Economic Development Policy, 2007 Data Update




Update of economic data to be utilized in future discussion and revision of the Economic Development Policy




Messrs. Tucker, Foley, Davis, Graham, and Ms. Stimart







December 5, 2007


ACTION:                            INFORMATION:     X



  ACTION:                          INFORMATION:   











In March of 1995, the County adopted its Economic Development Policy as a part of the Comprehensive Plan 1996-2016 (See Attachment A).  As of July 2007, in coordination with the County’s Strategic Plan 2007-2010 and the 2007 update of the Community Profile (See Attachment B - Updated Data), the data contained in the policy has been updated to reflect the most current demographic and economic data available,.  The purpose of this work session is to review the updated economic data in preparation for a future work session regarding possible amendments to the current economic development policy.




Goal 1: Enhance the Quality of Life for all Citizens

Goal 4: Effectively Manage the County’s Growth and Development

Goal 5: Fund the County’s Future Needs




The overall goal of the Economic Development Policy is to maintain a strong and sustainable economy. The Policy addresses six major objectives: 1) Base economic development policy on planning efforts which support and enhance the strengths of the County; 2) Plan for land and infrastructure to accommodate future business and industrial growth; 3) Recognize the County’s place in the regional economy; 4) Consider the fiscal impact as one indicator of positive economic development, along with environmental impact and standard of living impact; 5) Provide local business development opportunities; and 6) Provide work force development opportunities. Each of the six policy-objectives is supported by specific strategies for guiding implementation. Please see Attachment A - “1996 Economic Development Policy.”


Population growth since 2000 has, on average, been slower than in the previous decade. With employment, the opposite is true. Per the Virginia Economic Commission’s (VEC) and Weldon Cooper Center data, total employment growth in the 1990s averaged 1.8% annually; since 2000 it has averaged 3.5%. A macro view, from 1990 to 2006, also shows annual average employment growing faster than population, 2.4% employment growth versus 1.8% for average annual population growth. Besides employment, other economic indicators also demonstrate Albemarle County’s position as a leader in the region’s economy. On a per-capita basis, tourism revenues, commercial bank deposits, and retail-sales continue to outpace both the state and the region.


Robust employment growth and low unemployment rates do not fully capture the changes in local industry and the extent to which our land use policies have been successfully implemented in the last 10 years. The 1996 Economic Policy also described employment trends by industry sector, using two-digit North American Industrial Code (NAIC) code. Since then, staff notes the national economy has experienced several important impacts: 1) 1994 NAFTA treaty and 2) the 2001 admittance of China into the World Trade Organization. Significant national and global pressures appear to have impacted two of the local economy’s industry sectors: agriculture and manufacturing. The Virginia Employment Commission data shows a major drop in Albemarle County manufacturing employment, on average an employment decline of 4.6% per year, and a flat rate of growth for agricultural activity over the last 15 years. For the same time period, the State experienced 2.3% average annual decline in manufacturing employment and 0.2% annual growth in agricultural employment.


In response to globalization, and like the national economy, the local economy has been transitioning to service- and knowledge-based operations. The VEC data shows significant average annual growth in these sectors since 1990: Federal employment 16%, Professional and technical services 11.4%, and Health Care 10.2%. Also showing strong average annual growth are Information Services at 6.7%, Educational Services at 6.1% and Arts/Entertainment/Recreation averaging 5% per year. However, with the exception of Health Care, these sectors still only comprise a small portion of the County’s total employment. The Retail-Trade sector, with strong annual growth at 4.0%, has 11.5% of the County’s employment base, second only to Government. Back in 1990, manufacturing was the second-largest industry segment, with over 19% of jobs in the County. In part, this 16-year snapshot echoes a national trend for the higher-paying manufacturing jobs sector to shift to lower-paying retail jobs.


As local economies transition to remain vital and competitive, one key strategy can be to foster opportunity for start-up entrepreneurship, mainly in the technology sector. Collectively, start-up companies and local-serving small businesses provide the most jobs and generally the most support to a local economy (through purchasing local goods and services, paying local employee salaries, and charitable giving); the multiplier effect of a small local business is substantial to a local economy. In Albemarle County, there is currently a very low supply of vacant, light-industrial land, see Attachment B - Updated Data, data attachment “X”.  Excluding the retail sector due to its typically lower-paying jobs, comparing data from the 1996 Economic Policy to 2005 Albemarle County GIS data shows a drop in available land designated for Industrial Service, from 1,381 to 933 acres in the Comprehensive Plan. Taking a longer term view, vacant land with both zoning and Comprehensive Plan designation includes approximately 111 aces. The GIS records indicate an average-size parcel of 4 acres and a median-size of 2 acres, typically too small for a commercial venture to afford the full development costs of parking, utility connections, etc. For rezoning to LI, our zoning ordinance requires a minimum parcel size of 5 acres.


The updated data and staff analysis indicate our efforts could be improved in executing the strategies under Objective I-“Base economic development on planning efforts which support and enhance the strengths of the county” and Objective II-“Plan for land and infrastructure to accommodate future business and industrial growth.” In addition, there might be additional strategies desired to achieve Objective V-“Provide local business development opportunities” and Objective VI-“Provide work force development opportunities.”






Staff recommends that the Board accept the data for consideration in a future update of the Economic Development Policy. To consider the emerging issues in industry and current land use challenges, staff recommends a follow-up work session on the policy as a whole, with an emphasis on providing local business and work force development opportunities. After receiving Board input through a future work session, staff plans to bring forward a revised Economic Development Policy for Board adoption into the Comprehensive Plan.  



Attachment A – Currently Adopted Economic Development Policy

Attachment B – Updated Analysis & Data

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