Celebrating Economic Development in Our County

 

As Virginia celebrates Economic Development Week, it’s a good time to highlight the importance of economic development entities to both the Greater Richmond area and throughout the Commonwealth.  

 Economic development agencies are the most important government entities in terms of bringing jobs, tax revenue and economic prosperity to our localities. Businesses and industries of all shapes and sizes are the engines that help provide the revenue to pay for schools, law enforcement, roads and all government services.  

 The case of the Chesterfield Economic Development Authority (EDA) is particularly compelling. 

 When LEGO chose Chesterfield over other locations across the country to build the company’s first manufacturing facility in the U.S., it validated the long-term planning and strategy of the county Board of Supervisors, EDA and staff to emphasize the importance of economic development. Of course, that project took a tremendous team effort from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Governor Youngkin and Greater Richmond Partnership to make it happen. Still, the county’s efforts in securing such a large-scale partner should not go unnoticed. 

 LEGO will create 1,700 jobs and bring $1 billion in direct investment to the county. Mangum and Associates projects that the impacts from LEGO will sustain an average of 3,398 jobs, $292 million in wages, and $100 million in state and local tax revenue every year throughout the life of the project.   

 And the investments don’t stop there. Just last week, Governor Youngkin announced that Topsoe will invest $400 million and employ 150 people in a new Chesterfield plant, making state-of-the-art solid oxide electrolyzer cells that enable industrial-scale production of green hydrogen for entities currently requiring fossil fuels.  

 In 2022, the county recruited Plenty, the largest vertical indoor farm campus in the world. It is these types of state-of-the-art businesses of the future that will not only be around for years to come but also foster innovation within the county. 

 Like other economic development agencies across the state, the Chesterfield EDA helps businesses of all sizes understand regulatory requirements, tackle workforce development needs and identify potential incentive programs. This is especially true for helping existing businesses thrive and continue to grow.   

 Economic development work is not limited to just helping businesses locate and expand. Over the last two years, the agency has led the effort with the Board of Supervisors to transform an eyesore strip mall on Midlothian Turnpike into what will become the county’s first urban dense live-work-play community, Springline at District 60. Through the EDA, the county was vital in providing the upfront financing for infrastructure development to allow the project to move forward and the funds will be repaid by developers buying the parcels to develop – a win-win for everyone.  

 The Chesterfield Economic Development Small Business Program works every day to assist the county’s small businesses to grow, innovate and create jobs. In 2023 alone, the program assisted 4,054 businesses with its business outreach events and one on one counseling. 

 

The positive economic activity means that county residents pay less in property and other taxes. This year, the Board of Supervisors announced a 25-cent cut in personal property taxes – granting Chesterfield the lowest rate of any Virginia locality with over 100,000 residents. The real estate tax rate has also been cut by 5 cents over the past four years – reducing the rate to the lowest level in the county’s modern history.  

 

Lower taxes are a major quality-of-life benefit for residents. Just ask people living in high tax jurisdictions, and they will tell you that high taxes are a major factor in deciding where to live or where to locate a business. 

  

Successful economic development strategies don’t happen accidentally – they require careful long-term strategic planning. Perhaps the most significant determinant of success is having available sites of varying sizes with adequate infrastructure to attract quality employers. The county committed to being ready ahead of time in building the Meadowville Technology Park decades ago, but because of successes like LEGO, Plenty and Topsoe that campus no longer has large sites.  

For that reason, the County has recognized the importance of Upper Magnolia Technology Park to the continued success and the long-term vitality of the county. Upper Magnolia will be the home to future technology and advanced manufacturing facilities, such as a silicon chip manufacturing plant. The site is so attractive because of its proximity to the educated workforce of the region and the park’s buildable acres.  

The bottom line is that economic development in Chesterfield – like similar entities across the state – is playing a vital role in bringing businesses, jobs and tax revenue for needed services and quality of life to the county. I think it’s about time we show our appreciation for the work they are doing to keep Chesterfield County great and support them in the future.