Archive for: December 8th, 2017

Local Government
Town, County officials briefed on dynamics of economic development
December 8, 2017
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Turn the lights down low – Virginia Economic Development Partnership General Counsel Sandra McNinch, left, presented an overview of the dynamics of economic development work across the commonwealth. Photos/Roger Bianchini

The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s monthly meeting, held jointly with the Front Royal Town Council – well, at least two members (Tewalt and Sealock) – and Warren County Board of Supervisors (4 of 5 members, Fox absent) Friday morning, December 8, served largely as a course in the processes and intent of local municipal EDA’s.

That class was provided in a detailed, 33-slide power point presentation by Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) General Counsel Sandra Jones McNinch.  McNinch began by explaining the role of VEDP at the both the state level and as a facilitator and conduit to municipal EDA’s across the commonwealth.

The VEDP is comprised of a 17-member board of directors, 11 of whom are appointed by the governor or state general assembly; the remaining 6 are ex-officio members.  It serves as “Virginia’s Business Welcome Center” to international and national companies seeking new or additional bases of operations; and on the flip side of that equation as a “Global Gateway” for Virginia companies seeking expanded markets.  McNinch lauded the work of Governor Terry McAuliffe over the past four years on these economic fronts.

Teams, competition & powers

She also stressed that economic development “is a team sport”.  At the state level that is achieved in trying to see “that every region wins” as far as “positive growth in employment and median earned income of workers”.  On the local level that “team” partnership involves the municipalities that create EDA’s or IDA’s to oversee the nuts and bolts of economic growth.

One interesting point McNinch noted is that once created, EDA’s have financial powers “that don’t exist at the municipal level”.  Such powers include: making grants to private entities; sale of property without public hearings; the lease of sale of properties at, below or above fair market value – not just to the highest bidder; bond issues for the benefit of private entities; the ability to forgive loans that it makes to private entities; and the ability to act beyond the boundaries of the localities it serves.

And with all those powers in hand, McNinch stressed that it can be difficult, particularly in smaller communities, to maintain a primary motivation of helping the outside prospect company, rather than one’s self, family and friends.  That can be particularly true as EDA/IDA directors (and also board members) can be “well-positioned to influence economic development in their communities” the power point noted.

And as one might expect, while economic development may be a “team sport”, it is also a highly competitive one as regions and localities try to draw the businesses that will facilitate economic growth, better jobs and higher wages their way.  Succeeding in this highly competitive environment depends on a variety of factors revolving around what each community has to offer new business in the way of land, infrastructure, workforce, access, financial assistance when needed, and “reasonable costs and taxes”.

At several points McNinch stressed that “reasonable taxes” does not necessarily translate into “the lowest tax”, but rather “the fairest”.

And while she observed that Virginia is limited in offering tax breaks as incentives because of the State’s “Uniformity of Taxation Clause” that mandates that “all similarly situated property and taxpayers should be taxed similarly”, there is way for Virginia and its EDA’s to compete on that level as well.

“Virginia localities can get to the same place by offering, through the Authority (EDA or IDA), a grant equal to the % of the taxes paid,” the power point stated.  One chart showed the circular nature of this system: 1/ Local tax assessed to company; 2/ Company pays tax; 3/ Governing body approves payment to Authority; 4/ Locality pays Authority; 5/ Authority pays $ to company (equal to amount of tax consideration approved in recruitment of the company).

Mission Confidentiality

VEDP counsel McNinch also addressed the sometimes misunderstood role of confidentiality in business recruitment.  Her presentation noted that “Maintaining confidentiality is critical” and “Loose lips sink ships”.  Among the reasons listed were:

  • companies want to maintain confidentiality to preserve relationships with vendors, suppliers, customers and employees;
  • publicly-traded companies need to be mindful of any forward-looking statements (which can be illegal);
  • known interest in a site may drive its price up;
  • if confidentiality is broken a company may be afraid to share relevant information important to reaching a deal;
  • the company or its product may be controversial (while I don’t begrudge the others, the reporter in me says this one is NOT a good excuse for confidentiality).

Bottom lines

A bottom line of business recruitment is problem solving, McNinch told Town, County and EDA officials.  Among potential problems many relocating businesses are seeking solutions to are a trained workforce; ready access to suppliers and customers; access to innovative resources; access to some level of capital investment; and as mentioned above, those reasonable costs and a fair tax system.

