Pr. William perseveres despite economic slump
Despite facing the lingering effects of one of the longest and deepest economic recessions in the nation's history and a housing market that went from boom to bust, Prince William County prospered last year, Chairman Corey A. Stewart said Tuesday.
During his annual state of the county address, Stewart (R-At Large) looked back at the county's triumphs and the strides officials made to help Prince William weather the economic downturn.
"My fellow citizens, history continues to test our nation....A nation which borrows so heavily against its future cannot long endure," he said. "But we in Prince William are a model. We have shown that a government can reduce and through reform can persevere."
The board turned its focus to economic development, Stewart said, and worked to build the legal framework and infrastructure needed for businesses to thrive. He added that the Economic Development Task Force was also created to advise supervisors on how they can make it easier for businesses to establish themselves and grow in the county.
In 2010, companies invested more than $412 million in Prince William -- the highest announced investment in seven years -- and created nearly 650 jobs, Stewart said. CNN and Money magazine rated Prince William No. 1 in job growth in the Washington region, No. 1 in the state and No. 2 on the East Coast.
One of the boosts to economic development came from the Hylton Performing Arts Center, he said. The nine-story, $46 million center opened in May in Manassas and includes a 1,140-seat hall along with other smaller studios.
Though it has drawn some scrutiny, Stewart also praised the National Museum of Americans in Wartime -- a $50 million project supervisors approved in October. Scheduled to open in 2014, the museum will cover conflicts from World War I to the present. The museum is slated to include tanks and outdoor activities, and neighbors in Dale City are concerned about noise, traffic and impact on their property values.
Stewart said supervisors voted to keep taxes low last year by continuing to streamline government. While the cuts were "deep and often painful," they helped minimize the tax burden on residents, Stewart said. The average tax bills in Prince William were 34 percent lower than in Fairfax County and 30 lower than in Loudoun County.
"While other localities across the country increased taxes to make up for the shortfalls, this board committed to reducing, refocusing and reforming government and restoring it to its proper limited scope and its limited role in our lives," Stewart said.
Stewart also looked ahead in his address to the upcoming sesquicentennial of the Civil War. All eyes were on Prince William and Manassas 150 years ago and will be so again come July, when the localities commemorate the First Battle of Manassas, he said. County and city officials will host events all year, with the largest July 23 and 24. Between 12,000 and 14,000 reenactors are scheduled to descend on the county for a reenactment of the First Battle of Manassas.
"This year we will commemorate that battle," Stewart said. "We will give thanks that the war ended the scourge of slavery and preserved our nation. The war was not so long ago and we may meet living children of those who fought. And, perhaps most importantly, we will come to understand our own place in history."
| January 11, 2011; 4:49 PM ET
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