With over $5.1 million in construction for 2019, Kilmarnock had a banner year, and the town is hoping to keep the momentum going.
The two big contributors to the 2019 construction total were the Boys & Girls Club, which broke ground on its new facility, and Dominion Energy’s substation improvement project.
“The past several years has not shown much in the way of big commercial development costs like this,” said Marshall Sebra, Kilmarnock’s planning and zoning director.
Kilmarnock realizes that it isn’t likely to see another Dominion project on that scale anytime soon, but the town is hoping to continue seeing strong performance on the economic development front.
To help achieve that, in December, the town added Chad Thomas to the staff as economic development and tourism coordinator. Kilmarnock’s Enterprise Zone funding was also extended to the end of 2024. The Enterprise Zone program offers state-funded financial incentives to new and expanding businesses that meet certain qualifications, and “it’s huge for Kilmarnock,” Thomas explained.
“We have seen an uptick of interest in our area, and our enterprise zones. It’s one of the first questions we’re asked when people are looking at development here in the town – what kind of incentives we have,” he said.
“The Enterprise Zone shows the business community that we’re interested in development. It incorporates most of our commercial center within the town. So when people are looking for development opportunities in the town, having an additional incentive within the enterprise zone makes it that much easier to accomplish their goals.”
To sweeten the deal, Kilmarnock is also offering local Enterprise Zone incentives for qualifying businesses that launch projects in the Kilmarnock Business and Technology Park.
Those incentives include exemptions from zoning permit fees, water and sewer connection fees, business, professional and occupational licenses, auto decal fees, and subdivision permit fees.
Enterprise Zone funding isn’t exclusive to Kilmarnock. Other counties also have Enterprise Zones and Warsaw has also offered additional local incentives.
But Kilmarnock’s local incentives aren’t in place to compete with other locations in the Northern Neck.
“We’re obviously interested in the opportunity to increase our tax base. But for economic development, we say a rising tide lifts all boats. If there’s development happening in the Northern Neck, we encourage that to happen. Our local incentives are not reactive, they’re proactive. We’re not trying to create a system where we’re racing to the bottom or trying to compete necessarily. The impetus is to make a prospective deal a little more advantageous,” said Thomas.
“If a business is trying to make a decision, we’re just trying to make that decision easier for them. And typically they’ve narrowed it down to about three locations, so we want to make sure they choose the Northern Neck and the town of Kilmarnock.”
Together, the state and local incentives can help businesses make a decision today instead of five, 10 or 15 years from now, and Thomas said part of his new role is helping businesses take advantage of those opportunities.
Kilmarnock is also focused on the type of businesses it attracts. “We are looking for catalytic development, and really trying to have that development that stirs other development within our town.”
Additionally, Kilmarnock is planning to have discussions with policy makers and other jurisdictions to explore sound strategies to encourage local development.
“We want to make sure that every question is pursued to its logical conclusion. We want to understand why businesses invest and how we can help them along the way. We want to talk to the business community and find out what are their pain points as we consider crafting any additional incentives. We want to understand what our role as government is here. We don’t want to just incentivize water to roll downhill,” he added.