OPINION / Al Alborn: Business development and irony
by Al Alborn
The Alborn Foundation
I commuted to the Pentagon, Tysons Corner, downtown DC, and other points north for years. I lived in Prince William County, Virginia because I could get more house for the money and I enjoyed its rural charm. From the number of folks with me on I95 and I66, I was not alone in that assessment.
Prince William County would like to reverse this trend. The County would like to attract businesses, particularly high tech, Fortune 500, and perhaps services businesses. Our Government would like to shorten County residents commute while reducing the tax burden on homeowners thanks to the tax revenue businesses generate.
Here’s the irony.
Let’s assume that Prince William County is wildly successful in attracting new, big name businesses along I95, Route 1, Innovation Park, or any of the other available business spaces available. As someone who “did the math” while working downtown, I suspect that the people who work at these companies will probably also “do the math” and actually live in Spotsylvania or Culpeper to enjoy more house for the money, lower property taxes, and those Counties rural charm (which, ironically, we will lose as the price of our success).
Our housing market might then stagnate and property values might go down as people who work in Prince William County look for a better deal and an escape from our new commercial flavor, and the residential tax base would take a hit.
…and, if sequestration hits, those jobs down town might just not be there any more. Under just about every scenario (sequestration or not), Government is going to be smaller in the future. Our leverage as the much maligned “bedroom community” for Northern Virginia might just disappear. We might just wistfully remember the past as “the good old days” when we had jobs down town.
It would be interesting to do the math on a couple of variations of this theme.
The more successful our business development initiative, the bigger the problem as we give more people who work in Prince William County the option of making that “more house, less taxes, rural environment” tradeoff that those of us who commute (or commuted) North made a long time ago. This particularly scenario would probably only occur to folks who actually went through this decision process (such as myself).
Under this hypothesis, Spotsylvania and Culpepper would become Prince William County’s bedroom communities.
This might be a good hypothesis for the George Mason Center for Regional Analysis to model. I don’t believe that I have seen anyone hypothesize or model the potential unintended consequence of our business development initiative.
It’s just a hypothesis. I could certainly be wrong, but if I’m not…
Addendum: This is but one example of why it is important to take a systems view of Northern Virginia when planning or creating policy. Our issues don’t begin or end at the Prince William County border. In fact, borders are but a line on a map in today’s world. Planning without considering the entire D.C. metro region is always a mistake.
This is why Spotsylvania and Culpepper should both be in any comparison or competitive analysis of Prince William County’s position in Northern Virginia. They may not be in the “Tax District 8″ that was created in the past; however, they both play heavily in our future.
I assure you that they are both on the list of any Company contemplating moving to Northern Virginia.
If you would like to try and convince me otherwise, I’m always available to join anyone over a cup of coffee who wishes to discuss this or other issues. My office is the Starbucks at the corner of the Prince William Parkway and Hoadly Road in Prince William County, Virginia.
by Al Alborn
The Alborn Foundation
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