Loudoun County officials say a strategic decision that the Board of Supervisors made two years ago has shaped the county’s financing of several major transportation projects and provided a means to help attract businesses to the county.
The board voted in 2013 to keep the Department of Economic Development as a county agency rather than moving its functions to a new and independent agency modeled after Fairfax County’s Economic Development Authority. The supervisors changed the name of the county’s little-known Industrial Development Authority and began using it more creatively and aggressively as a financing mechanism and economic development tool, officials said in a series of interviews.
Loudoun’s renamed Economic Development Authority has helped provide low-cost financing for major transportation projects, such as the extension of Metrorail’s Silver Line into Loudoun and the construction of Pacific Boulevard. The authority has also provided a means of delivering incentives that helped attract K2M, a medical device company, to expand its corporate headquarters, research and manufacturing operations in Leesburg, officials said.
EDA Chairman Brian Chavis said in an interview that the Pacific Boulevard and Silver Line projects are examples of Loudoun’s creative use of the EDA to finance major transportation initiatives.
Chavis said developer Kincora was “on the hook” to build a segment of Pacific Boulevard that will connect Nokes Boulevard and Russell Branch Parkway. The state had funds set aside for transportation projects, and Kincora was looking for a way to tap into those funds, he said.
“We knew it was . . . unique that the commonwealth of Virginia would have money set aside as a transportation bank,” Chavis said. “They had all these millions of dollars, we had a need for a road, [and] we had a developer who needed to finance the road.”
The EDA also enabled Loudoun to obtain a low-interest, $195 million federal loan to help finance the extension of the Silver Line into Loudoun, Chavis said. Without the loan, the county would probably have had to pay for the project through general obligation bonds requiring voter approval, he said.
State law authorizes the EDA to provide tax-exempt financing for government projects, nonprofit organizations, manufacturing operations and projects on airport property, EDA attorney Steve Robin said. The EDA can provide loans with lower interest rates and more favorable terms than most commercial loans because the interest on the loans is tax-exempt, he said.
In recent years, the EDA has issued bonds for the construction of Loudoun Country Day School’s new campus south of Leesburg and housing units for employees of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chavis said. A bond issue to fund the construction of a section of Crosstrail Boulevard between Route 7 and Sycolin Road is scheduled this month, Robin said.
Loudoun is increasingly using the EDA as a means of providing financial incentives to attract businesses to the county, said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), who chairs the board’s Economic Development Committee.
Letourneau said he would like to see Loudoun work with the EDA to increase its international economic development efforts.
“We’re not spending time and effort in this at all, and that’s going to have to change,” Letourneau said. “And it’s going to take resources to do that effectively. But yet, obviously, public resources are tight.
“So if we can find other revenue streams to help us offset some of the costs, to do the type of recruitment that we really need in a focused way, then that’s going to be a huge benefit for us,” he said. “That’s something else the EDA could be playing a role in down the road.”
Barnes is a freelance writer.