A good idea worth examining
Fear and Loathing in Waynesboro column by Chris Graham
One thing Frank Lucente and I agree on is economic development. We haven’t always agreed on how best to get there, but there may be room for some thawing on that iceberg, too.
At first glance, I like Lucente’s proposal to build a sort of autonomous Economic Development Authority out of what we have now, which is something more thrown together than anything else.
Lucente’s idea is to spin the EDA out from under the thumbs of city council along the lines of how the Redevelopment and Housing Authority operates pretty much on its own. City council would still hold the power of appointment over EDA members, as it does with the RHA, and Lucente concedes that the council will have to be willing to provide some seed money to the EDA to get things off the ground. The goal is to create something self-sustaining and self-sufficient as we have with our RHA, and I think it’s an admirable one.
I don’t know that we’ll ever get 100 percent there on the self-sufficiency end. I say that thinking back to the efforts in Staunton to renovate the Stonewall Jackson Hotel that included participation from the Staunton Industrial Development Authority in the form of $10 million in bonds. We can’t look at those bonds as being off the city’s books because they had to be guaranteed by somebody, and that somebody ultimately is the average city taxpayer.
That said, IDAs and EDAs have the ability to find and raise monies for projects that are rather reliable and perhaps more importantly largely insulated from the political process. And really, that’s how economic and industrial development should be done. Projects like the Stonewall Jackson and the Waynesboro Town Center and the Wayne Theatre should be examined thoroughly on a cost-benefit-analysis scale, not on whether or not the project serves the political interests of a majority of the city council at that time.
Building a new EDA will add a level of business-world realism to our economic-development efforts that has been missing under the current system.
I’m going to be examining this topic more in-depth this week. Look for our analysis on the pros and cons of this idea in our Top Story on Monday.