Category Archives: Economic development

Virginia Beach, Where Nothing Changes

Pharrell Williams

by Kerry Dougherty

I told you the cronies were back in charge in Virginia Beach.

On August 22 four city officials including Councilmen Aaron Rouse and Linwood Branch — the latter was one of the original “Three Amigos” who were, ah, mighty friendly with local developers decades ago — flew to New York City for a meeting with rap legend and Beach native Pharrell Williams.

Williams yanked his “Something In The Water” festival from his hometown in a huff over what he called a “toxic” Beach environment in the aftermath of an oceanfront orgy of violence and gunfights on March 26, 2021. That bloody Friday night left the Beach resort area looking like a “war zone” and saw 10 people shot, two fatally, including William’s cousin, Donovon Lynch.

Angry knee-jerk rhetoric in the media and elsewhere over Lynch’s death fueled anti-cop fever in the city.

Yet it turned out Lynch was shot by an African-American police officer who was cleared of wrongdoing by a special grand jury that found the officer acted in “justifiable self-defense.”

So what was discussed in Manhattan’s tony Mark Hotel this week where a cheeseburger goes for $41, French fries for $17 and a Margarita will set you back $25? Nothing you peasants should concern yourselves with, say the people who jetted there on your dime. Continue reading

A Chance for Petersburg

Credit: Urban News Weekly

by James C. Sherlock

The Youngkin administration is doing an unalloyed good thing the exact right way. In partnership with two Democrats.

The Governor, in an extraordinary joint presentation with his cabinet secretaries and Democratic Mayor Samuel Parham, laid out a plan for broad state help to Petersburg.

Standing on the stage with Democratic State Senator Joe Morrissey.

Parham, speaking to reporters, said

Governor Youngkin is the first to step down here and say that he is going to put all of his resources in a city to move the dial to create prosperity here in the city of Petersburg. Democrats and Republicans working together — that’s what makes Virginia special.

Occasionally. Continue reading

An Innovative Initiative from UVa Shows A Way to Increase Low Cost Housing

Courtesy UVa

by James C. Sherlock

In July I published a series of reports here on the lack of sufficient low-cost housing.

The University of Virginia is addressing that problem head on in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. The innovation at the core of the program can be applied by Redevelopment and Housing Agencies (RHAs) across the state.

The idea came from the fact that 30% or more of the cost of developing housing is land cost. If a government, university foundation or any landowner would lease — long-term — underutilized land to a private property developer at a negligible land rent, the developer can make a profit with rents that are 30% below market.

This is how the University is building workforce housing for police, firefighters, nurses, school teachers and university blue collar workers. The idea, introduced by Jim Murray, a member of the Board of Visitors now also on the Affordable Housing Advisory Group at UVa, has been around for at least six years.

The concept will soon be reality.

The University program details can be found here.

Every city and county has an inventory of land, some of it forfeited in lieu of tax payments or seized in civil or criminal proceedings. In combination with zoning actions, it can be used for low-cost housing.

The UVa program is replicable. I hope the RHAs will consider it.

The Great Realignment, Best-State-for-Business Reprise, Housing Drags, and Youngkin Popularity

by Chris Saxman

If you read one article this week make it this one from Axios – The Democratic electorate’s seismic shift. Just about every presentation I have given over the last 6 or 7 years begins with a statement or slide that says we are living in a historic political realignment and it’s global. From the article:

Democrats now have a bigger advantage among white college graduates than they do with nonwhite voters, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll.

Why it matters: We’re seeing a political realignment in real time.

Democrats are becoming the party of upscale voters concerned more about issues like gun control and abortion rights.

Republicans are quietly building a multiracial coalition of working-class voters, with inflation as an accelerant.

Continue reading

Regulations and the Costs of Doing Business in Virginia

Courtesy of Mercatus Center George Mason University

by James C. Sherlock

About the only category I found interesting in the “Top States for Business” rankings by CNBC, other than the progressive metrics that are featured in many of the categories, is “Cost of Doing Business.”

Virginia’s worst score among the six categories of metrics is that one. The methodology used for costs of doing business is defined, but vaguely:

As inflation ravages company balance sheets, we measure the strength of each state’s business tax climate. We also measure wage and utility costs, as well as the cost of office and industrial space. And we consider incentives and tax breaks that states offer to reduce business costs, with special emphasis on incentives targeted toward development in disadvantaged communities.

So, in this category, CNBC is grading government-imposed taxes and incentives as well as market-driven costs.

On the government side, the rating favors lower taxes and higher incentives. The “special emphasis” item may skew the results, but we do not know how much.

