Category Archives: Economic development

Virginia’s Income Drain: $1.5 Billion Last Year

Last week I noted that more people left Virginian between 2015 and 2016 than moved into the state — the fourth year in a row the Old Dominion suffered more out-migration than in-migration. From a taxpayer’s perspective, that wouldn’t be so bad if poor people were leaving and rich people were coming in. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The IRS data is based on the change in addresses of people who file income tax returns. The “returns” column in the table above shows the net gain or loss in the number of returns filed; the “exemptions” includes taxpayers plus other family members claimed as exemptions. Tax filers leaving Virginia reported an average income per filer of $73,900, while those who entered the state reported $66,100.

Not only did Virginia lose a net 9,000 taxpayers in 2016, we lost nearly $1.6 billion in income. Assuming an effective income tax rate of about 5%, that represents a loss of about $76 million in tax dollars.

One year’s loss of $1.6 billion in income is hardly a disaster when those who stayed behind reported $250 billion in income. But the steady erosion of the population and tax base over four years does add up, and it will continue to add up if Virginia can’t turn things around. Our collective tax and debt obligations looms a little bit larger when there are 9,000 fewer tax payers each year to shoulder the burden.

Not surprisingly, Virginia lost the most taxpayers (3,900) and the most income ($645 million) to income tax-free Florida. We’re hardly alone in that regard. Wealthy retirees of many other states do the same thing. But how does Virginia explain the net loss of more than 3,000 residents, along with $320 million in income, to high-tax Maryland?

Virginia was a net exporter of income to 40 other states and an importer of income from only 10 states (plus Washington, D.C.). We can console ourselves that our reversal of fortune from 35 years as an importer of people and wealth is temporary, driven by cutbacks in federal funding for the state’s military-industrial complex. But what if there’s more to the story? It would be helpful to take a closer look at which cities, counties and metropolitan areas are winners and losers… which I will do if I can find the time.

Reinventing Roanoke

Thirty years ago when I worked for the Roanoke Times, the City of Roanoke was obsessed with revitalizing its sleepy downtown. Roanokers were fiercely loyal to their central business district and celebrated every small success. But the odds seemed stacked against them. Midsized cities lacking a major university presence have fared poorly economically in the past three decades. Indeed, Roanoke suffered body blow after body blow as its top employer, Norfolk Southern, progressively shrunk its presence to zero.

But rather than sounding a death knell, the departure of Norfolk Southern freed up railroad office buildings for conversion to apartments and, against all odds, Roanoke’s revival.

As reported by the urbanism website CityLab, the conversion in 2002 of one Norfolk Southern office building into a collegiate and job training center and another into an 87-unit apartment building set downtown on a new path. Backed by historic tax credits and $20 million in city capital projects, developers have converted many old commercial buildings to residential use. In 2000, fewer than 50 people lived downtown. Today, more than 1,800 do.

Writes article author Mason Adams: “The Star City … created a model this century for how small industrial cities can reinvent themselves.”

Bacon’s bottom line: The Roanoke Valley is hardly booming right now. But the city is reinventing itself, creating in downtown the kinds of places that creatives and Millennials want to live. It is undergoing the same kind of transformation, on a smaller scale, as Richmond has. After a wrenching transition during and after the 2008 recession, Richmond now leads Virginia metro areas in economic growth. Hopefully, Roanoke will experience a similar rebound.

Moral of the story: Why is Roanoke’s downtown district and surrounding neighborhoods reinventing itself and not the valley’s suburbs? Because downtown has assets that people now value: walkability, including a pedestrian-friendly street grid and sufficient density to support a wide variety of amenities within walking distance. Downtown also has a large stock of historic buildings. Perhaps most important of all, Roanoke’s zoning code has not impeded the conversion of buildings from one land use in declining demand (office space) into a different land use enjoying growing demand (residential). Roanoke has had the freedom to evolve with changing market demand. Suburban places, embedded in their residential/commercial/retail pods lack are stuck in amber. All Virginians can learn from Roanoke’s example.

More Miscellaneous Morsels…

Corporate Research Center, CRC, aerials, Phase 2, Dairy Farm

Luxury apartments for research park. The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, which has more than one million square feet of office space, is joining forces with a local real estate developer to add luxury apartments to the mix, reports the Roanoke Times. The company had previously added amenities to play soccer, lacrosse, volleyball, basketball, and disc golf to its work-live-play options.

