Saturday, June 26, 2010

Loudoun Chamber + EDC + CEOs + BOS + BOE = Evidence of an Enlightened Business Community

A unique Loudoun County business leadership meeting took place on Tuesday (at the brand new , Doubletree Hotel Dulles Airport-Sterling) among key leaders and representatives of the Loudoun CEO Cabinet, the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce (LCCC) and the Loudoun Economic Development Commission (EDC). This was billed as an exchange of ideas, goals and strategies for 2010, and introduced the realignment of the Loudoun CEO Cabinet officially now under the LCCC. Notable government reps included Supervisors York, Water, McGimsey; Board of Education reps Hatrick and Stevens; VA State Delegates Greason, May and Herring.
Here’s some of the newsbytes that resonated across the group and panel.

Some pics over at Loudoun Times - BizLoudoun, June 22..

Ralph Buona, SVP for Business Development of Telos Corporation delivered the LCCC message, including:

The Chamber is large, healthy and growing, with a recent survey indicating that 96% of members thought the Chamber was very relevant to their business – though room for improvement included a retention rate of 77% and 81% satisfaction with marketing efforts. The recently approved merger of the Greater Manassas/Prince William County Chambers will displace Loudoun as the DC region’s largest Chamber. 2010 initiatives underway include a “Political Process Committee” to help groom business leaders for political office, improved LCCC brand development and a number of new non-profit support initiatives.

Scott Hamberger, CEO of Sterling-based Fortessa Inc. (a Tableware Company), followed with the Loudoun CEO Cabinet overview:

“We’re experiencing an awakening of the Loudoun business community, like lights going on in a previously dark house. Loudoun is at an inflection point…and we can either learn from other areas with similar growth patterns (like Charlotte/Mecklenburg and Austin) or continue as a DC bedroom community”. The affiliation of the CEO Cabinet under the LCCC helps consolidate activity, focus and align outreach and information-sharing between the business community and the Loudoun County government (i.e. ostensibly taking the “shadow government” issue off the table). The CEO Cabinet helps drive professional education and outreach, foster an informal “neural network” of professional information sharing, raise funds for actions taken on behalf of the overall business community and alignment with neighboring jurisdictions, but has no desire in advancing purely parochial interests.

John Wood, Chairman and CEO of Telos followed with the EDC comments:

“We’re at a stage of enlightened self-interest in terms of the business community, with much more focus on children and education, employee needs, congestion issues (both physical and virtual, online), and infrastructure needs. He laid out the simple math of “unpacking the commercial tax base”, comparing the fact that every dollar of commercial tax revenue generates 93 cents profit to the County, while for every dollar of residential real estate property tax raised, the County actually spends $2 to support. So with the forecast growth in residential properties and school cots, we’re looking at over $400 million in near term incremental expenses that aren’t covered by projected tax revenues…this is a clear indicator of the need for the County to drive commercial location/relocation here to Loudoun. He also included some remarks regarding how the EDC, supporting the Department of Economic Development (DED), is a reasonably effective voice to the BoS – though he supports the concept of more “at large” Supervisors, since the concept of “District Supervisors” is an inherent conflict of interest.

Discussion followed - by far the best exchange was with Lori Waters asking the panel how the BoS was actually doing, in supporting the shared strategies of the Economic Development Commission, CEO Cabinet and LCCC - the fundamental answer revolved around "too many 5 to 4 BOS votes", as John Wood put it, and other evidence of an extremely unpredictable and partisan BOS with respect to the issues that current and future County business investors care about.

An historic meeting, for sure, but hopefully the first of many more, and with many more businesses represented...

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