Letter to the Editor: Supervisors need to focus on local economy

Editor:

Shenandoah County supervisors have an opportunity to improve the local economy, provide jobs and ensure that the rising cost of local government services is not so heavily borne by taxpayers.

Supervisors have assigned to the county administrator the responsibility of hiring a community development director. The successful candidate would be in charge of operations of the county’s building department, overseeing such activities as building inspections, soil erosion and sedimentation control.

Time permitting, the director presumably would attempt to lure business here.

For obvious reasons, supervisors should take a different tack. Over the past 15 years, Shenandoah County has lost more than 1,200 jobs, forcing a third of the labor force to travel outside the county for work.

As that occurs, school population is in decline, and a lack of living-wage jobs makes it impossible for families with children to relocate here, not to mention that our children are forced to leave after they finish school to find a decent job.

While agriculture and tourism are an important part of the revenue base, the rising cost of local government services weighs increasingly heavier on taxpayers. Shenandoah County today has no greater need than good paying private sector jobs.

Supervisors should consider placing increased importance on economic development and hire an experienced professional who has a record of success in negotiation with business and industry toward the creation of good, clean jobs.

Economic development programs in neighboring counties are attracting businesses with good paying jobs.

Shenandoah County’s government, which now spends more than $100 million annually, is this community’s largest business. And though growth is at a virtual standstill, government costs continue to rise. Its near total reliance on taxes derived from real estate is unsustainable. Recruitment of new business and the taxes and jobs it would bring is the best way forward.

If supervisors recognize that fact, they should reconsider the position of community development director, increase the salary offer, and, if necessary, restructure the county government’s organizational chart to elevate economic development to the highest level, answerable to the board. This would represent a real step toward improving the county’s economic health.

Allen Peer Jr.,  Woodstock

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