8/11/2017 6:14:00 PM Alleghany County, Covington Sign
Economic Development Agreement
Alleghany County Administrator Jon Lanford, left, and Covington City Manager Richard Douglas sign a joint economic development and growth sharing agreement Thursday. The document was signed during a brief ceremony at Dabney S. Lancaster Commun-ity College. (Gavin Dressler Photo)
CLIFTON FORGE — A new cooperative agreement between Alleghany County and Covington is being hailed as a potential boon for economic development.
County and city officials met Thursday to formally sign a joint economic development and growth sharing agreement.
The document was signed during a brief ceremony at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College.
The agreement calls for the two sides to partner in the cost of select economic development projects and share in the revenue that’s derived.
“I have been in the Alleghany Highlands for four years and what I have seen is cooperation and this is the ultimate example of cooperation,” said Dr. John Rainone, president of Dabney S. Lancaster Community College.
The agreement came after nine to 12 months of negotiations between the county and city. It was approved earlier this month by the Alleghany County Board of Supervisors and Covington City Council.
“The county and city have to agree to use funds on sites they designate,” said Mike Lockaby, an attorney with Guynn & Waddell P.C in Salem.
The law firm represents Alleghany County and Covington. Lockaby became involved in crafting a joint economic development and growth sharing agreement last year following a meeting with City Manager Richard Douglas and County Administrator Jon Lanford.
Douglas and Lanford were discussing economic development opportunities in the county and city, while also considering the costs of developing properties with limited financial resources. Only 3 percent of the land in the Highlands is flat and considered suitable for economic development.
Douglas had come to Covington from North Carolina, where a city and county can share revenue. Lockaby was directed to explore if such an arrangement is permissible by Virginia law.
He learned that Albemarle County and Charlottesville have a revenue-sharing arrangement for the Route 29 corridor. Another arrangement is in place between the city of Franklin and Southampton County.
“That came as a result of relationships and annexation proceedings,” Lockaby said of the Franklin-Southampton agreement.
Lockaby said the local agreement was crafted in a cooperative spirit, however, sending a strong message to companies and businesses considering locating in the Highlands.
“We have put aside the competition and have agreed to keep it to the high school football games to bring tax revenue and jobs to these localities,” he said.
Del. Terry Austin, R-Buchanan, said the agreement sends a strong message to Richmond, where regional projects are viewed favorably when it comes to state funding consideration.
“I commend the people involved in making this happen. It’s great,” Austin said. “I really appreciate the effort by the local governments to merge and work together in a cooperative fashion.”
Covington Mayor Tom Sibold Jr. said relations between the city and county have improved in recent years.
“What I have seen in the last five to 10 years is a cooperation level that we have not experienced before,” Sibold said.
The agreement was reviewed and approved by the Virginia Commission on Local Government before it made its way back to the governing bodies.
David Conmy, a local governmental policy administrator for the Commission on Local Government, said most agreements between localities in Virginia are reactionary to events that have already occurred.
“You should be applauded for your efforts to see past jurisdictional lines,” he said. Bath Doughty, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership, also praised the two governments, calling the agreement “fundamental” to growing the regional economy.
“Local governments almost always don’t get the credit that is deserved ... toward taking advantage of opportunities to work together,” she said.
“Today is a great example of that. This is really a great accomplishment and I think you are going to be able to see the benefits of this for years to come,” Doughty added.
But Steve Bennett said the real test will come in 10 years.
“Let’s see what we’ve done with our opportunities 10 years from now,” he said. Under the agreement, the county and city will equally split tax revenues generated from joint economic development projects.