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Prince Edward board votes to leave Virginia Growth Alliance

There has been debate in the past among the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors over whether or not to stay in the Virginia Growth Alliance (VGA). There was none, however, at the board’s meeting Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Wade Bartlett

Supervisors voted unanimously to withdraw from the VGA after a brief discussion, concluding that the arrangement had not yielded enough results for the county over the past seven years.

County Administrator Wade Bartlett introduced the agenda item by noting Prince Edward County has been with the alliance since November 2013.

A history in the agenda item summary noted the board had voted not to renew its membership in the VGA on April 3, 2018. In that instance, the board requested permission to waive the alliance’s required six-month notice, but the VGA declined to do this because it had not done so on a similar request from another county.

On April 16, 2019, the board voted to remain in the VGA and continue the contract with Retail Strategies for another year.

“The board, after a lot of discussion last December, voted (6-2) not to adopt a resolution to withdraw, but the board said we’ll look and see how these next six months go,” Bartlett said. “We’re at that point. If the board wants to withdraw, we need to do a resolution.”

He noted the resolution would need to be delivered to the alliance and each VGA member by Jan. 1, 2021.

Odessa Pride

Hampden District Supervisor Dr. Odessa Pride, who sits on the VGA board of directors, set the tone of the discussion Tuesday when she made it clear her position on the alliance had changed.

“I serve on the board, and I definitely say we need to get out,” she said. “It hasn’t done a lot for Prince Edward. I was very confident, and I was one of the ones who voted to stay in, but now I say, ‘No, it’s time.’”

Leigh District Supervisor and Board Chairman Jerry R. Townsend asked Prince Edward County Director of Economic Development Kate Pickett to offer her thoughts on what the board should do. She said progress of developing an internal access road through the Prince Edward County Business Park off Commerce Road/Route 628 is a key to attracting prospects to the area.

Kate Pickett

“I think that we will have more to market once we have the road completed at the business park,” she said. “We have gotten a lot of prospects sent to us from VGA this year. They’ve all requested a shell building or a greenfield site — so, land to build on, custom. We’ll have the greenfield site once we get that road developed in the business park, so that’ll help us out a lot.”

Townsend said the county does not have the requested shell building.

“No, we don’t have that, but it’s something that we could think about in the future,” Pickett said. “We’ll have the space for it once that road is complete. We’ll have all that land that we own back there.”

Jim Wilck

Farmville 701 District Supervisor Jim Wilck, who noted he has opposed membership in the VGA from the beginning, summarized his cumulative position Tuesday.

“We were told when we got in that they would generate business prospects for us, and in the seven years, we’ve gotten one that actually came through,” he said. “And that one cost us an extra $150,000 because they didn’t have the money to get into the business, so they borrowed it from us. Four months later, they went kaputt.

“So I have figured out that we have spent over $300,000 (relevant to the VGA), and we have nothing,” he added. “Absolutely nothing.”

Farmville 801 District Supervisor Pattie Cooper-Jones highlighted the trend of departures from the alliance.

“If you look at it, Amelia, Buckingham and Nottoway, they’ve already moved on,” she said, noting it was obviously not benefiting them.