County gives notice for VGA

Published 10:57 am Monday, December 23, 2019

At its Dec. 9 monthly meeting, the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors voted to give six months’ notice to end the county’s membership with the Virginia Growth Alliance (VGA), formerly known as the TransTech Alliance.

The alliance, according to its bylaws, was created in 2012 for the purpose of “creating a regional organization to increase business opportunities and other development opportunities within the region.”

A public hearing was held at the meeting to consider the adoption of amendments to the Regional Development Agreement adopted in 2012. The agreement established the provisions for financing and operating the VGA, and created a board of directors to govern the entity. Amendments involved proposed membership requirements, membership withdrawal requirements and other technical amendments.

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During the public hearing Buckingham County Administrator Rebecca Carter advised the board to approve of the ordinance and subsequently make a motion to give six months’ notice to leave the alliance, as six months is the required timeframe to give notice of intent to leave. She also stated that giving six months’ notice would allow the board as well as County Zoning and Planning Administrator Nicci Edmondston time to reevaluate the benefits of VGA membership, and that the board could still elect to stay in before the end of the six months.

The board voted unanimously to approve the ordinance and made a separate motion, also unanimous, to give their notice to leave the alliance.

In an interview with The Herald, Carter explained the county’s history with VGA and highlighted reasons why the county is reevaluating its membership with the alliance.

Carter stated that Buckingham County has been a member of VGA for four years with annual membership fees of $17,000 per year. She stated that while she believes in many regional projects and development programs, not all programs give the same benefit to all counties involved and that the county has not seen many benefits from membership in the group.

“We have not received to date any benefit other than meeting the economic developers in the other counties and learning of their needs … As of date we have not benefited by jobs or tax base from being a member of VGA.,” stated Carter.

She cited that VGA has from time to time had sessions with marketing representatives and economic development organizations, and that it appeared that prospective clients VGA has presented the county with are often only interested in what the county currently has, not what it can do or build in the future.

“I have said over and over, if a prospect is beneficial enough to our county by means of job and tax base the county may be willing to build specifically to the prospect’s needs and sell the building to the prospective business or industry. We have never been able to get enough information on any prospects to know of that possibility. I understand that many demand confidentiality, and I think that info should be entrusted with the economic developers, such as at least the name of the company, so we can do some research on the business to see the degree of what we may offer as incentives.”

“Another issue is at the present time we do not have a marketable building,” she added. “Therefore, we do not have anything for the VGA to market. Perhaps Buckingham would benefit more by using that money to develop a marketing plan more along the lines of what our county can offer, which may allow us time to build or find property and buildings for prospective clients. Our county is hard to market because of its rural characteristics and lack of road access to major highways. We do have rail and should try to market to prospective clients that need rail also.”

“I would like to see more attention to our county and advice on working to make our county more marketable,” Carter highlighted. “We plan to continue to evaluate the benefits of participating in VGA over the next six months.”

Only one individual, District Four resident Quinn Robinson, spoke during the public comments section of the public hearing.

“I was reading over some of the documents, and apparently two or three of the participating entities dropped out of this alliance. It’s pretty sketchy as far as I’m concerned. It’s not worth the money. I don’t know what the purpose of it is. It was never sort of developed in any sense that I can understand,” he stated.