County lacks a plan

Published 6:27 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors recently approved criteria for funding “outside organizations.”  Sadly, this act draws further attention to the fact our county lacks a workable plan for economic development.

Their new policy makes no mention of entities which help attract people to this area.  For several supervisors, such funding is deemed a donation or membership, which they consider money given away to pet projects and feel-good programs. Those who spearheaded this action don’t understand the difference between a donation and an investment. Funding organizations like the Small Business Development Center, the Farmville Chamber, SVCC, YMCA and the Heart of Virginia Festival, will contribute greatly to enhancing the financial well-being of our community. 

Supervisors have also approved the county administrator taking over all responsibility for economic development, reducing the current position to a clerical job and heaping a great deal more work on an already-overworked staff. There are simply not enough hours in the day to do a decent job wearing both hats. It’s another unworkable plan which saves money on paper, but in practice will prove ineffective.

According to 2015 census estimates, approximately 23,000 people live in Prince Edward County. Of those, over 22 percent are college students, 30 percent received benefits from Social Services in the form of food stamps or Medicaid and 65 percent of students at Prince Edward County Schools received free or subsidized lunches.

Our county needs jobs that will increase the number of people working and decrease the number of people on government assistance. Attracting new businesses is imperative, and leads to increased tax revenues. Unfortunately, many of our county supervisors aren’t working towards this end. Instead, they focus only on expenses: a strategy that has been tried over much of Southside Virginia and has failed miserably in every instance.

I was born at Southside Hospital, live in Prince Edward County and run a business on Main Street in Farmville. I am a proponent of smaller government and fiscal responsibility, but merely saying “No” accomplishes little. 

Prince Edward County needs to make concerted efforts on many fronts simultaneously in order to enhance our ability to attract businesses.

Brad Watson is a vice president at Davenport and Company LLC and serves as vice president of the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce. His email address is bwatson@investdavenport.com.