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Posted June 17, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Program facing a $72,000 shortfall

City Council cuts EDC appropriation

By James Heffernan -- jheffernan@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- The Winchester-Frederick County Economic Development Commission faces a $72,000 shortfall beginning in January after the City Council cut funding to the organization for the upcoming fiscal year.

EDC Executive Director Patrick Barker on Tuesday called the loss of the city's contribution, which amounts to about 16 percent of the commission's current operating budget, "disappointing."

"We felt we provided a compelling economic benefit to the city," he said.

Barker said unless the City Council reverses course, nearly all of the EDC's proactive marketing efforts will vanish, as well as some elements of its existing business development program.

"We will have to rely heavily once again on reactive client inquiries to allow the community to move forward economically," he said.

Winchester officials cited budget constraints in the decision to pull funding to the EDC, but they vowed to revisit the issue before the first of the year.

The city has appropriated $72,000 annually to the EDC for the past eight years. The county provides the remainder of the commission's budget.

EDC members voted Friday to cover the upcoming shortfall through a reallocation of existing funds and additional cuts. Barker said the county would not be called upon to cover the city's share.

The commission also vowed to follow through on a recommendation to rewrite the EDC's bylaws to exclude the city's three representatives from the board and to remove Winchester properties from the EDC's database of available commercial real estate, which is used by outside firms who are looking at locating in the area.

Other recommendations included directing the Lord Fairfax Small Business Development Commission, which receives funding from the EDC, to provide only limited service to city businesses and residents.

Barker said some EDC members felt the recommendations were too harsh and may preclude bringing the city back into the fold in the future.

In the meantime, the commission will continue to use "Winchester" in its name and in marketing materials, as the city is seen as central to the region. Without it, the area could be confused with nearby Frederick County, Md., the commission said.

City businesses will also be allowed to continue to participate in EDC "cluster" meetings -- groups of companies within the same industry -- as well as the commission's call team, which visits local businesses to identify growth trends.

The EDC will also remain in its current location at 45 E. Boscawen St. in Winchester.

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