Lower taxes are conservative priorities. Government incentives which skew market forces and reward both politically trendy operations and big donors are not. Continue reading

Wind Farm Threat to Whales is Next Big Argument

Source: NOAA

by David Wojick

The massive offshore wind (OSW) project proposed by Dominion Energy may pose a serious threat to the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale population. A comprehensive environmental impact assessment is required to determine the extent of this threat and the mitigation it might require. The same is true for the other proposed Mid-Atlantic OSW projects.

The North Atlantic Right Whale is reported to be the world’s most endangered large whale, with an estimated population of just a few hundred critters. They winter off of Florida and Georgia, but summer off New England.  They migrate through the coastal waters off of Virginia twice a year, including that year’s baby whales. They can grow to over 50 feet in length and weigh more than 70 tons. Protecting them is a major challenge.  Continue reading

CNBC Top-States-for-Business Ranking Is Worthless

by Chris Saxman

CNBC’s Top States for Business Ranking is quickly becoming synonymous with Major League Baseball’s best known worst umpire Angel Hernandez.

Why? Like Hernandez, CNBC’s Ranking keeps moving the strike zone and they are fast becoming the best known worst ranking.

Here is their explanation :

We assign a weight to each category based on how hard the states are pushing it in their economic development marketing.

They base their rankings on the marketing of the states? Not what works, mind you, but what the sales departments THINK will work. Not where people and capital are actually going, but what the collective thinking is of economic development officials. Hence CNBC added CRYPTOCURRENCY and CANNABIS as metrics. Continue reading

The Costs of Avoidable Hospital Visits in Virginia and a Proven Solution

by James C. Sherlock

I have written often of the costs of (1) avoidable emergency care and (2) avoidable hospital admissions for chronic diseases.

Each type of excess costs could be prevented by timely visits to primary care practitioners and following their prescriptions for treatment.

The avoidable costs are largely paid by Virginia’s Medicaid program run by Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS). DMAS pays Managed Care contractors to diminish these costs and improve the health of the communities in which its clients live. That program has not worked as well as it should.

There is a proven better way: Maryland’s Health Enterprise Zones (HEZ) program.

Virginia needs better financial data to support budget impact assessments for legislation to go down that path. The VDH data contractor has proven with its calculation of avoidable emergency department visits that both the data and the methodology are available to accomplish that same approach to avoidable hospital admissions.

We did not have those calculated figures when then-Delegate Jason Miyares and I tried and failed to establish a HEZ pilot program in Virginia a few years ago. Then, we had just rough estimates. The bill was passed overwhelmingly in the subject matter committees but buried in the House Appropriations Committee.

VDH should direct its contractor to make the calculations soon that are required to support 2023 legislation. Continue reading

Portsmouth: Chaos + Casino = Chaos

Louise Lucas

by James C. Sherlock

Portsmouth has a lot of problems. Look for them to get worse in February when its new casino is scheduled to open.

A key thing you need to know about the casino is that it is the realization of Louise Lucas’ vision. Senator Lucas has spent 22 years promoting a casino in Portsmouth. As if that was just the thing Portsmouth needed to become a successful city.

Her vision was clarified by nearly $50,000 in campaign donations from casino interests.

Introduced in January 2019 by Lucas, Virginia Senate Bill 1126 earmarked commercial casinos for the towns of Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth. The legislation also permitted the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to build Native American casinos in Richmond and Norfolk.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth is scheduled to open in February, just across the water or through the tunnels here in South Hampton Roads from the new casino in Norfolk that will open in 2024.

Both were teed up by a Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee (JLARC) study required by that legislation prior to the votes of the citizens of those five locations.

The site-specific study done for JLARC by the Innovation Group projects the casino in Norfolk will generate only slightly more revenue than the one in Portsmouth. It forecasts that in 2025, the Norfolk casino would produce about $150 million in total revenue and the Portsmouth site $130 million. Continue reading

More Solar Generation Approved

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Charlotte County Board of Supervisors has approved the development of the largest solar project in the Commonwealth and one of the largest east of the Mississippi River.

As reported by the News & Record, the 800-megawatt Randolph Project, debated by the board for almost a year, will occupy approximately 6,000 acres.  It will be developed by SolUnesco of Reston. Dominion Energy plans to purchase the project once it becomes operational. The generating capacity of the project will be less than the nearby 865-megawatt Clover Power Station, which, in contrast, occupies about 1,700 acres. Dominion plans to shutter that coal-fired facility as it transitions to solar and wind energy.

There was one unusual aspect of the negotiations leading up to the vote to approve the project. As part of the agreement for another, earlier, solar project in the county, Courthouse Solar, Dominion had agreed to pay the county $1 million when that plant became operational, projected to be in late 2025. One of the conditions included in the board’s approval for the larger proposed project was an acceleration of that $1 million payment, tying it to approval of the Courthouse Solar project by the State Corporation Commission, rather than when the project became operational. One opponent of the Randolph project called it “an out-and-out bribe.” One of the supervisors supporting the project saw it as an opportunity to reduce county taxes.

