”

Meanwhile, JBG Smith Properties and other developers are pitching massive new projects around the new Amazon HQ. Not coincidentally, the WBJ reports, “JBG Smith ramped up its political giving in Virginia with control of the General Assembly on the line.” JBG Smith’s Virginia campaign contributions this electoral cycle: $34,206.

Glad to hear that “Black Enterprise” is still a thing. The Mount Olive Baptist Church in Culpeper wants to create a network of support, mentorship and information for African-American small business owners. Black business ownership is increasing, but black entrepreneurs face big challenges. The goal of the network is to help them gain knowledge about finances, start-up capital and the industrial/managerial skills it takes to grow successful enterprises, reports the Star-Exponent. As the politics of grievance and victimhood have taken hold nationally, we don’t hear much about black enterprise these days. I cannot help but note that this initiative comes from a black church, not a foundation-funded think tank staffed by white intellectuals.

Can you say “overreach”? Virginia Tech will spend $5 million to $10 million to launch a biomedical research facility in Washington, D.C. by early 2021, the university announced yesterday. On a campus of a new Children’s National Hospital campus, four or five Virginia Tech research teams will conduct research on cancers of the brain and nervous system. Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands said in a statement the partnership fits Tech’s ambition “to solve big problems and create new opportunities in Virginia and D.C. through education, technology and research.”

Wow! Virginia’s major land-grant university is now expanding outside the state. That’s a first. Obvious questions: Where is the money coming from? Could it be spent to better advantage in other ways? Which is more important to Tech now: teaching undergraduates or becoming a research powerhouse?

— JAB

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13 responses to “Bacon Bits: $$$$$ Edition

  1. Va. Tech already has a biomedical research program at the Carilon facility in Roanoke. According to the announcement, faculty at that facility have been collaborating with Children’s National for some time. I am assuming that Va. Tech chose to go this route rather than expand in place because it would give more national exposure. It also seems to be a complement to its Amazon campus. I am guessing that most of the money will come from grants or contracts, but we should watch the Governor’s budget.

    It is fascinating that Tech has suddenly eclipsed UVa. not only in cyber engineering, but, now, perhaps in biomedical research. It also has stolen the spotlight in the backyards of two medical schools in the D.C. area–Georgetown and GW.

    • From the newspaper reports, it seems that part of the proposal would have Va.Tech spending $5-10 million “to establish the teams and laboratories in a 12,000-square-foot space”. This may be tricky because it is generally not allowable for a state agency to spend state money on a facility that is not state-owned. It will all depend on the accounting.

  2. Taxpayer- and student- (parent) funded universities that spend big bucks to become major research entities (that go beyond integrating research into instruction) should form a separate affiliate (at least for accounting purposes). Transactions between the two should be based on “purchasing” goods and services from the instructional side at the higher of cost or market and “selling” goods and services at the lower of cost or market.

    All profits should be retained by the research affiliate to fund future operations. All losses should be publicly investigated.

    This approach would give universities considerable freedom to compete for major research work, while protecting tuition-payers and taxpayers.

    • Excellent idea. Create a “Chinese wall” between pure research initiatives and academics.

    • Theoretically, this is a good idea. However, I have serious doubts about its practicality. Most of these research centers use graduate students, medical or otherwise, in many of their projects. It would be difficult to define the line between “integrating research into instruction” and using (hiring) graduate students as part of the research.

      • I agree that it would take some effort to define the line between integrating research into instruction and larger scale research. But I believe some reasonable line could be drawn and adjusted if needed. If a grad student is hired by the research arm, it simply pays the individual out of its budget. If the grad student also teaches, the education side would pay him/her from its budget based on time sheets or other reasonable procedures.

        The University would simply prepare a cost allocation manual that specifies how revenues, expenses and investments would be handled. Items are directly assigned when possible and allocated, using reasonable factors, when direct assignment is not possible. Affiliate transaction rules, as I described earlier, would also be used. The manual would be reviewed by the State and used when approved. The annual results would also be reviewed/audited by the State. We don’t need precision down to the last dollar but cross subsidies from student education fees must be prohibited.

        It’s really not that hard. I wrote a cost allocation manual for a communications holding company that had both regulated and unregulated operations. It submitted the manual to regulatory agencies for approval (which was granted) and followed it.

        If an audit finds errors, they need to be corrected. If the errors rise to the level of fraud, more serious actions would need to be taken, as appropriate.

        And to Larry’s question, one could do the same thing for athletics or even specific sports.

  3. Like Dick – I wonder if such Research is a benefit and opportunity to students – And one more thing that would attract high quality students.

    I’m a bit amused that the concern about the relationship of research to academics is more of a focus that Collegiate sports and the Pros….

    Does anyone REALLY think that there is such a Chinese Wall between Sports and Academics? ;;-)

  4. People are wondering whether the new Amazon campus and the related Virginia Tech campus will snarl traffic? Of course they will. Cross over the Arlington / Fairfax border into McLean and tell me how the traffic looks right now. Between industrializing Loudoun County and the expansion in Tysons it’s a mess.