“What we’re trying to do is create a self-contained community that has all the amenities at your fingertips,” said CRC President Joe Meredith. “The last amenity that we don’t have is housing.”

The Corporate Research Center, in my recollection from visits a decade ago, was a classic suburban office park, the main selling point of which was its proximity to the Virginia Tech campus. It was a pretty sterile place. Integrating apartments into the mix sounds like a good move — indicative of a larger trend in which suburban office parks are busily reinventing themselves as islands of walkable urbanism capable of attracting Millennials and the businesses that want to hire them.

Longwood revising bias reporting protocols. Longwood University has temporarily shut down its bias incident reporting system, reports Campus Reform, and is rewriting protocols to protect freedom of speech. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) had criticized Longwood for its particularly broad definition of what constituted a “bias” incident.

Director of Citizen Leadership and Social Justice Education Jonathan Page conceded that some of the definitions the school had used were problematic, telling the Rotunda that Virginia Assistant Attorney General Cameron O’Brion advised the university to remove the former protocol and provided recommendations for revision in response to [a] student’s complaint.

“A lot [of O’Brion’s recommendations] were based in how we were not only defining bias and hate crimes, they really didn’t fall in line with how the FBI defined hate crimes, that a lot of the things we defined as bias incidents were really freedom of speech issues,” Page explained. “Some of the language that we modeled came from some private institutions and so as a public institution we can’t have the same stance that privates do.”

Bacon Bits: Film Flam, State Workers, Fun & Games with Chicago Debt

Yummmm. So tasty.

Film incentives a money loser for state. Incentives for producing films in Virginia doubled under the McAuliffe administration, reaching $14.3 million in 2015-2016 and totaling $43 million over five fiscal years. But Virginia’s film industry has returned about 20 cents for every dollar it received in tax credits and 30 cents for every dollar in grants over the five-year study period, according to testimony yesterday before the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC). Legislative auditors concluded that 95% of the productions would not have been filmed in the state were it not for the credits, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

State employment compensation needs reform. Compensation for the state’s 105,000 employees is “nearly equivalent in value” to that of private-sector employees in Virginia. Although salaries lag the private sector by about 10%, the state makes up the difference with generous health insurance policies. The compensation package does have challenges, however, hiring employees in the fields of health care, health and safety inspection, public safety, and information technology, finds a new JLARC report. “State employee salaries could be more strategically managed if they were … prioritized for jobs that exhibit the most pressing workforce challenges.”

Boomergeddon watch: Chicago. Despite $36 billion in public pension debt, a prospect of $550 million in budget deficits over the next three years, and a reliance upon the state of Illinois, the budget of which also is in a shambles, Chicago just issued a AAA-rated bond. How is this possible? Chalk it up to creative financial engineering. The city is selling off its right to receive sales-tax revenue from Illinois to a separate public corporation, which will issue new bonds backed by those funds. This securitization insulates bondholders from the city’s finances. Chicago is using the proceeds to pay off old, higher-coupon paper, so it will ease its interest burden for a while. However, writes financial blogger John Rubino, “since [the city] runs a chronic deficit, it will soon be back in the market to borrow more, at which point it will have to pay up – since those AAA bonds are siphoning off so much money. Then the downward spiral will resume, with no more tricks available to delay the inevitable.”

Former Apostle of Sprawl Now Touts Walkable Urbanism

Stephen S. Fuller

Fairly or unfairly, I’ve always thought of Stephen S. Fuller, the George Mason University professor and expert on the Washington regional economy, as a guy who made his living providing the intellectual justification for the business-as-usual pattern of real estate development in Northern Virginia. The real estate lobby hired him to conduct innumerable studies and forecasts, which invariably were used to justify opening up new areas to low-density development and support construction of the transportation infrastructure to serve it. As it turned out, his mid-2000s forecasts of population and economic growth stretching into the infinite horizon turned out to be spectacularly wrong.

But agree with him or disagree with him, his views on economic trends in the region carry a lot of weight with important people. So I was startled (in a good way) to read of remarks he made to the Prince William County Chamber of Commerce. Reports Inside NoVa:

While Fuller feels that the county is generally well-positioned for the next decade or so, he warned that Prince William officials will need to find a way to build more high-quality, walkable communities if they want to attract talented young workers (and the companies that covet them).