If confidentiality is broken or there are obstacles to their “problems” being solved, a successful recruitment becomes increasingly unlikely.

“They read your papers. So, if you’re fighting about stupid things – stop it,” McNinch advised municipal officials.

At the top of the VEDP list of typical company needs was a “new, expanded or improved facility with good infrastructure”.  Perhaps ironically, infrastructure development, who would pay for it and when, has been an issue between our EDA and town council in recent weeks and months.

Specifically that infrastructure involves a primary access way through the Royal Phoenix Business Park at the former Avtex Superfund site – the West Main Street extension (estimated total cost $2 million to $2.5 million) – and a wastewater pumping station (estimated cost $385,000 to $400,000) to serve the first seven or eight commercial clients recruited to the Royal Phoenix site; and off-site road improvements to facilitate access (Phase 1 estimated cost $400,000-$500,000),

The EDA and its first Royal Phoenix client ITFederal are awaiting a final West Main extended design from the Town and a commitment to the idea of a Town-constructed wastewater pumping station developed by former Town Manager Steve Burke.  Council has committed $9,200 to the design phase of the pumping station, but not the construction cost.

But if council, 4/6’s of whom were not in attendance at Friday morning’s joint meeting, are having trouble grappling with those infrastructure costs to propel forward economic re-development on the Town’s wish list for over two decades, perhaps another bottom line will help them out.

VEDP General Counsel McNinch presented numbers documenting a $9.1-dollar return on investment for every $1-dollar in incentives offered new businesses in Virginia over a 14-year period from 2002 and 2015.  Based on 387 projects where $450.2 million in incentives were paid, net positive revenue to the commonwealth of $3.662 billion was cited.  Okay, incentives aren’t exactly infrastructure investment – but apparently you aren’t likely to get to the incentive phase without the infrastructure investment first.

But recent work session discussion see related story indicates a town council majority seems more willing to gamble on New Market Tax Credits that the US House Tax Reform Bill currently on the table is poised to eliminate. – Hey guys, why not gamble on something that might pay off in the end?

Legislative Update
Warner & Kaine push Congress to immediately reauthorize CHIP in Government Funding Bill
December 8, 2017
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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to immediately pass bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health care coverage for 128,000 children in Virginia, by including it in any upcoming government funding legislation. The CHIP program is set to run out of funding on January 31st if Congress fails to reauthorize the program, and if no action is taken, Governor Terry McAuliffe and the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services will be forced to notify families in the coming days of their impending loss of health care coverage. This is the second letter to McConnell from Warner and Kaine urging passage of CHIP.

“We write again to emphasize our support for the prompt reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). We ask that you include bipartisan legislation reauthorizing CHIP in any upcoming funding legislation. Prompt reauthorization of this program is necessary to protect the health of thousands of Virginia children and families,” Sens. Warner and Kaine told Leader McConnell in a letter sent today.

Previously, Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote to Leader McConnell in October, asking to expedite a vote on the CHIP reauthorization. The Senators have yet to receive a response to the earlier letter.

“On September 18th, Senators Hatch and Wyden introduced the Keeping Kids Insurance Dependable and Secure (KIDS) Act. This bill represents a bipartisan compromise that will extend CHIP for five years. We wrote you on October 26, 2017, after you had failed to schedule a vote for three weeks, requesting bipartisan legislation reauthorizing CHIP be brought to the floor as soon as possible. It has been more than nine weeks since funding for this essential program expired,” wrote the Senators today.

Added the Senators, “It is imperative that Congress act quickly to end the uncertainty around health care coverage for thousands of Virginia children. The Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services is preparing to notify families of the impending loss of coverage. As such, we request that a full CHIP reauthorization be included in the next available legislative vehicle, so we can prevent letters from going out in Virginia that will unnecessarily frighten parents whose children are in CHIP. On January 31, 2018, Virginia will have insufficient funds to continue the program, and thousands of children in our state would be at risk of losing health care coverage. We can, and must, put an end to this uncertainty.”

View full text of the letter below and PDF can be found here.

