Facilitating Sound Economic Development
- Reduce the commercial office vacancy rate through aggressive business recruitment and retention efforts and business and tax base diversification
- Find new ways to make our permitting and approvals processes more swift, less cumbersome and more user-friendly, not just for big corporations, but for small entrepreneurs and homeowners, as well
- Nurture our women-, minority- veteran-owned and other small businesses, whether along the Metro lines, along transit corridors like Columbia Pike and Lee Highway, or at home
Nestle, Gerber, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the March of Dimes, and Higher Logic are just a handful of the companies, trade associations and non-profits that have newly located or expanded in Arlington in the last 18 months. Why Arlington? Our advantages abound—an unparalleled location, a highly educated, creative workforce, a rich transportation network, urban amenities such as diverse cultural and recreational offerings, unique urban villages and leafy single-family neighborhoods. Yet, despite these advantages, our challenges are daunting, and we cannot let up our recruitment efforts, or our push for a greater diversification of our tax base through new and emerging industries in technology, clean energy, health care, and more.
A stubbornly high commercial office vacancy rate still close to 20 percent, induced by changing workplace dynamics and stiffened competition from surrounding localities, is a sobering reminder that we have more work to do. Our citizen-led Economic Development Commission recognizes this, and just published a new Framework for Prosperity 2.0 that incorporates recommendations from the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and other community voices. I am working to ensure that the County Board and our AED team are taking these recommendations—centered by four key goals (robust business infrastructure, a sustainable, fiscally sound economy, a skilled and innovative workforce, and a distinctive sense of place)—to heart in driving our strategy. A reasonable tax and regulatory environment is also essential.
Carefully targeted economic development incentive funds like those used to recruit Nestle are a key weapon in our economic development arsenal—we cannot unilaterally disarm when so many jurisdictions use them. Yet, they should be deployed only sparingly, and with a rigorous return on investment (ROI) analysis. I support our independent County Auditor’s upcoming review to ensure that our compliance standards are all that they need to be. As I remarked to the Arlington Chamber of Commerce this summer, I am also committed to finding ways to make our permitting and approvals processes less cumbersome and more user-friendly, not just for big corporations but for the small shopkeepers that dot our neighborhoods, as well. We must amplify our BizLaunch program to better connect with our aspiring entrepreneurs—minority-, women- or veteran-owned alike. And we need to revisit our retail policy that causes many ground floor vacancies that deaden the streetscape.
I look forward to the pending economic development study designed to inform new business strategies on Columbia Pike, and to the fruits of our new planning process along the Lee Highway corridor in the wake of the Board’s reinstatement of planning funds proposed to be cut by the County Manager.
Finally, I support our Chair’s new Child Care Initiative that aims to increase the availability, accessibility, affordability and quality of child care in Arlington through zoning, regulatory and administrative reforms. This is essential to boost both Arlington’s competitive advantage as a great place to work and to make Arlington more livable for working families.