Tech zone would exploit city’s strengths

Published 10:29 pm Monday, April 13, 2009

Build on your strengths. It’s one of the keys to success, whether on the basketball court, in the public arena or in the boardroom. Successful organizations find out what it is they do best, and they take steps to make sure that they can perform that function in an outstanding manner, putting themselves head-and-shoulders above the competition.

It’s a concept that proves valid even at the level of municipal economic development. Hampton Roads, for example, is blessed with one of the world’s best harbors, and local and state economic development officials are working day and night to improve the infrastructure servicing the port facilities and to show potential clients just how well they would be served by locating their port-related businesses here.

In Suffolk, on the other hand, a variety of factors have combined to make the city a growing hub of technology- and defense-related industries. North Suffolk has come to be known as “Pentagon South,” and some of the work that is being done there is without rival across the nation.

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The Suffolk Economic Development Authority has taken note of the technology cluster and — with the time-honored strategy of building on strengths — is considering setting up a technology zone in that area, where qualifying companies would be rewarded with incentives for locating their businesses there. The incentives would be designed to draw more businesses into the area, and the fact of more technology-related businesses would, itself, become an attraction for other technology-related businesses, theoretically setting up a profitable feedback loop for both the businesses and the city.

There is some work to do before the authority can forward the suggestion to the City Council: Appropriate incentives must be developed, and there must be a careful examination of the potential effects on tax revenues. But city officials should move on the issue with dispatch, so that the zone is in place before the economy begins to rebound and start-ups or growth-minded companies have already chosen the next sites for their new offices.