Planning Commission urged to plan now for economic development

Published 10:44 am Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Larger vessels are making their way in the Port of Virginia. -- COURTESY | FSEDI

Larger vessels are making their way in the Port of Virginia. — COURTESY | FSEDI

COURTLAND—The Southampton Planning Commission was urged to consider some proposed land use designations during its Thursday meeting. Speaking before the panel was Amanda Jarratt, president and chief executive officer of the Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Inc.

Economic development creates a tax base as well as jobs, she said, and added that the agency actively works to recruit new industry, while at the same time retaining or expanding existing companies. Small business development is no less important, and tourism can also be beneficial.

Franklin and Southampton have assets, said Jarratt, such as access to ports, transportation, higher education, a hospital, a strong labor force, and two railroads, the CSX and Norfolk Southern Corp.

She noted that the Port of Virginia is the only one on the East Coast that can accept the large ships with a 50-foot drag.

“We’re very attractive to prospects,” she said. “Economic development makes a real impact on our community.”

One example Jarratt cited was AMAC Leasing LLC, which will distribute aggregate, which is broken gravel, sand and stone for road projects. Making ready-mix concrete and bituminous concrete is also part of its work.

In late 2012, AMAC Leasing LLC picked an area on Route 460, between Ivor and Wakefield. The designated 20 acres were rezoned, and the company is expected to make a $5 million capital investment and generate about 50 jobs.

Features for competition, she said, include site control, proper zoning, utilities and other infrastructure, labor, the business climate and quality of life.

Having sufficient space for building and potential expansion, said Jarratt, is particularly important. “We don’t have anywhere to put prospects,” she said, citing the 80 acres at the Turner Tract; 160 acres in Pretlow Industrial Park; and 25 acres in the Southampton Business Park.

In contrast, neighboring Greensville and Isle of Wight counties each have 1,500 acres; Suffolk has 921 and Sussex with 1,000.

“We need to plan now,” Jarratt said. “I hope this is the first of several conversations.”

Regarding the proposed new Route 460 project and the wetlands issue that’s potentially stalling it, she added that would be resolved one way or another.

“We’ve got to get ourselves from a planning perspective, ready today. Timing is really important,” said Jarratt.

“If we keep doing what we’re doing, taxes will go up and the quality of life will go down.

“How to be a part of the solution? Be informed and be engaged.”