EDC studies ways to woo businesses
Posted: November 10, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — City and Frederick County leaders are seeking ways to gain an advantage in the competition to attract businesses.
The Winchester-Frederick County Economic Development Commission (EDC) detailed how the city and county’s business costs measure up to other localities during a Friday meeting at the Winchester Regional Airport.
They also examined ways they could improve the city and county’s standing to make the area a more attractive destination for companies.
For manufacturing and business services, such as a customer service call center, the EDC found that Winchester and Frederick County’s cost climate is in the middle of the pack of similar regional localities.
“We’re not the best and we’re not the worst,” said Patrick Barker, executive director of the commission.
Electricity rates and wages were two areas found to be driving up business costs locally.
While it’s difficult for city and county leaders to influence wages or electricity prices, Barker thinks they can play an active role in attracting businesses.
Local taxes and real estate prices aren’t major costs to businesses in regard to other expenses. But companies place a lot of attention on those expenditures, and the city and county governments can do more to keep costs in those areas lower for businesses.
Providing more tax breaks or other financial assistance to businesses is another avenue city and county officials could take to spur local business investment.
“Maybe we need to be more aggressive on the incentive front,” Barker said. “Because we’re not the cheapest place in town.”
Winchester and county leaders can also make workforce development, transportation infrastructure and low real estate taxes a priority, Barker said.
“We’ve got to find a way to make us unique,” he added.
The study compared the city and county to the Virginia counties of Chesterfield, Hanover, Roanoke, Loudoun, Warren and Wythe.
Franklin County, Pa., Hagerstown, Md., and Berkeley County, W.Va. were also included.
The EDC attempted to measure Winchester and Frederick County’s business costs to other localities in 10 areas: real estate, corporate income tax, health-care premiums, unemployment insurance, electrical, water and wastewater rates, wages, workforce compensation and local taxes.
Real estate costs were higher only in Loudoun County and Hagerstown, while only Franklin and Berkeley counties and Hagerstown have higher electricity costs.
Wage costs for a company in Winchester and the county fall in the middle. Hanover, Wythe, Berkeley and Franklin counties’ average manufacturing and business services wages are lower than they are locally.
A company with 100 employees could have annual wage expenses ranging from $4.2 million in Wythe County to $8.1 million in Loudoun County.
In Winchester, the average is roughly $4.94 million annually, Barker said.
— Contact Conor Gallagher at email@example.com