Business, Trades, Manufacturing & Jobs

Keep Business in Harrisonburg. Bring Business to Harrisonburg.

Harrisonburg needs a solid economic base to keep it strong and healthy - not just the universities, but small businesses and manufacturing. We need to keep business here AND bring new businesses to the 'Burg. Giving people skills and jobs lifts them out of poverty and supports the community. Not just in expanding the tax base but in providing the extra amenities that made Harrisonburg attractive in the first place. I want Harrisonburg to be a center for and support small business growth. We need to have opportunities for small business and affordable rents. We need to limit taxes and regulations and streamline the permit process, reduce "red tape" and work closely with businesses so they will want to come to and stay in the city. Harrisonburg should be a place that gives businesses opportunity - I would like to help make it so and make it "crisis proof" and resilient.


At least 18% of businesses I talk to plan on moving to the county or even out of state when their leases are up.  This is an exodus we cannot afford. They sight expensive rents, red tape, regulations and taxes as the reason for moving. In almost every case, the county offers them a better deal and works with them to get their businesses up and running in an efficient way.


The latest census report has 28.2% of our population at or below the poverty level. Job loss would increase that and expand the burden on the working class, a burden they cannot be expected to bear. (Right now, 30% of the land in Harrisonburg is not taxable, either because it is owned by the universities or by a non-profit. If 30% is not taxable and 28.2% of people are below poverty (assume they are not paying property tax) that leaves 41.8% of the townsfolk plus businesses supporting everyone. We need to reduce the poverty numbers and jobs, education and skills are the only way to do that.)

What do businesses look for and what can we offer them?

  • Financial incentives - We can offer grants, lower taxes, assistance with infrastructure costs and performance rebates for new jobs.

  • Reasonable tax rates - Businesses, like households, do not have unlimited funds and must be prudent with spending, save for emergencies and have money for profit sharing and adequate wages. Over-taxing will drive them out and leave people without jobs. We need competitive tax rates for business. 

  • Skilled workers - Companies need a skilled workforce so they can sustain and grow operations.  It is important that our schools partner with industry to determine skillsets that should be taught and that we promote the trades and manufacturing. Every student out of high school should have a skill to fall back on. We need "innovation incubators" and research facilities to attract new businesses as well so they have creative people to develop new products and solve problems.

  • Infrastructure - Businesses need an accessible interstate system, public transportation availability and a rail system network to get finished products to market. Office space, warehousing solutions and retail space are also needed. Larger manufacturing companies or distribution centers will need land and commercial parcels. Fortunately, Harrisonburg has all of this to offer - We just need to aggressively market our assets. We have large available parcels of land in the north and south ends of town.

  • Quality of life - We have this covered. It is important to promote this and keep it. Companies look for affordable housing, quality schools, available medical services, nearby shopping and cultural attractions. They consider the climate, pollution and energy costs. Employers want employees to be satisfied in a new location. They will look at recreational activities, libraries, colleges, and the proximity to other cities, towns and airports.

  • Limited Regulations - Let's make it easy on small and large businesses to cut through red tape and offer them affordable solutions to implementing state mandated regulations. Let's help them streamline the approval process. At the same time, let's review and reduce unnecessary regulations and make them on par with County requirements.

Trades

You cannot build or maintain anything without skilled tradesmen. Trades are overlooked and their importance is not stressed enough in our education system. It takes a lot of smarts, talent and problem solving skills to be an electrician, a plumber, a millwright, a mechanic, a framer, a machinist, a tool-and-dye-guy, a welder, a construction worker, a painter, a mason, an HVAC person and a handyman. Try building anything without their skills….A city? A house? A business? Impossible. Try to run your life without them and you will appreciate what they do. Kids should think the trades are cool. I do. We should have more opportunity for young people to learn the trades. Trades are important. We need to support and expand the opportunity for young people to embrace these skills and professions. We should consider expanding the technical center and consider collaboration with Blue Ridge College to expand the trades.


Restaurants and service industries

Restaurants and service industries were hit hard this year with the loss of student and local business. Did you know that 1 manufacturing job creates or supports 5 service jobs? Expanding our base will help maintain an income stream for these appreciated amenities. Promoting "Take Out Tuesdays" would be another way to support restaurants on their slow days and allowing individuals with food stamp cards to use them for take out on slow days would be a benefit as well (I said take out because tips are not allowed on the cards).


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KATHLEEN "DOC" KELLEY