The following is a Prince William Living article from September 27:
Enhanced economic development is one of four cornerstone goals for the three Democrat candidates running for Manassas City Council. The other goals are continuing the growth and improvement of Manassas City Public Schools, enhanced neighborhood safety, and better transportation. The three candidates are running together as moderates, to counter the existing tea party bloc on Manassas City Council.
“Local government needs to partner with the development community to create the conditions that will enable new development and re-development to occur and succeed,” says Mark Wolfe, who has served on Manassas City Council for eight years. Wolfe is seeking a third term in the 2016 election. “I pushed hard for a new Economic Development office, sponsored by the City government. We have a quality staff and we have incentives in place,” says Wolfe.
“The City has restored their economic development department to increase efforts to recruit, retain, and grow local business,” agrees Pam Sebesky, a six-year member of the School Board now campaigning for a spot on the Manassas City Council. “The next step, and one of the specific plans of our Democratic team, is to fully fund the Economic Development staff’s aggressive efforts. The current Council is not moving to fund the projects that have been identified, and that is costing Manassas City.”
Rex Parr, former CEO of Didlake, a successful Manassas-area business and third Democrat candidate for Manassas City Council, states another part of the trio’s plan for revived economic development in the city: “The reputation of our public school system is the single most important driver of the local economy. That is where we need to be focusing more of our economic development efforts.”
“Schools are the economic driver of the city,” follows Wolfe. “We need to support our schools to drive our economy higher. Schools are what make people – businesses and residents – want to come to an area.”
The team has additional specific plans to spur continued economic development in Manassas City.
“Regionalism is vital for the success of our larger economy,” says Wolfe. “I have City Council experience. In my view, the Manassas airport, Innovation Business Park, George Mason University, and the new Gateway Development should be jointly planned and marketed between Manassas City, Prince William County, George Mason University, and the private sector. We cannot continue wasting time and energy and harming relationships with arguments over who owns which side of a line in a certain development.”
Sebesky and Parr see challenges in regional economic development initiatives. “It is a huge political challenge,” says Sebesky. “I doubt that elected officials alone will be able to drive such initiatives.” Local business leaders would have to support the effort, agrees Parr: “It would take effective collaborative leadership from the business community. And I have the relationships and experiences to get that ball rolling.”
Redevelopment is another area of focus for the three Democrat candidates, who believe the tea party bloc on Manassas City Council has stymied Council efforts and delayed economic success, keeping Manassas City from the full post-recession growth of the rest of the Northern Virginia.
“Local government needs to partner with the development community to create the conditions that will enable new development and re-development to occur and succeed,” says Wolfe. “A good example of this is my support for the redevelopment of Old Town Manassas, and the new growth of the Gateway Development.”
Sebesky says, “Our team will create and fund a Redevelopment Authority to work with the private sector in preserving and renewing neighborhoods, and continuing the redevelopment of Old Town Manassas. The Redevelopment Authority would be funded with the designated monies earned by the Gateway Development.”
Specifically, the candidate team intends to support the implementation of the Dean Park study and master plan, and to continue the focus on the Centreville Road / Mathis Avenue Sector Plan. “Growth and revitalization of these areas is vital to the city’s continued economic growth,” says Parr. “These are areas of opportunity, and we will not let that opportunity go wasted.”
“The London School of Economics has it right,” says Parr regarding the appropriate role of government economic development. “Remove unnecessary barriers for success.” We haven’t been doing enough of that, he says emphatically. “We have had a group on City Council that has deliberately thwarted efforts to grow, and it has harmed our City. It has harmed our residents and our schools. We must change that, and we must change it now.”