“What companies want most these days is a good workforce,” Fuller said. “And that puts pressure on areas having good housing, parks, these amenities, more so than 10 or 20 years ago. Businesses don’t go somewhere and think the talent will follow. It tends to be the other way around.”

In particular, Fuller suggested that the county might look at attracting developers of higher density communities to come to Prince William, particularly in areas with access to public transit like Manassas or along the “I-95 corridor.” He’s also bullish on the potential of Innovation Park near Mason’s Prince William campus to attract development, calling it a “gold mine,” though he urged patience from county leaders to not abandon the area if growth looks sluggish.

“You have two or three major nodes that will generate good jobs, you need to build communities around them,” Fuller said.

I disagreed strongly with some of Fuller’s past prognostications. This time, he’s got it right. Prince William is the county that sprawl built. It will not age well. Older, car-centric subdivisions will lose relative value in the metropolitan area compared to walkable urbanism. Over time the middle class will move out and lower-income and working-class households will move in.

While it’s always tempting to keep the growth Ponzi scheme going by busting into the sparsely populated Haymarket area in the western part of Prince William, it makes far more sense in the long run to build walkable communities concentrated in a few nodes that (1) will attract Millennials and employers, and (2) will create development patterns offering a better balance between tax revenue and infrastructure spending.

I don’t know when Fuller became a convert to higher-density, mixed-use development — I haven’t tracked his activities closely in the past few years — but I’m glad to see that he’s made the switch. Given his reputation in Northern Virginia as an economic guru, he can be a force for positive change.

Amazon, Incentives, and Virginia’s Best Sales Pitch

The odds that Virginia can snag the Amazon HQ2 project strike me as exceedingly long. Not because our communities don’t measure up well against Amazon’s location criteria but because we don’t have the stomach in Virginia to assemble massive enough subsidies and tax giveaways to compete with metropolitan regions willing to stroke blank checks.

New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority and the City of Newark have offered an incentive package worth $7 billion over 10 years, according to William F. Shughart II and Thomas A. Garrett writing in The American Thinker.

Virginia’s reticence to hollow out its tax base is a good thing. As Shughart and Garret write:

If history serves as a guide, politicians will defend giveaways of taxpayer dollars to Amazon by claiming that the benefits flowing from new jobs and higher wages exceed the costs of financing a subsidy. The same arguments routinely are heard when it comes to building a new sports venue, hosting the Olympic Games or SuperBowl, and enticing other headline-grabbing businesses looking to move to greener pastures. Luring Amazon indeed will be a major publicity coup for local and state politicians who certainly will claim credit for a successful outcome in the runup to Election Day.

It turns, out, however, that the benefits of taxpayer-financed subsidies always are overstated. The economic costs of subsidy packages for private business enterprises are in reality much larger than their supporters admit, for several reasons. Among the errors in thinking the authors cite:

  • Politicians fail to account for the opportunity cost of business-location subsidies. The opportunity cost of any taxpayer-funded subsidy is the private-sector economic activity that would have been generated (but is lost) had the dollars financing it remained in private hands.
  • Politicians argue that new wage earners will spur economic growth through a multiplier effect as their larger incomes circulate around the regional economy. That is certainly true (although multiplier estimates are wildly overstated), but removing income from the private sector to finance subsidies means that the multiplier effect works in reverse. Politicians baldly assume that every dollar of subsidy is worth more to the economy than if the dollar remained in taxpayers’ pockets.

“Politicians,” write the authors, “believe that they know better than ordinary people how best to allocate resources to their highest valued uses. The historical evidence against that belief is overwhelming.”

If I were making the pitch to Amazon, I’d offer no incentives or tax breaks. This would be my argument: You’re making a long-term commitment when you locate your second headquarters in our state. You thrive if we thrive, and vice versa. You want a community capable of building the kind of infrastructure and amenities that your employees desire. The last thing you want is to parasitically feed off the community through subsidies and tax breaks, thereby rendering it unable to fulfill critical functions of government. If you locate in Virginia, you’re moving to a place where state/local government is fiscally sustainable over the long term. You won’t be regretting your decision a decade from now.

