Halifax County is well positioned to be competitive with other regions and localities in Virginia in the area of economic development.
Mike Davidson, interim director of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority, shared that news with the IDA board in a Friday morning meeting, based on the findings on a local and regional competitiveness report conducted by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
“I think the report is an excellent report, and it’s very favorable to Halifax County,” Davidson shared with the board. “My opinion is that it gives a very good rating of Halifax County.”
Board member Rick Harrell also noted that Halifax County is listed as a “Rural I” region, where it should be listed as a “Rural II” region, based on the fact that is not adjacent to a metropolitan area.
Rural I is defined as a nonmetro area that is adjacent to a metro area, whereas Rural II is defined as a nonmetro area that is not adjacent to a major metro area.
Harrell asserted that the reason Halifax County is listed as Rural I is solely based on the economic development efforts of the IDA and the county as a whole over time.
“We have bootstrapped ourselves beyond where we should be,” Harrell commented.
The report provides best practices for economic development, and Davidson noted the No.1 best practice is business retention and attraction.
Harrell expressed his agreement that business retention and attraction should be the IDA’s primary focus.
“Two-thirds of economic activity is through people you already know. It’s called business retention and expansion,” Harrell said. “That’s where we need to focus more than we have in the past.”
Halifax County received a middle-stage rating for business retention and expansion, and business attraction, compared to other regions/ localities in the Rural I category.
Aside from business/ industry retention and attraction, other best practice goals for Halifax County outlined in the report are re-skilling the current workforce, attracting new talent and increasing/ maintaining the quality of life.
Davidson pointed out that Halifax County also fared well in the financial category compared to other Rural I regions.
He noted that only five other peer regions in the study out of a total of 25 have a portfolio of properties at the level of Halifax County – 40 properties totaling in excess of $40 million in assets.
Halifax County also fared well in the category of prospect hosting stage, receiving a rating of advanced stage.
Regions receiving that rating have the following in place for hosting potential business prospects: a checklist for a prospect team has been developed, a site visit team has been formalized, and research has been informed and shared about the prospect.
The Halifax County IDA board of directors will use the recommendations and findings in the local and regional competitiveness report to guide them as they formulate a strategic plan for the future.
Davidson advised the board to select the recommendations in the report that they believe will have the most substantial impact on the quality of life of Halifax County residents and focus on those recommendations rather than trying to focus on all the recommendations.