Elected officials from the Northern Virginia region gathered at the Northern Virginia Elected Leaders Summit in Tyson’s Corner last week to talk economic development, transportation, and what lies ahead.
Moderated by InsideNOVA’s Bruce Potter, a panel made up of Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova, Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Ranfall, City of Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg, and Arlington County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette spoke about issues that are impacting the region.
When asked about transportation, many of the panelists agreed that additional funding and expansion to the Metro system were needed.
“The one issue that is not getting enough attention is this…next tunnel at Rosslyn. That would help us all. I think the time has come to take a serious look at that,” said Silberberg.
But not all members of the panel shared that sentiment.
Stewart spoke out against Metro being an answer to the area’s transportation challenges, and stated that Prince William County wasn’t interested in having Metro access. For Stewart, the way to handle some of the transportation challenges are to invest in sensors for the existing road network, and to promote the use of autonomous “smart” vehicles.
“We’re not going to get a tremendous amount of additional funding for our transportation needs…if we continue to pile more and more money into a system where the maintenance costs are skyrocketing, where in order to expand it you’ve got to spend, what – $5, $6 billion dollars…it makes no sense, it’s never going to work. We’ve got to look at existing road infrastructure, we’ve got to improve that infrastructure,” said Stewart.
For Randall, a piece of improving transportation in the area is to bring jobs to localities where workers live.
“If I want to decrease traffic going in and out of Loudoun, the best thing I can do is have jobs in Loudoun County. And so we really cannot divorce job growth from transportation…what we really want to do is find ways to incentivize businesses to come locate in our area, and so that people can live where they work,” said Randall.
When asked about how to boost economic development in the region, the panelists offered differing opinions and ideas.
“In Virginia, we have kind of a disconnect…and our region…is fiercely pro-business, pro-economic development, and also where there is a local investment in education that is absolutely critical in order for this to be a business-friendly community. I would just say that we need to continue what we’re doing,” said Bulova.
Fisette pointed out that while Virginia is trying to move away from its reliance on the federal government spending to drive jobs and the area economy that the dependence is still there. According to Fissette, Arlington is doing marketing and outreach to pull individuals and businesses in to the area, and stressed that localities need to work together to not only coordinate their outreach efforts, but to grow the exports industry.
Stewart echoed some of Fisette’s comments about Virginia’s tie between the state economy and federal spending, and stated that the corporate income tax should be lowered or eliminated, to bring more corporations to Virginia.
“North Carolina is eating our lunch – let’s just be honest about it…we’ve become arrogant. We have been propped up artificially by federal spending for decades. It’s coming to an end – it’s not coming back…North Carolina listens to the business community…what we’re doing is, we’re just hoping that federal spending’s going to come back,” said Stewart.
Randall offered a different approach, stressing that diverse voices need to brought into the conversation on economic development, and stated that international perceptions of the United States, particularly in relation to gun violence, are negatively impacting tourism dollars being spent in Virginia.
“We do not work to bring different perspectives, and bring different voices, and different attitudes to these rooms. We talk to one another in a bubble, we agree or disagree in a bubble…we want to first try to start doing is bringing in different voices – let’s talk to people. We talk a lot about the millennials, we don’t talk to millennials very much,” said Randall.
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