Better late than never

It’s good to hear Steve Landes say he will work “as a leader for our area to build our local and state economy, especially during this economic downturn.” Question – what took you so long in getting here?
The only thing I can think of where he has done anything to “build our local and state economy” was participate on the periphery of the effort to bring SRI International to the Valley back in 2006, and that was much more a deal involving the local economic-development folks in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the governor’s office than it was anything to do with our local Republican legislators. 

The credit I can give Landes there is that he could have opposed the state incentives that helped land SRI’s drug-research outfit in Rockingham, and he didn’t.

Can’t say the same for the role he played in the megasite deal earlier that year that would have actually brought jobs to the 25th District that Landes represents. Remember that one? We were talking 5,000 jobs at a Toyota plant in Weyers Cave, and Landes was outspoken in his opposition to the plans.

“The thing where at least some of the folks who support the efforts to try to not see the megasite occur, folks like myself, they’re not opposed to industry or business, but it’s the scope, and it’s the appropriate types of businesses that you’d like to see, that don’t detract from existing businesses, that don’t overpower existing resources and infrastructure, and that are part of the pattern of smaller- to medium-sized organizations and businesses that have been recruited in,” Landes said in a 2006 interview.

“There are some people who would not like to see any industry or business come in – and I think that’s a legitimate philosophy, if that’s what you believe,” Landes told me in the interview.

Talk about hedging your bets. In any case, the deal fell through, Toyota moved on, and at the time it would have been hard to say that it was that big a loss to the local economy, given that unemployment in the 25th was 2.8 percent in Augusta County and 3.5 percent in Waynesboro. Three years later unemployment is 7.4 percent in the county and 11.1 percent in Waynesboro, and I’m not sure it’s gotten as dark as it’s going to get before the dawn quite yet.

We could sure use those jobs that we turned our noses up to in 2006 in today’s climate. Just as we could have gotten more bang for our bucks from the failed Shenandoah Valley business incubator, NewBizVA, that Landes led as its executive director from 2000 until it closed up shop in 2006. There’s plenty of blood on plenty of hands for the NewBiz boondoggle, and Landes’ are among the bloodiest from being the point man on the paid staff.

But let’s give him credit. Now that he’s looking at actually facing a Democratic opponent in the fall, he’s at least talking the talk on the economy. Anything has to be more worthwhile that all the ballyhooing he does for himself on his effort to remove outdated laws from the State Code that’s about as mundane and trivial and nonsensical as you can get considering his record or lack thereof on the economy.


– Column by Chris Graham


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