Flotsam and Jetsam from the Week Past

Here are some of the stories I couldn’t get to last week:

Kevin Spacey in "House of Cards." If there's one business nastier than politics it's Hollywood.
Kevin Spacey in “House of Cards.” If there’s one business nastier than politics it’s Hollywood.

Filmflam. It’s not often that I find myself agreeing with Sara Okos with the Commonwealth Institute, but we see eye-to-eye on the subject of motion picture tax credits. The House of Delegates has passed a bill doubling the tax credit to up to $25 million over the biennial budget at a time when many other states are scaling back. Writes Okos in the Half Sheet:

The most rigorous studies show that motion picture tax credits aren’t effective generators of economic development. The jobs that they create are temporary and low-paying. In the movie biz, most highly paid, highly skilled workers are brought in from other regions, while low-skilled workers are the ones hired locally and take home only a fraction of the total wages associated with a project. Because the film industry is highly mobile, those jobs don’t last after a movie wraps.

House Republicans have lost their way. Seriously, how can they claim to be fiscal conservatives when they pull stunts like this? What’s going on? Are they hoping to pick up production of the Netflix political series “House of Cards,” which is threatening to pull up its sets and decamp to another state unless Maryland agrees to more tax credits? Yuck. If there’s a business dirtier than inside-Washington politics, it’s this one.

What’s happening in Charlottesville? Charlottesville appears in the list of 10 fastest-shrinking metropolitan economies in the United States, with a loss of 2.2% in gross metropolitan production, according to 24/7 Wall Street, the second straight year of decline. Yet unemployment remains at reasonably robust 4.6%. This makes no sense. I can’t think of anything that would account for such a shrinkage. Is this a statistical anomaly? Does anyone have an explanation?

tysonsLiving the High Life in Tysons. We’ll soon find out how much market demand there is for living in Tysons. Developers have begun marketing new luxury high-rises being built as part of the mammoth make-over of the congested, car-centric business district into a walkable mixed-use community. One-room studios are being listed for between $3 and $4 per square foot — the same price as in the established Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington County, considerably more expensive than in Reston but cheaper than in Washington, D.C. The tricky part is this: Renters would be paying walkable-neighborhood prices… without the walkable neighborhoods. They might get a walkable city block, but it will take years for the rest of the walkable urban fabric to fill in around them. The Washington Post has the story here.

loudoun_gravel_roadsPreserving gravel roads. Here’s an interesting turn-around. Typically, Virginians living on dirt and gravel roads have begged and pleaded with the Virginia Department of Transportation to pave them. Now comes a bill, HB 416, that would require VDOT to keep 300 miles of unpaved road in western Loudoun County as they are rather than paving, straightening or widening them. It appears that the residents of rural Loudoun like their windy dirt roads, some of which pre-date the Civil War, and want to keep them that way. Greater Greater Washington has the story here.

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12 responses to “Flotsam and Jetsam from the Week Past”

  1. Charlottesville is certainly not one of the fastest-shrinking metro areas – the place is exploding right now and demand is sky-high. I’m not sure what their calculations are based on, but there are a few possible explanations. The first is that Charlottesville is quite small and home to a number of large employers, so losing a single employer is an easy way to skew the numbers (UVA and the hospital alone employ something like a third of the workforce). I know during this period that NGIC (the National Ground Intelligence Center) moved out of the city and took a lot of jobs with it, but it should still be in the metro area (it only moved up to northern Albemarle County). But the loss to the city was offset by the explosion of several startups like RKG, SNL Financial, and others.

    If it has anything to do with population, Charlottesville’s census numbers show a decline of about 2,000 people from 2000 to 2010, but this is due to an incorrect count in 2000 that the city challenged and had corrected. The population actually grew by about 3,000 during that time.

    Maybe it’s based on dollar amounts? We’ve got a disproportionate share of 1%-ers out in the county and if a couple of them moved, they could probably pretty drastically change the gross income of the area (like the former president of Tyco who owns a huge estate south of town, but is currently in jail for fraud).

    No idea what else it could be.

    1. Ghost of Ted Dalton Avatar
      Ghost of Ted Dalton


      I just talked to a start-up owner in Cville and he said the economy is on fire. He said the rumor in town is that both Costco and Wegman’s (which are supposed to open in the coming year) have gotten “cold feet” b/c the unemployment rate is so low in the area and they’re worried about the labor pool.

