Hurt, Kaine, Warner, Griffith introduce bill to promote economic development, reform permitting process
Congressman Robert Hurt (R-Virginia), along with Senators Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-Virginia), recently introduced the Commonsense Permitting for Job Creation Act (H.R. 3434 and S. 1914) in both houses of Congress. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will address regulatory problems that have impeded prospective economic development sites like Berry Hill Mega Park in the Danville-Pittsylvania County area.
When local entities work to secure a site preparation permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to attract job-creating manufacturing firms, the Corps has often been reluctant to issue the permit if there is a lack of a company that has publicly committed to the site and prepared detailed blueprints. A company will understandably not establish a facility at the site without an approved permit, but a permit cannot be approved without a company willing to locate at that site, creating an unfortunate stalemate situation. The Commonsense Permitting for Job Creation Act specifies that the lack of a committed end-user company should not be a reason to deny a permit that meets all other legal requirements.
This Catch-22 scenario is playing out at Pittsylvania County’s Berry Hill Mega Park, which boasts 3,500 acres of publicly-owned land. Berry Hill is the largest site of its kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the fifth largest on the East Coast, making it uniquely situated to generate economic activity, but this regulatory obstacle has stymied an economic development project with the potential for dynamic job creation.
“Last April, we were pleased that the Corps issued a long-overdue permit to the Henry County Industrial Development Authority to proceed with development of the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre. But the bureaucratic red tape that prevented this economic development for far too long continues to restrict job creation at Berry Hill and similar economic development sites across the nation,” said Congressman Hurt. “The Commonsense Permitting for Job Creation Act will allow exciting projects, like the one at Berry Hill, to move forward and create jobs while adhering to appropriate environmental protections. An economic-development site that could attract new businesses should never be delayed or denied because of so-called ‘speculative development’ concerns, and I am pleased that we are making strides toward eliminating this regulatory interpretation. I thank my colleagues, especially Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and Congressman Griffith, for their strong support of this bipartisan bill. I look forward to working with them and state and local economic development leaders to make real progress toward job creation in Southside Virginia and across the country.”
“In Southern Virginia, several economic development sites have had difficulty securing necessary water permits without a company committed to the site, but prospective companies are reluctant to commit to a site until all permits are in hand. This bill fixes that ‘chicken and egg’ issue,” said Senator Kaine. “Projects like the Berry Hill Mega Park have strong job creation potential, and I’m proud of our bipartisan work on this bill to bring jobs to regions that need them, like Pittsylvania County, while maintaining robust environmental safeguards.”
“Generating economic activity, attracting new investment and creating new job opportunities in Southside Virginia and all across the Commonwealth remains my highest priority. The current regulatory process, which requires a committed end-user company, creates a regulatory Catch-22 that unnecessarily constrains economic growth,” said Senator Warner. “Our bipartisan, bicameral legislation will alleviate this economic stalemate by preventing the lack of a committed user from being used as a reason to deny a permit. I’m proud to be working with Congressman Hurt, Senator Kaine and Congressman Griffith, as well as local economic development leaders, to make it easier for companies to create jobs for Virginians.”
“I was pleased the Army Corps ultimately issued a site preparation permit for Henry County’s Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre, but this misguided, arbitrary permitting process stalling growth in our communities must be stopped,” said Congressman Griffith. “The Commonsense Permitting for Job Creation Act would put an end to this policy, helping to speed up development and encourage the creation of good-paying jobs.”
Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Arizona), Congressman Randy Forbes (R-Virginia), Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-Virginia), and Congressman Richard Hanna (R-New York) are also original cosponsors of the Commonsense Permitting for Job Creation Act, H.R. 3434.