Board continues economic development talk

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County could move forward with a plan officials say would help boost the local economy.

But the Board of Supervisors remains divided on how to cover the cost of such an effort. The board on Thursday revisited an idea broached at least a year ago – change the Industrial Development Authority to an Economic Development Authority and create a position dedicated solely to bringing business and industry to the county.

IDA board Chairman Vincent Poling reiterated the same suggestion he made to supervisors earlier this year that spurred county staff to include an economic development director or similar position in the proposed fiscal 2018 budget. The proposed position with a salary of at $70,000 failed to gain enough support from the board to make the budget adopted by supervisors last month.

District 5 Supervisor Marsha Shruntz had asked that the board resume its discussion on the topic of changing the IDA to an EDA at a work session.

Supervisors could change the name of the IDA by amending the original ordinance that created the authority years ago, Poling said. Supervisors would need the authority board’s endorsement before doing so. The county could also dissolve the IDA and create an EDA as proposed but can do so only when the authority resolves any outstanding bonds of which the agency has several.

Part of the discussion focused on funding an economic development director. The authority could cover the position’s salary for two years, Poling said. However, the authority, which lacks a steady revenue stream, likely could not continue to fund the position permanently, Poling said. Additionally, the authority would like to spend some of the money it has on hand to make improvements to lots it owns in the North Shenandoah Business and Industrial Park in Strasburg, Poling said. The authority needs to make the improvements in order to attract potential industrial or commercial tenants or developers, Poling added.

District 2 Supervisor Steve Baker said he has supported the hiring of an economic development official with a salary covered by the county. Chairman Conrad Helsley expressed concern about making the authority use its own limited funds to pay for an economic development director.

District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey pushed for level funding in the next fiscal year and did not support including the salary for an economic director in the budget. Bailey contended at the work session that economic growth would bring the revenue needed to continue to fund the position.

The discussion also looked at the county’s history of trying to generate economic growth. The county once had an economic development committee made up of representatives of each town, the Board of Supervisors and others in the community, Poling recalled. The panel eventually dissolved. The Board of Supervisors later created its own economic development panel but that ceased to exist when it dissolved its committees in favor of holding work sessions on various topics.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com