Investing for growth

Published 9:56 pm Friday, July 15, 2011

Whenever the nation begins pulling itself out of the economic slump — and we still haven’t lost faith, as some have, that such a rebound is something we can expect to happen eventually — it is reasonable to believe the bounce will result in expansion of businesses and industries into fresh new markets.

That bounce will call for construction of new facilities, relocation of headquarters and operations buildings and a whole list of winners and losers in the economic boom that is sure to be a part of an expanding economy. Suffolk can be one of the winners in that equation, or it can join the ranks of the many municipalities around the nation struggling to make do with the churn of the retail lifecycle, the net tax loss that comes from each new home and the uncertainty of federal government installations.

Working to put the city on the right side of that formula is the job of Suffolk’s Economic Development Authority, which has some fine properties scattered around the city to show prospective industries with an interest in relocating to or expanding within Suffolk. Among the most promising of those properties is a 55-acre site just outside the gates of the old Tidewater Community College campus.

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Together, the Authority’s site and the nearly 400-acre adjacent TCC property have been identified as a potential jewel in the crown of Suffolk because of their location near the interstate and at the confluence of the Nansemond and James rivers. The property has incredible potential on a number of levels and could serve multiple important purposes for the city. So said the Urban Land Institute after a recent weeklong visit to Suffolk, and so says most everyone who has a chance to look at the properties.

In fact, the ULI planners who visited Suffolk in February ended their time here by presenting a vision of a mixed-use development that includes office, retail, residential and recreational uses, all clustered around various public spaces.

The key to the project, city officials were told, is to develop the Authority’s 55-acre site as a gateway to the rest of the property, to set the tone for what is to come. On Thursday, the Authority took a step toward meeting that goal by appointing a committee that has been charged with recommending how to get the site ready for development.

With a so-called “shovel-ready” site in such a prime location, Suffolk will position itself as an attractive option for new business and industry as the nation finally moves out of the long, dark economic era.

Though it’s often easy to find fault with government’s spendthrift ways, this is one example of a taxpayer investment that can be expected to pay big dividends in the long run. It will be exciting to see what develops from this decision.