Legislative Update
Goodlatte Asks Supreme Court to Allow Congress to Finish its Job on the Remote Sales Tax Issue
December 8, 2017
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to deny review of the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. Proponents of review seek a Court-imposed solution to challenges in the collection of taxes on sales by out-of-state vendors, a matter that the Court itself has previously said is within Congress’s constitutional jurisdiction. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) also joined Goodlatte in submitting this bipartisan, bicameral brief.

Goodlatte issued the following statement:
“During my tenure as House Judiciary Committee Chairman, my colleagues and I have worked long and hard, seeking ideas from state representatives, brick-and-mortar shop owners, and online retailers and negotiating a compromise for the collection of already-owed taxes that works for all parties. As a result of these efforts, the House Judiciary Committee has authored draft legislation that balances these competing interests, defends state sovereignty, protects against regulation without representation by states, and promotes simplicity and fairness for traditional retailers and online vendors alike.

“A single decision from the High Court would impose a one-dimensional, heavy-handed solution that short-circuits the legislative process. Unlike the court system, Congress is much better equipped to adopt a nuanced solution that will protect all parties’ legitimate interests without burdening small business owners unfairly.

“I believe a legislative solution to the problem of remote sales tax collection is feasible, and I urge the court to allow Congress to finish its job.”

Background
Read the full text of the brief in opposition to the petition. Previously, Goodlatte described the history of his efforts to resolve the remote sales tax issue. He has also outlined seven basic principles that must be included in any legislative solution for remote sales tax.

What Matters Warren
WATCH: Now ready to be dispersed into the community
December 8, 2017
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This week, Linda Allen from the Center for Workforce Development housed in Brooklyn’s Marketplace and Kathy Leonard from Roth of FR stopped in the Buckton Presbyterian Church off Strasburg Road to pick up 25 cozy warm sleeping bags that were handmade with love.  Over the past year, a group of amazing women have been meeting and sewing these sleeping bags with the intention of sharing them with the homeless to help keep warm over the cold winter months.  We are so fortunate that we have organizations like the Center for Workforce Development and ROTH of FR who work directly with the homeless and do all they can to make a difference and make connections.

Please note: December 15th and 29th there will be a community breakfast, free of charge.  All are welcome. Good food and good company at the Cavalry Episcopal Church located at 132 N Royal Ave, Front Royal, VA.  Safe place to enjoy a hot meal, engage in conversation or just sit quietly in peace.

If you know of anyone who is in need, please don’t hesitate to contact either organization right away for help.

Linda Allen | 540-550-0110 |Center for Workforce Development | 206 East Main Street | Front Royal, VA | www.facebook.com/Center-for-Workforce-Development-Inc-1263716117045639/

Kathy Leonard |ROTH of FR:  www.facebook.com/ROTHofFR
Join the ROTH of FR group page: www.facebook.com/groups/ROTHofFR

*ROTH group page will keep you up to date on needs that people have out in the community.  You never know what you might have extra in your basement that someone else could really use.  Great way to know how to donate and support others!

To view the original story about the ladies who make the sleeping bags for the homeless, click here.

Food
Plant based proteins put the pulse in your diet
December 8, 2017
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Pulses are in the nutritional spotlight, and we aren’t talking heart beats.

Pulses — a branch of the legume or pea family — are harvested for their seeds. Pulses include chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), lentils, and dried peas and beans like kidney, navy, black and lima. Some legumes are not pulses: soybeans, peanuts, peapods and green beans, for example.

What makes pulses important are their protein and fiber content, important qualities especially for those on meatless diets.

Besides being inexpensive, pulses also have a low glycemic index, so they raise blood sugar levels less than other carbohydrates, according to the Harvard Health Letter.

Pulses are easily added to salads and stews to increase the protein punch, but food makers are increasingly providing new products that make it easy to add pulses to the diet. Among the new products are flours used in mixes for brownies and pancakes. Pulse flour made from garbanzo beans or peas can be used as a coating for food you would typically drench in white flour before sautéing.

Pulse pastas made from red lentil or black beans are also new, replacing semolina or durum wheat.

There are even new pulse-based snacks such as crackers and chips made with black beans, safflower oil and sea salt.

You can also add pulses to your diet through soups. White bean, lentil chili, and pea soup are just a few.