The Fauquier County Board of Supervisors wants residents to "buy local" -- and have nearby businesses make that possible.
"I'm tired of going to Manassas," Supervisor William G. "Bill" Downey IV (R-Scott) said at a board work session Thursday. "We need to encourage these businesses to come to our county so our residents will have their goods and services right here."
During a retreat in February, the board identified the creation of a countywide buy local campaign as a priority. The board has been examining about one priority a month since.
Board Vice Chairman Raymond E. Graham (R-Cedar Run) said Fauquier residents face a "supply gap" of items they would like to buy but aren't available locally. He also cited a lack of restaurants and such stores as Home Depot. With a campaign to encourage the buy local concept, Graham said, "we will have businesses that stay in business."
In addition, those stores would create jobs for people who would stay in the county all day, buying lunch and making other purchases. "It perpetuates itself," he said.
Talmage Reeves, Fauquier's director of economic development, presented a marketing plan Thursday to encourage residents to buy locally. The plan involves newspaper ads, notices on the county's Web site and coordinated efforts with the county procurement office and the Warrenton-Fauquier County Chamber of Commerce.
"If you have a solid retail tax base, that helps your overall economy remain stable," said Reeves, who plans to submit costs for the marketing campaign by next month and hopes the buy local campaign could begin early next year.
Reeves said buying goods and services within Fauquier helps the county by attracting more businesses, creating jobs and directing more sales tax revenue to the county's coffers. The county gets back one cent of Virginia's 5 percent sales tax for items bought within its borders.
"It doesn't matter if it's an office supply store or a homegrown veterinary clinic, the more businesses that we retain here, the more people who live here are able to work here," Reeves said in an interview before the meeting.
Reeves cited the Staples office supply store, one of several retail businesses to open in Warrenton recently, as a success story of residents patronizing a local business. The store has done so well since it opened Sept. 18 that it plans this week to open one hour earlier and close one hour later Monday through Friday, extend weekend hours and consider hiring more employees.
Brian Curry, the store's general manager, said that by staying open 12 more hours a week, he hoped to attract local residents who commute elsewhere and can't make it back to Fauquier in time to shop under the old schedule.
The chamber of commerce, which represents more than 575 Fauquier businesses, has promoted local businesses through its "Think Fauquier First" program since 1994. That program operates mostly through bumper stickers and word of mouth among chamber members, said President Karen Henderson, who spoke in favor of the county's initiative Thursday.
"The more our coffers are filled, the happier our quality of life is," she said.
The county's goal, Henderson said, should be to avoid the "importing" of goods and services. "If we're paying their [other counties'] taxes, for their schools and roads, what good have we done here?" she asked the board.
Susan Monaco, Fauquier's procurement supervisor, said the county government could still buy local within the confines of Virginia law that limits preferential treatment to locally based businesses. She outlined exceptions to the policy, such as when local and outside companies submit equal bids and when purchasing used cars, whose prices are difficult to compare, for county building inspectors and the maintenance department. The county government now seeks competitive bids on any purchase of more than $2,000. Monaco said that raising that to $5,000 would give the county more flexibility in dealing with local businesses.
In the last fiscal year, which ended in June, Fauquier County issued 8,500 purchase orders for $79.6 million worth of goods and services, including school construction. Local bids would still have to be competitive with outside ones for the county to benefit from a buy local program, Monaco said after the meeting. "You need to spend the tax dollars as prudently as possible," she said.
Graham said he would like to see a 20 percent increase in the amount the county purchases from local vendors by next year. He said he hoped to see overall sales within the county increase as well.
Reeves said the economic development office would hold a workshop in the spring for local businesses on how to bid for county contracts. "Whatever the county needs to buy, we want to make sure our local businesses are aware and can put proposals and bids in for them," he said.