What Does Jimmie Massey Have Against Business Assistance?

Del. Jimmie Massey, R-Richmond, has introduced a bill that would abolish the Department of Business Assistance and transfer its functions to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. There are good reasons to keep the two economic development entities separate, which makes me wonder if there’s some kind of hidden agenda behind the move.

Business Assistance runs a grab-bag of programs, mostly related to small business finance and small business assistance, that rightfully belongs in the portfolio of agencies under the Secretary of Commerce and Trade. The VEDP, by contrast, is set up as a quasi-independent authority with the sole focus of promoting Virginia outside the Commonwealth. Massie’s proposed transfer would effectively remove Business Assistance from the operational control of the Governor and create a mixed mission for VEDP.

What’s the point? I can’t imagine that VEDP asked for this expansion of its authority. It does a good job of industrial recruitment and, I would guess, would prefer to keep its focus unmuddled. There’s no obvious scandal or crisis driving this proposal. But the bill has several co-sponsors. Something must be going on. Anybody know?

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  1. Not your father's economic developer Avatar
    Not your father’s economic developer

    I have no idea what’s driving Massie but I’ve heard this idea kicking around for a while…heck it probably has been since they were split off years ago (well before my time).

    Economic developers would love to see some of DBA’s program like workforce services better funded. I’m not sure if this would help or hurt but certainly there are questions to raise about the status quo.

    And formal structures aside, I’m not sure how much more insulated from the Governor VEDP really is. Of course that’s a view from out in the provinces, y’all in the holy city may see it differently.

  2. J. Tyler Ballance Avatar
    J. Tyler Ballance

    I am sure that there is no hidden agenda. I worked for Massie’s opponent in the Primary (Jimmy Wheat) who had as a key part of his platform the divestment of ABC stores from state control.

    It is good to see that Jimmie Massie is tackling some of the fiscal issues. I was originally worried that Massie was just going to be a mouthpiece for the Family Foundation, but if this agency consolidation effort is where his legislative emphasis will be, then Virginians will be very well served.

    Nice work, Jimmie Massie. Lets have a lottery for private citizens to own (one each) of the existing ABC stores. It would be good to get Virginia out of the booze business, while creating business ownership opportunities for independent businessmen.

  3. Jim Bacon Avatar

    J. Tyler, I totally agree that Virginia should get out of the retail alcohol business. But consolidation of economic development offices does not necessarily make sense.

    VEDP’s focus is external to Virginia. Business Assistance’s focus is internal. There are very clear lines of demarcation. As I recall, VEDP was set up as a quasi independent during the Allen administration to ensure continuity and prevent the whip-sawing of priorities between gubernatorial administrations. There are reasons for the way things are. That doesn’t mean we can’t change, but it does suggest that we shouldn’t change willy nilly.

    By itself, redrawing boxes in an organizational chart doesn’t really accomplish much.

    Maybe Massie has good reasons for his bill. I just can’t figure out what they are.

  4. Not your father's economic developer Avatar
    Not your father’s economic developer

    I wouldn’t say that the traditional view of a clear demarcation between marketing and other functions hasn’t served Virginia well through the 90’s. That said, if you go through VEDP’s announcements you’ll see a point in the late 90’s where the bulk of jobs and capital investment started coming from expansions rather than new business. I suppose this bill is the first public reconsideration of the current structure, but I don’t think this idea is popping up out of the blue or (solely) driven by some kind of inside Richmond power play.

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