Program Director and Professor of Practice at Virginia Tech
Phone: (540) 231-5133
Can you tell us your name and a little bit about your work history?
I’m Bob Stripling. I spent 32 years in local government management and a number of communities, which include four in Virginia, and I’m currently the Program Director for the graduate certificate in local government management here at Virginia Tech.
You deal with town managers, mayors, and local officials around Virginia. Do you find they are eager to find ideas to move toward more economic prosperity?
Sure, it’s a big priority for communities in Virginia, particularly with all the budget cutbacks they’ve had to administer, they’re looking for expanded government businesses, or for new businesses moving into the area.
What would be your number one tip?
Well, there are lots of tool box pieces you can use in the local government in terms of promoting economic development. One is a property tax abatement or forgiveness, for people that will expand or locate a business, or renovate a building which increases the property values for the community. Over a period of years you can give them an abatement of the increased value they’ve brought to the community.
OK, so let’s go through your top three tips. What’s number two?
Micro-loaning, which you can do in Virginia through something called a Community Development Corporation, where you provide seed money for small businesses. Now, we’re not talking about big loans, it can be as small as a few hundred dollars. Some of them are up to $25,000, which is a lot of money to some people. Particularly, these days and times when banks are reluctant to loan except to very good credit. You have some small businesses, even though the interest rates are low. A community can step in through these corporations and provide these types of loans.
And your number three tip?
I would say number three is giving credits for new jobs, giving a grant to people who bring new jobs. In most communities you want higher-paying jobs, so you set a minimum salary that we pay to those employees. If you bring in people not at minimum wage, or at ten dollars an hour, but something where it is a more professional job to the community, you give them a grant for each job that is created.
Do you have hope for towns in Virginia in economically distressed areas?
I certainly do. As most people know, Virginia has lost industries like the furniture industry and other industries throughout the state. Now they’re looking for replacements for those. They have a lot of vacant buildings you can get from the private sector at a fairly decent price, and upgrade them. I think there are a lot of opportunities. It’s not easy, but there are a lot of opportunities.