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Friendly foes are boosting region
How much do area economic development offices cooperate with each other on a regional level


Date published: 11/16/2011

BY BILL FREEHLING

Gary Wilson loves talking about McKesson Corp.'s 340,000-square-foot distribution center now being built in the Carmel Church area off Interstate 95.

But the Caroline County economic development director prefers not to go into the undisclosed details of exactly how the county landed the pharmaceutical giant.

Why?

"Because they're here," Wilson said, gesturing to a table full of economic development directors from around the region during a forum Monday night at the downtown Fredericksburg Courtyard by Marriott.

The moment highlighted the delicate balance between regional cooperation and competition between localities for investment in the Fredericksburg area. Though in some ways localities cooperate with each other for development, in other respects they are competitors.

University of Mary Washington's new Center for Economic Development, along with the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance, is trying to change that. Meta Braymer, a UMW vice president who heads the new center at Eagle Village, said at Monday's forum that the center "hopes to be a catalyst" to increase cooperation between localities that she considers "partners in prosperity for the Rappahannock region."

Monday's event was part of the Rappahannock Area Business Leadership Forum, which is sponsored by Hirschler Fleischer.

In addition to Wilson, Monday's panel was composed of Tim Baroody from Stafford, Richard Tremblay from Fredericksburg, Tom Rumora from Spotsylvania and Nicole Thompson from King George. Tremblay is the city's assistant economic development director; the other panelists head their economic development office.

Panelists said they cooperate in many ways, including on tourism, higher education and a shared Chamber of Commerce and landfill.

Baroody pointed out that Stafford courted McKesson, and when it became clear the company wanted a lower-cost area, Stafford officials encouraged the firm to go to Caroline. Wilson said later at the forum that regionalism and UMW's new center are "great" and that Caroline's residents rely on the retail and medical developments to the north. Thompson said companies that look at King George study the workforce of the region as a whole.

But the panelists also talked of individual incentives, what makes their locality the right choice for investment, what their locality's future is and how their websites look. Caroline has huge banks of land. Fredericksburg is the center of the region. Stafford is closest to Washington. And so on.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com