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April 5, 2017

Fauquier works with others to grow sluggish economy

Miles Friedman and Ray Knott represent Fauquier on the GO Virginia Region 9 Council, which includes nine counties and the City of Charlottesville.
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Fauquier has two representatives on a new council designed to encourage regional cooperation — rather than competition — for economic development.

The GO Virginia Regional Council 9 includes the City of Charlottesville and nine counties, from Fauquier south to Nelson.

Ray Knott, a Union Bank & Trust executive in Warrenton, and Miles Friedman, the county’s economic development director, represent Fauquier on the 23-member council.

“There’s some serious brainpower in that group, including three university and college presidents and some CEOs,” Mr. Friedman said.

In addition, two aspects of GO Virginia stand out, for him:

• “It’s got money — not a lot of money, but if we can compete for our share, it will help.”

• “They’re trying to encourage regional cooperation, something that I’ve advocated for 30 years.”

The 2016 Virginia General Assembly appropriated $28 million for the statewide effort to spur creation of high-paying jobs and to reduce the state’s dependence on federal spending.

The nine regional councils organized early this year.

In addition to the region’s guaranteed funding of about $1.8 million for administration, planning and projects, the council can compete for an $11.3-million statewide pool. That funding will go to regional projects that can happen quickly and make a difference, Mr. Knott said.

Each application also must involve more than one jurisdiction, he added.

While not a huge amount of money, “it’s another tool” that could make a difference in areas such as workforce development, Mr. Knott added.

In this region, he particularly sees opportunities for Germanna and Lord Fairfax community colleges to focus on areas such as healthcare and cybersecurity education and training.

LFCC President Cheryl Thompson-Stacy also serves on the regional council, along with University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan and Piedmont Virginia Community College President Frank Friedman.

Even if the General Assembly fails to provide continuing financial support, Mr. Friedman suggested regional cooperation could make the Piedmont more competitive for business prospects from outside Virginia.

Since the Great Recession, which started in December 2007, Virginia’s economy has rebounded more slowly than most of the nation, according to a George Mason University study. The growth of Virginia’s GDP (gross domestic product) ranked 48th among states in 2015.

“The state now faces an economic emergency,” GO Virginia says in its information packet.

In response, the organization wants to spur private-sector investment and job creation.

The Richmond-based organization plans to award its first regional grants in September.
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