Here’s some Fear and Loathing for you – I agree with Frank

Fear and Loathing in Waynesboro column by Chris Graham

Here’s something that will surprise some of our readers who assume that I totally and completely have it out for Frank Lucente. He said something yesterday that we both very much agree on.

I know. Gasp! The horror!

In regard to the news that Outback Steakhouse is opening a restaurant in the city’s West End next month, Lucente made the appropriate comment to The News Virginian that “(a)ny business that opens is a posiive.” I agree on that point, but that’s not what I thought was significant from his remarks on the matter.

“It means more to a community to establish something that makes a product,’’ Lucente told the NV. “Those businesses pay better.”

Lucente and I have had lengthy conversations on our feelings on that point, and it is one major point of convergence for us from our otherwise quite-divergent political philosophies. Economic development has to be more substantive than the “what are we getting next?” talk that seems to drive the prevailing discussions of development in the River City these days.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to eat good steak and shop for nice clothes and new technological gadgets without having to drive 10 miles or 20 miles or 30 miles or 100 miles to do so. I just don’t know that we get jumping-up-and-down happy that we’re getting something when what we’re getting is just another place to spend our money.

Lucente and I agree on the fundamental point that we need to do something to jumpstart efforts to try to land more substantive industrial and manufacturing entities to our local economy. Where we differ from that point of agreement is on the point of how to go about those efforts. For all the points of criticism that I have lobbed at Lucente and his self-styled conservative allies on issues from the makeup of the Finance Committee to the firing of former city manager Doug Walker, my most intense criticism is that I don’t think Lucente and his allies have anything in the way of a cohesive plan for going after the kinds of industrial and manufacturing jobs that we are going to need to transform the Waynesboro economy for the future.

I don’t know that I’m oversimplifying Lucente’s position to describe as simply working harder to attract industry and manufacturing jobs than we are right now, and expecting that to mean that we will have some success in the future. That is similar to his view on what to do to make Downtown Waynesboro a viable player in our local economy again is to have 10 entrepreneurs come in and do their thing, and that will take care of what needs to be taken care of on that end.

Either or both of those approaches could lead to success down the road, to be sure, but it seems to me that we’d be relying on our good fortune more than any of us should have to be comfortable with to that end.

We need to create a tangible economic plan with specific goals and strategies to Move Waynesboro Forward. And I think we can do that by engaging the business and industry community and the community at large in crafting a workable plan for our city’s economic future.

And I think we’re at a point where we can begin to do that. If Frank Lucente and I, as much as we disagree on what we need to do to position Waynesboro for its future, can agree on what is ailing our local economy, then we can take the important steps to coming together on what ultimately is the best course of action to treat those ailments.

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