Economic development moves forward in city
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Feb 11, 2013, 11:04
photo by Caitlin Davis Andrew Hagy is focusing his efforts on particular areas across the city.
When Economic Development Director Andrew Hagy presented his summary on Hopewell’s economic development in 2012 before city council last month, he told the group to expect something broad and varied.
“Economic development in general is a little complex and covers a little bit from A to Z,” he said.
For Hagy, the focus on development spans the city. In the area of commercial real estate, he is placing particular focus on the Colonial Corner shopping center just off I-295, the 2.6 acre Marina site, the Rt. 36/Oaklawn Blvd. corridor, including the Cavalier Square Shopping Center located just off that thoroughfare, the Crossings North, and downtown.
Hagy told council he has talked to property owners and representatives to assess potential interest the Colonial Corner site. One of the businesses Hagy has been actively participating in conversations with is retail giant Wal-Mart, which has expressed interest in locating a store in that location.
At the work session, council member Jackie Shornak wanted to know more about the status of talks with the company.
“The past few years we’ve been hearing Wal-Mart’s been coming, Wal-Mart’s been coming. Other people have been saying the same thing,” Shornak said at the meeting. “...This is one of the big ticket items that I get asked about all the time.”
While Hagy said there is hope that the chain may enter the city, he clarified that there is nothing certain at this time.
“The bottom line is it may not be feasible,” Hagy said. “But, if it isn’t, I think we need to sit down and reassess the property you do have there.”
After the meeting, Hagy explained that implementing a project like that in the city can take quite time, sometimes years.
“This has been going around for five years,” Hagy said. “There’s still a long way to go. There’s still interest, but the numbers have got to be there.”
Hagy has also been assessing interest in the Patrick Copeland site. He has met with several qualified residential-commercial real estate developers and has shown the site to business prospects for office use.
“We’ve had activity,” Hagy said, after giving council his summary on the property. “If things slow down, we may need to step up and do preliminary work and have it ready for the next developer coming in.”
Hagy told council that the world of economic development is one of of uncertainty. Mayor Mike Bujakowski explained to council that a presentation for an economic developer is a balancing act of words.
“There’s a balancing act you have between putting out information you have and progress that may be happening, versus that information getting out and prices going through the roof,” Bujakowski said.
In addition to giving tours of vacant properties, Hagy has reached out online, updating site and building inventory on City Economics, Virginia’s Gateway Region and Virginia Economic Development Partnership websites. For Hagy, the job is all about getting the word out.
“You’ve got to build that relationship and that’s what I’ve been doing,” Hagy said. “You’ve got to get out there, You’ve got to have someone out in the community, especially in the Richmond community and just representing Hopewell and let them know what’s going on in Hopewell, letting them feel comfortable. That if they’ve got a project they will feel comfortable bringing it to Hopewell.”
Hagy told council at the works session that he is building relationships with organizations such as Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Virginia’s Gateway Region, Virginia Manufacturing Association, Fort Lee and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, just to name a few.
“You got to let them know you mean business, that you’re open for business again,” Hagy said of contacting state and local agencies. “You’ve got to let them know just as you let the commercial real estate know that there’s activity, there’s opportunity here and city council wants this place open for business.”
Councilor Christina Luman-Bailey said the development world isn’t just about available property. She said it is also about putting Hopewell’s best face forward in the economic development community.
“And what you said earlier, as far as putting a good face on and making sure we advertise our accomplishments rather than our problems is essential,” Luman-Bailey said. “Confidence stimulates confidence.”
Hagy told the seven members of council that their help will be essential in doing that, and in spreading word about availability in the city as far as economic development opportunities.
“I’m the grunt on the ground [getting the word out],” Hagy said. “But you’re all the ambassadors, so you’re in the public eye constantly talking about how the city is open for business and the great things about the city.”
There has been economic developments in 2012, the most notable being Honeywell’s agreement with Praxair, Inc.
At the beginning of September, Praxair, an industrial gas company, signed a 15 year agreement with Honeywell Resins and Chemicals for the purchase of carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide will be purified and liquefied at Praxair’s new plant, set to open at the Honeywell site later this year.
The $24 million investment created 15 new jobs and will generate $10 million in local construction jobs over the next 12 months. Praxair is the largest industrial gas company in North and South America. In 2011, the company reported sales of $11 billion.
Hagy has responded to 12 business prospect inquires in the city, as well as 12 inquires alone on the Osage Bio Energy Plant. Hagy noted in his presentation that he has organized meetings between Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Virginia’s Gateway and Osage Bio Energy, LLC legal representatives.
The Osage Bio-Energy Plant closed its doors in May of 2011. In Oct. of 2012, then Vice-Mayor Wayne Walton authorized City Attorney David Fratarcangelo to begin legal actions to initiate a tax sale of the plant.
The total tax sale is for the amount of $1,676,824.06, which comes from the assessed value of the property. The taxes that have to be collected on the property are delinquent.
Hagy has also kept some of his economic focus in the city local. He has met with existing business and industry representatives and plant managers and has continued to build relationships with John Randolph Medical Center and the Hopewell Downtown Partnership.
“I’ve been meeting with existing business and industry, which I think for the city is very, very important,” Hagy said. “Asking if there’s anything they need, what’s going on, can we help. We want you to grow and expand that’s the bottom line of all of this, this activity.”
Hagy said his department has been working with the Downtown Partnership to develop a plan that meets the needs of both entities, as downtown is one of the most important locations in the city in terms of development. Hagy said he is going to continue working with the partnership to develop a brand and a face for both the city and for downtown.
“We’ve got to ask who are we,” Hagy said after the meeting. “And come up with a brand for both groups, make sure our plans are on the same page. We need to come back to a fork in the road, meet and make sure we’re all together on that.”
Hagy told council at the works session that there is a lot of foot traffic in the downtown area and that approximately 8,000 people visit City Point on an annual basis. Those 8,000 people pass through downtown.
“You’ve got a lot of people coming into the city,” Hagy said. “They are coming right through downtown. You’ve got an opportunity for a tourism destination to City Point that can bring people right through downtown.”
He also noted that the Steven Spielberg movie, “Lincoln,” which was filmed in and around the area and includes several mentions of City Point, presents an opportunity the city should seize.
“This will have a big impact and a big opportunity that I think the city should take advantage of,” Hagy said. “And to do that, partner with the National Parks, too, and turn it into a tourism destination.”
Hagy also told council they had another big opportunity in the city.
“Of course, downtown could be isolated, landlocked, but you’ve got something at the other end,” Hagy said. “Along the way, you’ve got water with access and opportunities that you can include the waterfront...Localities would die for that. It’s a really good amenity for the city to have.”
Looking to the rest of the year, Hagy said he is going to carry over many of the same priorities he had during his first year with the city. He told council he is going to expand marketing of the Marina, currently undergoing a $1.5 million renovation, and work to develop it as a boating destination. He will also study the waterfront in the city and the key areas such as the Patrick Copeland site and City Point and continue to get the word out that, “Hopewell is open for business.”