Charlottesville to hire consultant to strategic plan for economic development
What role should economic development play in the future of Charlottesville? That question is a crucial one as local governments continue to recover from the pandemic, and key in a city where there’s been much executive turnover in the past five years. This week, the city’s seven-member Economic Development Authority was briefed on a new strategic plan intended to guide the city’s efforts.
“It has been about ten years since we embarked on a full-blown strategic planning process so with the encouragement of our interim city manager, Michael Rogers, we are proceeding down the path to have a consultant guide us through a strategic planning effort,” said Chris Engel, the city’s economic development director.
When one is hired, this process will include focus groups. Currently there are four proposals from various firms and a selection will be made in the near future.
“You’re going to hear a lot more about this,” Engel said. “It’s probably going to be about a six-month process once it starts.”
The last strategic plan was done internally and Engel said this process will allow for new ideas and energy while also allowing for inclusivity.
Albemarle County has a similar plan called Project ENABLE which was also created internally though there was public engagement during that process.
If you want to go back in time to ten years ago, take a look at the city’s economic development report for FY2012.
The city will also be participating in a regional economic development plan being conducted by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.
The EDA also got updates on other projects the Office of Economic Development has been working on. One of those is the Go HIRE program.
“This was started late 2015 and early 2016 and it really has two different parts,” said George Sandridge, a business development manager with the city. “You have the existing worker retraining program so that’s existing workers who for a business here in the city. The employer can take advantage of this grant to get employees retrained for a new skill or better an existing skill.”
The other part is a subsidy that can help encourage employers to hire new people.
“That is a grant that employers can take advantage of if they hire city residents and pay them at least $15 an hour, it’s a reimbursable grant,” Sandridge said.
In April 2020, the city repurposed one grant program to become the Building Resilience Among Charlottesville Entrepreneurs and the application period for the fourth round just ended.
“For the past two years, BRACE has been a pretty consistent force coming out of the OED office,” Sandridge said.
There were 157 applications in the first three round, and 116 individual businesses were helped in some manner.
“The average grant is $1,840,” Sandridge said.
Another economic development program run by the city is the Cville Match program, where the city helps provide local funds to help entities that are pulling down federal and state programs. Nine companies have so far taken advantage of this program.
The EDA also holds the lease for the Charlottesville Pavilion with Red Light Management. Engel said the two entities are considering conducting an fiscal impact study of the Pavilion that will take a look at the current season which ends later this fall.
“This is the typical economic impact kind of study where there will be big number, some millions of dollars, that are attributed to the activities of the venue,” Engel said.
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