Last week, the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) narrowly recommended the County Board use $1.5 million in economic development incentives to attract new businesses. The vote was 7 to 5 with one other member abstaining.
Some of the dissenting FAAC members thought the county should stay out of the business of using taxpayer dollars to incentivize businesses altogether. Others thought the money should be used elsewhere to get more bang for the buck. Many of those who back such economic development efforts believe that Arlington must use incentives to stay competitive with Fairfax, Alexandria and DC.
On multiple occasions, I have advocated that Arlington County take a holistic approach to making Arlington open for business. This means improving the fundamental environment for new businesses to start-up here as well as making it a priority that existing businesses can grow.
No amount of up-front financial incentives alone will ensure businesses will make a permanent home in Arlington. From the penalizing BPOL tax to the zoning process and everything in between, Arlington’s leaders must recognize the need to create an environment that allows businesses to thrive and create new jobs.
As part of its recommendations, FAAC did ask for the periodic review of the success of such incentive efforts. Hopefully FAAC members will continue to ask the question – is it working? They should make every effort to ensure taxpayers receive a good long term return on investment, not just let county leaders pat themselves on the back for “doing something.”
The volunteer FAAC members dedicate a lot of their time and energy to provide input on how your tax dollars are spent. We should applaud the FAAC members who thoughtfully raise concerns with, and are not afraid to oppose, the County Manager’s recommendations.
Did you know there were nearly 50 County Board established advisory groups in Arlington?
We hear about a number of them regularly. The Planning Commission, the Arlington Commission for the Arts, or the Sports Commission may also jump to mind immediately.
What about the Industrial Development Authority, or Urban Forestry Commission, or even the Out-of-School-Time Advisory Council? Have you heard of those? Do you know what they do?
If you want to give the Arlington County Board advice on an issue that is important to you, applying to serve on one of these groups is perhaps your best opportunity. You can apply online here if you are interested.