Development must be considered

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 28, 2007

Vision is often a word that describes leaders that exemplify what voters look for when voting for a candidate. Recent local history highlights those families and individuals who made a mark in assuring Franklin and Southampton County’s quality future. My own father’s family can be traced back to the early 1800’s and they were among the majority of families who lived in the area and who had positive visions for the future of our region.

This year celebrates the 20th year that Franklin and Southampton County have had an economic development office. There were city and county visionaries in the mid 1980’s (as well as today) who had the foresight to understand economic development and the benefits it could bring to the city and county. It has evolved through a series of changes, but now is back on track as the city and county and local charities once again share in the costs and benefits of a united economic development effort. The results are job opportunities for our citizens and children and an increasing tax base.

The reason I am bringing this up is the concern I have pertaining to a story I read in the Tidewater News about a couple of Southampton County Board of Supervisor candidates who are against economic development and claim it has done nothing and will do nothing for the area. I wanted to show what economic development has done for the area in the past 20 years and the potential vision for the future.

Economic Development is not a one-person effort. In the eleven years I was economic development director we had a wonderful team consisting of the economic development commission, lenders, real estate companies, existing industries, minority groups, farmers and politicians all working together to promote the future of our area.

The result was the successful recruitment of 17 industries and 26 businesses during that eleven year period that now produces over $1.2 million each year in tax dollars to Southampton County and Franklin, created 706 jobs, received $580,932 in grants and sold $694,773 in public industrial land sales. Much of that occurred in the shared revenue areas and all returned to the two communities. In recent years, the Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. has assisted in the location of an additional three industries and several retailers and is aggressively pursuing other industrial prospects.

I still have the journals I kept of each of those industries and retailers we personally recruited to the area. Each successful location was unique in how they were recruited and why they located here. It’s also interesting to read of those who did not locate in our area and why they didn’t, so we can be prepared in the future.

I must admit other retailers also located in the area without the ED direct assistance.

There have been several industrial parks involved in the recruitment process. The first was developed jointly by Franklin and Southampton County and was called the Franklin/Southampton Commerce Park that is located in a shared revenue area. The costs to purchase the land and develop the park for the two communities was $215,000. The economic development office sold all the land in the park for $589,770 resulting in a profit of $374,770 that was returned to the communities.

Jobs created in the park exceed 110 at this time and taxes generated now exceed $104,000 every year.

The Southampton Agribusiness Park was developed by Southampton County and was the first agribusiness park developed in Virginia. Two new industries are now under construction with investments exceeding $6 million that will employ 35 people. That, in addition to Southampton Cutting Industry and the regional farmers market already located in the park, will result in an estimated $42,840 in taxes for the county every year and land sales estimated at approximately $135,000. Only one parcel remains to be sold.

Though the Pretlow Industrial Park has yet to meet the preceding successes, it’s only a matter of time before the overspill from Hampton Roads finds this golden opportunity. Chesapeake’s Cavalier Industrial park sat over 10 years before significant development occurred and now it’s a major success story with hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment.

One of the most important responsibilities of an economic development office is having a close working relationship with our existing industries. Narricott, FERIDIES, and Money Mailer are recent examples of industrial expansions in the area the economic development office worked closely with to ensure that the expansions occurred here and not at other locations. The results were millions of dollars in investment and 60 new jobs.

If you look at the overall economic development results for the past 20 years, it clearly shows that the hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes that are generated every year by the new industries and businesses recruited and hundreds of new jobs created because of the efforts of the local economic development organizations, far exceeds the costs of operating it.

Let’s hope that Franklin and Southampton County voters will continue to elect visionary leaders for their future, not only for economic development but also for quality schools and education, preserving our rural heritage and controlling residential growth. Let’s project a positive outlook for our and our children’s future.

Jim Bradshaw of Courtland is a consultant for Franklin/Southampton Economic Development Inc. His e-mail address is