      1. I’m not ascribing bad motives here but the internet has, in the process of making all manner of information much more readily available, presented opportunities for those who might have a different perspective on things even though they’re looking at similar info.. they accentuate in ways that end up being counter to other information… and there are some folks out there who will take some valid info and do things with it to produce conclusions that are biased… and then others actually get to propaganda, misinformation and outright disinformation.

        so when you see something like this – that runs counter to what even people who live in Charlottesville think – and what even BEA data seems to show – you wonder … and you realize that one short sound-bite type statement may, at the least, need some good old “truth checking”.

        I,m not off on a tangent here – tell me when PolitiFact became a reality?

        I think it’s existence is tied to the advent of the use of the internet as well as “dark” money to “plant” suppositions of questionable veracity even though to some – the gullible and those seeking to confirm their biases find it to their liking.

        so now .. many…. try to find out where the real data really came from, whether it came from one authoritative, credible source or was synthesized from different sources – and who was doing it and what their reputation is with publishing such info.

        sometimes – the story checks out from stem to stern.. and sometimes you find a rat stinking up the place.

        some economic stats show some downturn in Cville in the later part of last year… but it seems to be only for some selected metrics and more in the “noise” range – in part because Cville has a fairly stable base economy and continuing employment levels with its two major employers UVA and the Medical Center.

        1. Ghost of Ted Dalton Avatar
          Ghost of Ted Dalton

          Very good points. I also think, as Peter has written about, that the quality of “journalism” is very low in this day and age. I imagine that this was just grabbing some random factoid and running with it.

          1. I’ve heard these types of internet posts such as the one from 24/7 about C-Ville referred to as “listicles”. The idea is to generate as many hits as possible for ad content as one clicks through the list. Accuracy of the information appears to be a secondary concern.

            My work takes me out to Charlottesville on occasion. The area looks to be doing quite well economically, well except for that half-completed/abandoned hotel project downtown..

  2. The film tax credit is ridiculous – a photo opp for politicians with some well-known actors that adds no net value to the state and has become a bidding war between state legislatures. Every legitimate independent study has consistently confirmed this. Michigan has had one of the most intense fights over it and reason is finally winning out up there. Other states will follow. Virginia is showing some exceptional stupidity in increasing it. It’s even more ridiculous that this is a Republican legislature.


  3. there is a paradox on the tax thing though. Fiscal Conservatives LIKE reducing taxes on corporations and if they have to choose to between wanting to reduce them all and not able to – and taking the half loaf approach and reduce them on some – that makes the difference whether they brings jobs or not – even temporary ones… then what’s a fiscal conservative to do?

    so a fiscal conservative would oppose tax breaks for some because all are not included?

    I note that New York State now offers “enterprise” zones where taxes are eliminated for 10 years.

    I note also that even in Virginia we have the concept of TIF… and enterprise zones …

    so what is the difference between offering TIF or enterprise zones for land development and offering something similar for some kinds of economic activity that we are competing with other states to get?

    what is the fundamental principle that unpins the opposition to reducing taxes – for some – in exchange for getting economic activity – that we might not have gotten otherwise?

  4. re: “unpins” = underpins ( I did not see the edit button).

    re: Charlottesville – as NV says – need to be looking at the MSA…

    but Cville, as long as it has UVA and the Medical Center is not going downhill in an appreciable way – anytime soon although both are threatened by disruptive technologies like MOOC/distance learning and the gradual “internet of things” including electronic medical records in the healthcare world.

    Your smartphone is going to revolutionize healthcare.

  5. My little city of Charlottesville is doing quite well, thanks.

    I wonder if these statistics don’t reflect the growth in the county of Albemarle, whose boundaries with the city are often pretty confusing. The massive new Stonefields shopping center, for example, is in the county, not the city.

    Disclaimer: I don’t know what I’m talking about.

  6. Yuma, Az also got on the “declining” list and they asked where the data came from and it appears to come from the Global Insight report:


    which seems to be sourced from Global Insight rather than BEA (who show different data)…

    I’d put the link in here but … you know what happens… it makes the post go to moderation hell.

    Global Insight – if you read the report – seems to be an organization that is oriented to manufacturing and transportation infrastructure rather than other kinds of economies.

    I’m not convinced this report has much real substance.. and it appears to contradict the BEA data.

  7. Hamilton Lombard Avatar
    Hamilton Lombard

    There are a lot of sources for problems with the U.S Mayors’ Report, one being that they are using outdated MSA definitions. As of 2013, Danville is no longer a metro area and in the Charlottesville MSA’s case, Buckingham County is now part of the metro area in addition to Nelson, Greene, Fluvanna, Albemarle and Charlottesville.

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