County administrator talks economic development

The state of the county’s economic development was the hot topic at the Economic Development Commission meeting Feb. 11.

County Administrator Tim Hemstreet presented a slide show detailing the county’s economic indicators, which he had previously presented to the Loudoun Board of Supervisors at its Feb. 7 meeting. The highlights from the presentation included:

Commercial and industrial sectors
Loudoun’s vacancy rate was at 14 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, which is down from 16 percent from the same period last year.

Loudoun’s rate of decrease has been less than that of many of our neighbors, he said. Still, Loudoun permitted 1.6 million square feet of non-residential property and gained several high profile leases last year. Rockwell Collins added 178,000 square foot of space and 400 employees; Neustar expanded its facilities; and more than 350,000 square feet of industrial space was developed around the Route 606 corridor last year, he said.

Additionally, 268 employers started new businesses in Loudoun last year, he said.

Real property and assessed value

Loudoun’s main revenue base is real property, Hemstreet said.

Loudoun’s real property has shown appreciation during the last couple of years. The estimated fair market value of taxable real property in Loudoun in 2010 was $54 billion. That base will grow about $2 billion in 2011 and is projected to add $1.5 billion to reach $57.5 billion in 2012, according to county reports.

The average assessed value of a single family home in Loudoun jumped from $387,720 in 2010 to $397,300 in 2011 and an estimated $406,600 in 2012.

Loudoun’s revenue conditions

“All of our base revenue is doing positive,” he said.

The county has seen a significant increase in personal property as well as real tax, he said. On the other hand, the county’s key budget challenge is to focus on how to balance an increase in service demands while experiencing continued growth and ongoing reductions in support from the Commonwealth, he said.

The county has suffered a net loss of 95 positions during the last two years. Since then, the office of the county administrator has taken prudent actions to reduce the budget so that the county’s workforce would not face subsequent decreases.

“Your government is more efficient than it was two years ago,” he said.

Hemstreet’s proposed fiscal plan attempts to meet the board’s fiscal direction, preserves major board initiatives, opens and operates new facilities, continues to focus on the Department of Economic Development and invests in the county’s employees, he said.

Hemstreet emphasized that county employees are burdened by a heavier workload each year and have not received a pay increase for the past three years. Hemstreet hopes to give county employees a 3 percent pay raise this year.

“They continue to absorb additional workloads without additional resources,” he said.

The future of economic development

Hemstreet’s major goals for the Department of Economic Development in 2012 include:

– A proactive business retention strategy. Hemstreet hopes to add another position within the department that will focus solely on addressing the needs and wants of Loudoun’s current businesses.

– Reduce the county’s commercial vacancy rate by another 2 percent. County representatives need to pro actively meet with businesses who are looking to locate here.
– Enhance local agricultural products distribution. The spring and fall farm tours currently generate $130,000 in revenue and 15,000 visitors annually.

Contact the writer at hhager@timespapers.com.

This article was first published by Hannah Hager on LoudounTimes.com.

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