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The Right Note: Economic Growth Questions

by Mark Kelly April 12, 2018 at 3:45 pm 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

The Arlington Chamber came out against the parking rate and hours of enforcement increases this week.

Almost certainly, it is a way for the county to keep ratcheting up spending without hitting property owners with a tax rate increase. The parking changes are estimated to bring in $2.2 million per year.

According to the Chamber, the revenue grab was done without any outreach to local businesses. Just last month the County Manager just made a big deal out of new public engagement process for capital projects.

If the Chamber’s concerns about the lack of outreach are true, it would only reinforce the concerns about the seriousness of the County Board and staff when it comes to how they consider negative public feedback.

As the County Board continues to finalize the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, there are many short-term considerations like these. There is also a need to continue the conversation about long-term economic development.

It was suggested by the Chair of the Economic Development Commission in the Progressive Voice last week that our tax rate was “highly competitive.” Our persistently high commercial vacancy rate tells a very different story. And coming full circle, it is a good bet that increasing the cost of parking to visit one of Arlington’s restaurants in the evening will not help.

The Economic Development Commission’s strategic plan does state that “a stable and predictable regulatory climate is fundamental to providing superior service.”

But as existing businesses in the county see the incentives being offered and given to big businesses looking to relocate, they are wondering why more is not being done to make the business environment better for everyone.

Did anyone on the EDC really ask the fundamental question, why would a business looking at our business environment choose come to Arlington if we did not offer them an incentive package? In other words, is there a big “open for business” sign here or does it look like a high tax environment and difficult bureaucracy to navigate?

The EDC suggested continued improvements in areas like how businesses can interact with the county during permitting and licensing processes. Talking to people who do business in Arlington, there is still room for improvement here.

The EDC should go out and talk to business owners of all types and sizes. And here is a revolutionary question for the EDC to ask as they do: would our economic prosperity be better off if our government did less, not more?

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