Explaining Virginia’s Economic Growth

Every time I’ve seen Governor Terry McAuliffe give a speech, he’s warmed up the audience by touting all the jobs Virginia has created on his watch. And the one time I saw gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie speak, he emphasized that the rate of job creation has been one of the slowest in the country.

Both men can cherry pick facts to back up their positions. Virginia has created a lot of jobs over the past four years of uninterrupted national economic expansion. But the rate of job creation in Virginia has been slower than the national average.

Whether the Virginia economy is doing well or poorly depends a lot on your vantage point. Here I have to agree with Peter Galuszka, a former contributor to this blog: Viewing the state as a unitary whole is not terribly useful.

“One way to explain what is happening is to unpack the Old Dominion region by region,” he writes in a Washington Post op-ed. “Many forget that it is a huge state whose southern border runs from the Atlantic Ocean to a point on the map farther west than Detroit. It is sort of like comparing rural Maine with the New York City suburbs.”

Much of the employment success is in a crescent area from Northern Virginia to Richmond and on to the peninsula. Much of it has been fueled by federal spending and an increasingly diverse economic and population base. In September, employment in Virginia grew by 34,000 in total.

September figures show that Northern Virginia grew by 10,700 jobs compared to the same month in 2016. Some of that may be federal spending. Not far behind in jobs growth is Richmond, which added 10,500 jobs, mostly through the private sector that brought in new businesses such as real estate firm CoStar.

Not so in somewhat forgotten areas such as Danville and Martinsville, which are struggling to make comebacks after the demise of tobacco and furniture manufacturing a couple of decades ago. Ditto Southwest Virginia, where coal production took a nosedive around 1990 and never recovered, leaving local government coffers in need of tax revenue and young people on the move elsewhere.

Here are some other basic truths to remember next time someone credits or blames a governor with success or failure of Virginia’s economy. Job creation in Virginia is driven by two things primarily: the performance of the national economy, and the state’s industry mix. Look at any chart comparing economic growth in Virginia and the U.S., and the two move in the same cyclical patterns. If Virginia over-performs or under-performs the national cycle, more than half the difference can be explained by the state’s industry mix. The biggest “industry” is the federal military-intelligence-homeland security sector. When that sector booms, Virginia booms. When it falters, Virginia falters.

That’s not to say Virginia’s business climate doesn’t matter. It does, a lot. But on the margin. The effects of an incremental move up or down in the business climate can take years to show up in stronger or weaker job creation numbers. And let’s remember this: Virginia’s business climate rankings reflect broad institutional strengths and weaknesses that take years, even decades, of positive or negative massaging. Any improvement in (or degradation to) in K-12 schools, higher education, workforce training, transportation infrastructure, taxes, labor laws, the legal climate, and the dozens of other factors that contribute  to the business climate is the work of governors, the General Assembly, the judiciary, local governments, and, yes, citizens.

Even in the realm of corporate recruitment, the governor’s role can be overstated. Governors don’t identify prospects or do the months, even years, of grunt work that goes into reeling in a big corporate investment. Economic development professionals do. For the most part, governors don’t get involved until deals reach the serious talking stage. But when a deal is closed, the governor’s office writes the press release and the governor takes the limelight. That’s the way it works today, and that’s the way it’s always worked.

Any governor who claims credit for hundreds of thousands of jobs created is pulling your leg. Any candidate who claims he can turbo-charge Virginia’s economy is pulling the wool over your head. We need to dispense with the idea that a super-hero governor can swoop in and pump up the economy. What we Virginians can do is slowly and patiently assemble the building blocks of a better business climate in the expectation of seeing incrementally more investment and job growth over time. After a decade or two, we can say we made a big difference. That’s not a message that drives voters to the polls who want results now, but it has the virtue of being true.

What Happened to Jerry Peng, and Other Questions about Tranlin Inc.

Jerry Peng, Darden School alumni and former CEO of Tranlin Inc., left the company for unexplained reasons earlier this year. Was he ousted? If so, why? And what are the implications for Tranlin’s announced $2 billion investment in Chesterfield County? Darden’s website still lists Peng as “a member of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees.”