Officials from SolUnesco estimated that the project would bring the county more than $311 million in new revenue over its 35-year lifespan.

“Richmond Real” and the City’s Limited Pool Hours for Kids

Moses Foster of West Cary Group speaks in front of Mayor Stoney at public rollout of the Richmond Real marketing campaign

by James C. Sherlock

On June 9, the Richmond Times Dispatch (RTD) offered a story on Mayor Stoney’s new slogan for the City of Richmond: “Richmond Real.”

The RTD piece offered a positive account of the new marketing slogan devised under what Richmond Free Press (RFP) has called a “secretive” project led by the West Cary Group, a Richmond advertising and marketing company run by CEO Moses Foster.

It is indeed secretive to the extent that the city’s open data portal of existing contracts shows “no results found” for a contract the supplier of which is “West Cary Group,” so it is impossible to find more details there.

The RTD offered comments of city officials that the campaign had been developed with “inclusivity.”

With Richmond Real, we are listening, activating and we are continuing our commitment to serving every member of our community.

The RFP, the city’s excellent Black newspaper, had a different opinion, and summarized it as an “expensive dud.”

Some Richmond activists were less charitable. Continue reading

Virginia Strategic Imperatives: Train and Retain More Teachers and Nurses

A Major Opportunity

by James C. Sherlock

Governor Glenn Youngkin wants to make a lasting difference in Virginia. He wants to leave it better than he found it.

In the years I have been writing about healthcare and education in Virginia, there is a recurring theme in both fields: not enough practitioners; specifically, registered nurses and teachers.

I will not in this article try to dissect the specifics of each shortfall, other than to say each is growing and reaching crisis proportions simultaneously in both professions.

This is, rather, a plea to the Youngkin administration and the General Assembly to turn their focus to dealing with those shortfalls. If they do not, a lot of the things  they are doing will be lost in the carnage of the failures of the healthcare and education systems.

Without education, there is no economic future. Without competent healthcare, there will be no future at all for many.

In both cases, the approaches must raise incentives and reduce disincentives. Continue reading

Highest Need Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

Without adequate primary medical, dental and mental health care, people cannot function properly. They often go through life sick and untreated. 

By “sick” in this case I refer to less well than achievable with proper primary care.

Just because there is adequate access to primary care in a particular area does not mean that all people take advantage of it, but lack of access raises significantly the probability of a lifetime of sickness.

Babies are born sick, children go to school while sick, adults work while sick and the elderly suffer and die early.

It is useful to review the areas in Virginia that have profound shortages of primary care providers. Medicaid is a false promise when such shortages exist. Economic development is very unlikely.

Some are where you might guess if you thought about it. Some are not. Continue reading

How Many Pieces Did You Say It Will Take To Build This Plant?

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

There is more good news for the Commonwealth.  As reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Governor Youngkin announced on Wednesday that the Lego Group will invest at least $1 billion to build a new manufacturing facility in Chesterfield County.  It would be Lego’s only manufacturing facility in the United States.

The company projected that the 1.7 million square foot plant would create more than 1,700 new jobs over a period of ten years.

The company currently has a manufacturing plant in Mexico, but, because the United States is a key market, the company wants to shorten its supply chain issues and reduce its overall carbon footprint.  Along these lines, the plant will be designed to be “carbon neutral”.  To accomplish this, it will use some offsets.  According to the news report, “The factory will also be paired with a solar park, which will be built by 2025 and generate the energy needed for the plant to run.”  From the news report, it is not clear whether the electricity produced by the solar farm will be used directly by the factory or whether that is one of the offsets. Continue reading

Time to Play Hardball

by Carol A.O. Wolf

The recent dust-up concerning the fate of the Arthur Ash Jr. Athletic Center is, in the words of the great baseball philosopher Yogi Berra, “déjà vu all over again.”

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is once again pitching a big can’t-lose — this time promising a brand new mini-city complete with state-of-the-art baseball stadium, restaurants, retail shops, microbreweries, and apartments for both the rich and unrich.

Because those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it, I am obliged to offer this sad and shameful history lesson about a 2012 “big can’t-lose deal” involving previous Richmond City Mayor Dwight C. Jones, the pro football team now known as the Washington Commanders, the Bon Secours Health System and the city’s Economic Development Authority.

Basically, they stole the Westhampton School property.

Blinded by the glitz of Washington team owner Dan Snyder’s PR folks and many local cheerleaders, the very people charged with protecting Richmond’s public-school children decided to sacrifice them instead. Continue reading