As 2013 unfolds Greene prepares for better days

By Susan Gibbs

Taxes may have to go up and cuts to some county programs might have to be made, but according to Money magazine we should take note of the shadows beginning to lift.

On the national level, according to the magazine, consumer debt is shrinking and housing and job markets are beginning to warm.

Fried Companies is ready for improvements in the housing market

And here in Greene preparations are under way for better days.

“We are currently working several promising leads for 2013,” says Greene County Director of Economic Development Tony Williams. “Several are retail-driven and several are technology-based companies looking to relocate to the area.”

But that’s not to say those preparations are just beginning.

Early last year Fried Companies Inc. won the county’s approval to build more than 500 townhomes on US 29N in Ruckersville – the county’s first such development – in anticipation of a market in which folks give more thought to housing prices, and the cost of upkeep.

Moreover, the developer proffered a $1.6 million four-lane connector road, with turn lanes, between Preddy Creek Road and 29, the cost of a traffic light where the road meets 29, and grading and clearing to allow for sight distance at a blind curve on Preddy Creek Road.

Those improvements are to be made before the first townhome goes up.

And then, late last spring an ABC Store, Hair Cuttery, Subway, Verizon and an East Gourmet Chinese restaurant moved into a new building at Ruckersville’s Gateway Market Center – and Leigh Hughes, assistant vice-president of the CBRE commercial real estate office in Charlottesville said at the time that “it looks like more retailers will be coming.”

In early October Pioneer Bank broke ground for its second branch in Greene County –also at the Gateway Market Center. The new branch is expected to open its doors this fiscal quarter.

Pioneer Bank is building a new branch in Ruckersville

“There is no doubt that Greene County is growing and we believe this new location provides exceptional growth potential … we are excited about opportunities that lie ahead,” Thomas Rosazza, president and chief executive officer of Pioneer Bank said in October.

In addition, the bank is community-minded, his associate, Belinda Tucker, vice-president and chief operating officer, pointed out. “Local schools, volunteer service organizations, and community groups and projects receive support from our institution,” Tucker said.

Just last month the Greene County Board of Supervisors gave its unanimous nod of approval to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety’s request for a rezone that will allow a $30 million expansion and, by extension, more business for the county – in what could be new housing starts, and hotel usage.

While the main reason for the expansion is to construct a domed testing facility that will allow for testing year-round and trackside buildings for the storage of test vehicles and targets, the Institute will also be constructing a 20,000-square foot facility that will house 20 offices and conference space.

We will be expanding our office area “to have additional space for additional staff that will need to be hired and allow for some future migration of staff from our Arlington office down to the Ruckersville facility,” IIHS Chief Executive Officer Joe Nolan told supervisors shortly before approval for the rezoning was granted.

Ten new positions – engineers, research scientists and test drivers — are to be added to IIHS’s current roster of employees, and there are presently 66 employees in the Institute’s Arlington office.

In addition, Nolan said, the Institute plans to “put in a fairly large conference facility so that we can host international meetings.”

Construction on the additions is to begin this year.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is expanding and adding new staff

Moreover, the county has committed to a multi-million dollar water impoundment facility meant to bring more big business to the county.

Still, experts say, folks shouldn’t be looking for the go-go years of the mid-2000s to return, or for things to get better overnight. This recession was marked by a financial crisis, which takes several years longer than a garden-variety downturn.

Improvements are expected to slowly take hold in the first half of this year, and to continue to slowly improve in the second half.

“We’re in the middle of a long-term adjustment process,” says one leading economist. “There was rapid growth fueled by the housing bubble, which enabled a ramp up in consumer spending, activity that shouldn’t have taken place. Now, there’s payback.”

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