Tranlin Inc., a Chinese paper manufacturing company that promised to invest $2 billion and hire 2000 employees in Chesterfield County, has failed to meet a deadline for repaying a $5 million incentive grant from the state. The company informed the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) that the company could not fully repay the loan, instead writing a $150,000 check and vowed to repay the balance in monthly installments, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“We are deeply sorry and apologize for the delay in full repayment,” Tranlin’s acting CEO Donald Lan said in a letter to VEDP President Stephen Moret. The company agreed to give the state a first-position lien on 50 acres in Chesterfield it has purchased for $3.2 million, which Lan described as “a sign of good faith to meet the repayment obligation.”

Tranlin insists that it still intends to proceed with the Chesterfield project, which was originally scheduled to begin operation by late 2019. Earlier this year, the company informed Virginia officials that its timetable had encountered delays when the company changed leadership and decided to install a new technology that required a redesign of the Chesterfield project.

The Tranlin news follows revelations in 2016 that a different Chinese company, Lindenburg Industry, reneged on a $1.4 million grant from the state to build a factory in Appomattox County. Lindenburg, it transpired, was a hoax company. By contrast, Tranlin is real. State officials have visited its plant in China. Doing business  under the name of Vastly, the company describes itself this way: “We make tree-free paper products and plant-derived fertilizers from post-harvest straw, using an earth-restorative process.

Bacon’s bottom line: I have nothing factual to add to this story, only questions and suspicions. Many Chinese companies are highly leveraged, and the Chinese economy is notorious for tolerating — and hiding — high levels of bad debt. The company is huge, otherwise it couldn’t contemplate building a $2 billion factory in the U.S. A financially sound company of that magnitude should have no trouble repaying a $5 million loan. The fact that Tranlin can’t fulfill that obligation ought to send up warning flares about its financial condition.

Back in July, the Wall Street Journal published an article describing how President Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Tse Tung, is clamping down on the overseas expansion of Chinese companies by restricting their access to credit from state-owned banks. Wrote the Journal:

Beijing for years encouraged Chinese companies to scour the globe for deals. Now it is reining in some of its highest-profile private entrepreneurs in what officials say is growing unease with their high leverage and growing influence. The measures serve as a stern warning for other big companies that loaded up on debt to buy overseas assets, officials and analysts say.

Mr. Xi acted after China’s cabinet set the government machinery in gear by directing financial regulators, the economic planning agency and other bureaucracies to take a hard look at foreign acquisitions, once seen as a means for China to showcase its economic might, these people said.

Another reason for suspicion is the unexplained departure in March of CEO Jerry Peng, who sealed the economic development deal with Governor Terry McAuliffe. The company gave no reason for the departure of Peng, a graduate of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, and a company spokesman had no comment beyond the company’s short statement. Very little can be found in U.S. media (via Google searches) about the inner workings of the Chinese company, so Peng’s departure remains a mystery. However, I would argue that his removal and Tranlin’s delays should be viewed in the broader context of Xi’s consolidation of power, his campaign against excessive leverage, and his reining in of private industry.

Will Tranlin ever build that Chesterfield plant? Let’s just say that, if I were a betting man, which I’m not, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Marohn to Bring Strong Towns Insights to Virginia

I have written about Chuck Marohn, founder and chief evangelist of the Strong Towns movement, many times. Not long ago I urged elected officials and citizen activists wanting to revitalize Virginia’s small towns to read his blog. Marohn is, hands down, the leading thinker today about building more prosperous, livable, and sustainable communities” in America’s small towns.

At long last, Marohn is coming to Virginia. As the guest of the Partnership for Smarter Growth, the Coalition for Hanover’s Future, and the Virginia Conservation Network, he will be holding one of his “Curbside Chats” at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland tomorrow (Tuesday) evening.

How can our towns get stronger—not weaker—when our economy changes? How can we repopulate our empty streets and empty storefronts? What can we learn from the earliest days of city building about building better places tomorrow? And how can active citizens, local officials, and ordinary people like you and I make it happen today, no matter how badly we’re starting off?

This live Curbside Chat is an opportunity to hear Strong Towns’ answers to these questions, and to participate in a community-specific discussion about how the Strong Towns approach can improve your city.

This core Strong Towns presentation is a game-changer for communities looking to grow more resilient in an uncertain future.

Find out more here.