    The only solution to hyper-growth of business in Potomac Landing is hyper-growth of road capacity getting to and from Potomac Landing. Forget the Smart Growth hallucinations, people drive cars. Especially affluent people who work irregular hours. Why is this even hard?

    Is Virginia Tech de-emphasizing rural Virginia? First they agree to a real campus in Arlington and now biotech in DC? Sounds like they’re following the urbanization trend.

    I guess they’re going to drive right past Richmond on the way to the DC area. That’s a shame. One hundred years ago Richmond had real potential. In 1920 it was considerably more populous than Charlotte, Austin and Nashville. It was close to the same population as Atlanta. Today (100 years later) Charlotte is 4 times bigger than Richmond, Austin is five times bigger, Atlanta is more than twice as big and Nashville is three times bigger. Louisville was about the same size as Richmond in 1920 and is three times bigger today. Richmond grew 33% from 1920 to 2018. Montgomery Alabama grew 356% over that period. Jackson, Mississippi grew 621%. Little Rock – 204%. The United States – 208%.

    It really is striking among southern US cities how Richmond has failed to thrive. Is there some structural reason Richmond can’t grow? Some endemic lack of imagination?

    I’m serious. Cities are where wealth is created these days. Richmond’s lack of growth is a real problem for Virginia. Besides, if it had grown I could root for Richmond’s NFL team instead of the Redskins. This lack of growth is hurting all Virginians.

    Richmond looks like a nice place. The 99% of Richmonders who don’t think they are descended from Pocahontas seem friendly, smart and hard-working.

    Why the failure to grow?

    • It’s OK with me that it hasn’t grown anymore than it has. Bigger is not always the best. Just look at the traffic. And, it is beginning to grow; downtown is showing more life than it has in more than 20 years.

      • So, your argument is that the lack of growth was intentional? Richmond was growing right along with all the other southern cities until about 1920. Then, it just seemed to stop. Intentional slowdown or Byrd Machine ruralist philosophy? From 1920 through 2018 Richmond grew at 1/7th the rate of the United States and 1/8th the rate of Virginia. Had Richmond grown at the same rate as the state overall it would have a population of 633,000 today. And I’d probably be rooting for the Richmond Rats instead of the Washington Redskins.

        To be clear, I’m fine and dandy with the idea that Richmonders want to remain a backwater from a population growth perspective. I’ve long adhered to the idea that the strict implementation of Dillon’s Rule in Virginia is sheer folly. However, I also understand that real cities generate real economic opportunity. So, if not Richmond – where? NoVa will always be something of a high density suburb of DC. I’m all for more growth in NoVa (assuming NoVa gets to keep enough of its taxes to fund that growth). But I can’t see NoVa ever being a distinctive city. Charlottesville? Maybe. Perhaps we should start moving state government functions and departments to Charlottesville in order to “seed” its growth since Richmonders want to “opt out” of being a hub of economic growth.

  5. Oh – GEEZE – Virginia IS …. GROWING – and it’s doing so in the urban areas that are forward thinking and to be honest – it’s a chicken/egg process where we grow and traffic gets awful so we backfit mass transit like we see in places like New York, Chicago, Seattle and LA.

    It’s the way we choose to grow because we have Conservative types who say Mass Transit is a failure and cannot be built ahead of the growth.

    right?

    Richmond does not “grow” like NoVa because it is the center of Conservative thinking of in Virgina. It’s literally the Virginia Way of all things economic and political in this state. Right?

    NoVa is a dynamic and diverse urbanizing region where it totally rejects/ignores Virginia’s plantation mentality history and acts much like a child that rejects it’s parents “old ways” of doing things.

    NoVa is more like Maryland and New Jersey than Richmond and it’s roots in Richmond where separate but equal massive resistance was the way we did things.

    Having said that, NoVa is not for me – it’s a big ugly revolving transportation disaster fit only for the young and agile! Those “get off my lawn types” in Nova are DOOMED – they’re virtual zombies!

    • “Richmond does not “grow” like NoVa because it is the center of Conservative thinking of in Virgina. It’s literally the Virginia Way of all things economic and political in this state. Right?”

      That’s how it looks to me.

      But there should be a real benefit to being the state capital and Richmond has underperformed from a growth perspective for a century. Maybe its time to move the capital to a city where the citizens will try to make something of their city. Roanoke?

  6. No.. Roanoke is not it. Charlottesville would be better.

    😉

    but Richmond is the traditional and conventional center and Richmond is changing – for the better – look at the elections in Henrico and Chesterfield.

    NoVa is a mess in more ways than one but the transportation is a big negative… too many people with too many cars who want to drive everywhere for everything – solo.

    They need to toll the hell out of the roads to convince people to be more efficient and less frivolous demand of the transportation network.

    Richmond, in contrast, is much more transpo “friendly”. When I fly , I fly out of Richmond – National/Dulles/BWI, while cheaper are gawd-awful messes also.

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