Fairfax County is at a crossroads. For years, we’ve benefited from a strong economy supported by rising Federal expenditures. As the Federal Government has reduced contractor spending, our local economy and tax base have been negatively impacted. Economic growth in Fairfax County is now lagging the US economy as a whole, and employment growth is not keeping up with increases in our population.
In 2014, economic growth in northern Virginia was virtually stagnant at a mere 0.4% and Virginia lost its spot as the most business friendly state in the nation. Here in Fairfax County, our economy is suffering from both the Great Recession and the sequestration cuts implemented in 2013. Today, there are over 19 million square feet of commercial office space sitting vacant, a 24 year high. The commercial tax base has fallen to a mere 18.7% of total revenues, the lowest in a decade. For homeowners, this means the tax burden has significantly shifted away from commercial landowners to residential property owners. In the last 3 years alone, the average residential property tax bill increased 17%.
As Supervisor, I will make it a top priority to restore a strong local economy that provides employment opportunities to our residents and the resources needed to preserve and enhance our quality of life. This starts with making Fairfax County more business friendly and attracting employers that are not dependent on Federal spending to invest in our community. The County’s current economic development plan, which took over 5 years to create, contains over 90 actions that are not prioritized and have no clear ownership. As a business executive, I know that a plan this large without any accountability will not succeed. I will urge the Board to create and execute a concise and prioritized plan with clear objectives for building a vibrant, diversified economy.
When I talk to business owners, both small and large, they routinely tell me about the cumbersome and costly regulations they are forced to navigate in order to do business in Fairfax County. I will fight to create a more positive business environment by streamlining regulatory processes and eliminating unnecessary red tape. This starts with reforming our outdated zoning ordinances and holding County regulatory staff accountable.