Challenges to economic development

Updating the 2013 strategic plan:

When asked at a citizen’s-comment meeting as the top three challenges to attracting and retaining businesses in Prince George County, Jeff Stokes, Economic Development Director and Deputy County Administrator, briskly replied:

  • workforce
  • infrastructure, particularly water and wastewater capacity
  • housing (well, the housing issue arose a bit later)

This meeting was the second of two citizen input type meetings to be held by the county in this round of a strategic plan.  The first meeting was held in the government complex area and had only a handful of residents participating.

Economic Development Planning Meeting (2)
a portion of the attendees

The second, held on May 14,  in Disputanta, attracted 17 citizens and included two Board of Supervisor members, Alan Carmichael and Floyd Brown, Jr. (“FJ”).  None of the denizens appeared to be younger than 50.

Floyd, Robin, & Erma Ecnomic Development Planning Meeting
Floyd Brown, Sr., Robin Brown, Erma Brown standing

After some circular discussion about how to attract tourism, commercial amenities, and sports tourism, in general, the discussion turned to workforce development.  This topic occupied about an hour of the roughly two-hour meeting.

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

One of the consultant’s described some of the workforce demographics. One of the most striking was that 85% of employed Prince Georgians out-commute to other localities, though if the Crater corridor is considered as a region, that figure is probably closer to 50%. Another surprising demographic gleaned from the county’s website indicates that the County Government is the single largest Prince George employer with approximately 1600 of the 14,000 jobs in Prince George. Missing from that figure was how Fort Lee employment is cast in the numbers.

Some workforce issues discussed:

  • providing information on local employment opportunities, (job fairs, digital clearing house for county employment posts)
  • developing & implementing career education and apprentice programs for 21st century skills
  • emphasis on soft skills to have a work-ready pool of employment candidates

INFRASTRUCTURE

Infrastructure issues loom large and affects attracting new businesses and providing a variety of house stock.  The primary challenge is wastewater capacity as the county does not have its own facility for treating wastewater, relying on the services provided by the sewer authorities in Hopewell and Petersburg.  Prince George is very near its maximum allocation from both entities.  This topic challenged the discussion in the room.  It is harder to get one’s arms around this aspect of infrastructure.

HOUSING

Housing was discussed only tangentially, as part of the how we can attract more business and as part of the discussion around infrastructure.

It will be interesting to see if any new ideas emerged in the discussion.  It would seem not, but 17 Prince Georgians are more informed, perhaps, as a result of the meeting. Check out the 2013 Economic Development Strategic Plan on the county website.

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