Neighboring counties and towns like Chesterfield, Henrico and the City of Richmond have one main advantage over Hanover: The county known for its quality of life trails the region in terms of its commercial development.
“We are a young county,” said Edwin Gaskin, director of economic development.
But one of the Board of Supervisors’ initiatives for 2014 is making sure Hanover is ready for commercial development.
“Such economic development provides jobs, services for the citizens and a solid tax revenue base for the County, all with minimal demand on County services. This will enhance our quality of life while keeping tax rates low,” said Board Chairman W. Canova Peterson IV, Mechanicsville District supervisor.
In the most recently updated Comprehensive Plan, 70 percent of areas with existing infrastructure are planned for growth.
Although Hanover is making its way into the competition, the county has one disadvantage— it lacks land that is “pad-ready,” well-situated property, that’s properly zoned with utilities and roadways.
“We often feel like store keepers with empty store shelves,” Gaskin said.
Plan of action
About 15 years ago, Gaskin said development was left in the hands of developers Today, developers want land to be ready with infrastructure and roadways before they come into the county.
Though businesses aren’t necessarily being turned away, Gaskin said that on many occasions, businesses have said, “Get yourself ready.”
But things are heading in a different direction for the county.
“We want to get ahead of the opportunity instead of getting behind,” Gaskin said.
In order to turn things around, Hanover has already started making moves. The economic development department is working with both the planning department and public works to establish property owners who would be open for development and getting their sites ready with necessary infrastructure and roadways.
“It’s very much a public-private partnership,” Gaskin said.
Role of Infrastructure
Access to utilities and roadways is important for any new development. In Hanover, it is not uncommon for one business to be fully connected with infrastructure and the business next to lack those resources.
Gaskin said it’s also important to carefully strategize where to run utilities. For one thing, the county does not encourage any businesses to locate outside of the Suburban Service Area. To make that work, Gaskin said the county must offset utility costs and higher residential densities by interstate corridors.
A balance of business and residential development will power commercial development, Gaskin said.
Gaskin said that many businesses and companies are and have been interested in pursuing Hanover for several main reasons.
The first is the “quality of life” in the county and the second is its location. Because Hanover’s situated close to I-295 and Washington D.C, residents who don’t want to live in a big city like Washington D.C can easily commute there from Hanover. Hanoverians can also easily travel to other cities like Philadelphia.
Another of Hanover’s pros is its advanced manufacturing industry such as robotics and welding. This field provides numerous jobs for Hanoverians and Gaskin said the county plans on building and growing the manufacturing community.
“We’re proud that we’re making stuff here,” Gaskin said.
Some businesses have recently developed in Hanover and others are on their way in.
Vitamin Shoppe, FedEx Ground and Republic all just recently became a part of the business community.
But some are on the horizon. North Lake Business Park is expecting a development boom in the near future. An outlet mall will join Bass Pro Shops along I-95 as well as a Harley Davidson dealership. There is also a Tractor Supply in the works in Ashland. Not to mention, Mechanicsville may get a movie theater if the Board of Supervisors approve a proposal by Carmike in early October.
“It’s our job to make it known that [Hanover County] is a great place to do business and to live,” Gaskin said. “Taxpayers pay us to do that.”
Editor’s Note: Next week’s article focuses more specifically on economic development efforts in Ashland and what draws businesses here.