Chuck fuses Smart Growth and fiscal conservatism — akin to what I did much less successfully when I published the “Smart Growth for Conservatives” blog. He is acutely aware of the nation’s perilous fiscal condition. While others focus on the entitlement state, Chuck explores the contribution of runaway, low-ROI infrastructure spending — what he calls the “growth Ponzi scheme — to undermining local government finances. He has dissected the damage done by traffic engineers to our transportation system. Among other contributions, he coined the term “stroads” to describe street-road hybrids that provide neither the connectivity of streets nor the higher-speed mobility of roads. He believes in taking lots of small bets with public investment rather than betting the farm.

I hold Chuck in high esteem because he consistently questions the conventional wisdom, much as I try to do in Bacon’s Rebellion. Yet his thinking has not hardened into orthodoxy. He’s always incorporating new ways of looking at the world. I look forward to hearing what he has to say. I highly recommend the event to readers of Bacon’s Rebellion.

Chesterfield Debates Matoaca Mega-Site

Image credit: Chesterfield Observer

In August Governor Terry McAuliffe joined legislators and local government officials to announce plans to build an industrial “mega-site” in the Matoaca area of Chesterfield County. The county anticipates spending $9 million for preliminary engineering and right-of-way-acquisition and $70 million on road improvements, according to the Progress-Index, and that’s just the expenditures noted in the 2018 budget. The county likely will spend tens of millions more providing utility connections.

A mega-site, county officials says, will put Chesterfield in the running for a large-scale industrial manufacturer like an auto assembly plant or aerospace company capable of investing a $1 billion and creating 5,000 jobs. But there are no guarantees. Indeed, the track record of Chesterfield’s previous mega-site, the Meadowville Technology Park, is decidedly mixed.

Jim McConnell and Peter Galuszka raise good questions about mega-sites in a well-researched article in the Chesterfield Observer.

Twenty years ago the county rolled the dice on Meadowville in the hope of landing a semiconductor manufacturing facility. Instead, the U.S. semiconductor boom fizzled, and the 2008 recession intervened, and county officials lowered their aspirations for the park. Meadowville wound up attracting two data centers, a couple of warehouse operations (including an Amazon facility), and a bottling plant. County officials call the park a “success story,” noting that it has attracted $570 million in private investment, produced a 3,000% increase in real estate assessment and collected $24.45 million for land sold to date, with 726 acres yet to be developed.

But not everyone is impressed. “Meadowville was never intended to be a bunch of warehouses,” the Observer quotes Meadowville neighbor Freddy Boisseau as saying. “It was supposed to be computers, biotech, research and development. But the county couldn’t get what they wanted there, so they started searching for what they could get.”

What’s missing is a proper accounting that would allow Chesterfield citizens to draw an informed conclusion about whether the investment in Meadowville was worth the risk taken. What was the total investment in roads, utilities, land acquisition, engineering and improvements? How much has the county recouped in land sales, how much does the increased tax assessment generate in additional tax revenue, and do those revenues cover the debt service? Does the park represent a net gain or a net drain to county finances?

But that is only the beginning of questions that citizens should insist upon answering. Chesterfield has maintained its AAA bond rating, so it can’t be said that Meadowville did any obvious harm. But to what extent did investing in Meadowville crowd out other uses of the county’s debt capacity? What other capital projects went unfunded? And what other transportation improvements could the Virginia Department of Transportation have funded? Maybe Meadowville turned out to be a great investment, maybe it didn’t. The fact is, nobody has done the analysis, and county officials now are asking citizens to take it on faith that the new Matoaca mega-site is worthwhile.

When you roll dice in Las Vegas, you know the odds. It strikes me that Chesterfield, which is hardly unique in this regard, is gambling without knowing the odds. The logic behind mega-sites is more akin to that of someone playing the mega-lottery: You can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket. That’s fine for a $1 lottery ticket, but it’s not OK for a $100 million industrial site.

“They’re asking us to accept a major highway, rail and an industrial site in our neighborhood without anything more than the possibility of getting a company that will bring thousands of good jobs,” said Mike Uzel, leader of a citizen group, Bermuda Advocates for Responsible Development, that opposes the megasite. “This boils down to, do you believe them or not?”

As President Reagan famously said, trust but verify. Chesterfield citizens should get all the facts about Meadowville so they can make a retrospective judgment, and they should get all the facts about Matoaca.