Surry invited to join regional economic development authority

Published 4:52 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Virginia’s Gateway Region, a nonprofit economic development organization that markets the Hopewell-Petersburg-Colonial Heights tri-cities area and surrounding localities, asked Surry County on Aug. 5 to consider joining with its membership in forming a regional industrial facilities authority (RIFA).

Doing so would allow Surry to potentially partner with its neighbors to the south and west on economic development projects, with each locality sharing in a portion of the resulting tax revenue, according to Keith Boswell, VGR’s president and chief executive officer.

“So, for example, if Surry had a piece of property and didn’t have the money to develop it, but Sussex did,” Boswell said, the two counties — and others such as Prince George County or the city of Hopewell — could pool their resources to move the hypothetical industrial park along, with each taking a cut of the tax revenue proportional to its investment.

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The authority would be governed by a board composed of one or two representatives from each member locality: Surry, Prince George, Sussex, Dinwiddie, Hopewell, Colonial Heights and Petersburg.

As a less hypothetical example, Boswell pointed to the Sussex County-owned 1,130-acre “megasite” located less than a mile from Route 460. According to Sussex County’s website, the site already has an on-site wastewater plant and electric substation. But the VGR is currently conducting a study to determine the best way to bring drinking water to the site in quantities sufficient to attract a million-gallon-per-day user.

“Is it going to come up from Suffolk through Isle of Wight or right through Surry to get to Sussex?” he asked, rhetorically. “Or is it coming down the 460 corridor from Petersburg, going through Prince George to Sussex … eventually, it could benefit Surry, or theoretically, it could come from Hopewell, we just don’t know.”

That study could have been a RIFA project, Boswell said.

The Eastern Virginia RIFA, of which Isle of Wight County is a member, includes a total of 10 Hampton Roads localities. Forming a new RIFA for the Gateway Region would cost roughly $13,000, Boswell estimated, which, divided among the seven localities, would make Surry’s buy-in around $1,850.

A number of southwest Virginia localities joined forces a few years ago to form a RIFA for the purpose of redeveloping old mines, Boswell said. RIFAs are also useful when localities need to lobby for a project before Virginia’s General Assembly, he added,

Surry, he said, is the first Gateway board of supervisors or city council he’s approached about the idea.

Surry’s Board of Supervisors tabled the proposal for a future work session.