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Council & County Ec Dev Discusion

By Staff | Feb 13, 2015

The Shepherdstown Town Council again considered plans to address economic development.

Following January’s approval of a standing committee, the town council invited John Reisenweber, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Authority(JCDA) to Tuesday nights meeting to discuss assistance from the county.

Reisenweber said he supports the town’s effort to address development, but encouraged a collective county approach under the auspices of the development authority as part of a larger regional strategy.

“We already bring a lot to the table. We know what we’re doing. The idea of recreating the wheel could be costly. It’s going to be duplicative and we are more than happy to help out Shepherdstown, as well the other municipalities as far as their economic development activities,” he said.

Reisenweber said the county already has the staff in place and a representative for Shepherdstown on its board of directors.

“We’re not sure what resources we might need,” Mayor Auxer said.

“There are still resources you have that could benefit a small community,” he said.

Rosen said explained that following the completion of the comprehensive plan, the town is looking to “knock out,” certain small goals.

Rosen said the committee is seeking a representative from the JCDA and the ability to utilize county assets and resources, but would prefer to remain autonomous.

“From our perspective, the focus for you guys is a lot on Charles Town and Ranson area because the population is bigger down there and there’s a lot of infrastructure down there, so this committee would allow us to just focus on Shepherdstown,” he said.

JCDA Board of Director’s members Howard Mills, a Shepherdstown resident, and Shelli Dronsfield, Shepherd University staff, also attended Tuesday’s meeting.

Mills said that working with municipalities is a new venture for the JCDA but there are opportunities, especially given the development authoritys partial support from the state.

“We have an extremely able and qualified full-time business coach,” he said as an example.

Reisenweber agreed that extending the coach’s services to Shepherdstown would benefit everyone.

Mayor Auxer asked about the possibilities in infrastructure, like fiber-optic cable for Shepherdstown.

“It’s like a lot utilities, it’s critical mass… There needs to be the customers,” Reisenweber said.

“It’s an issue and we have to address it,” he said.

Reisenweber said bringing natural gas to the area is also a plan in the “formative stages.”

Reisenweber asked for a better handle on current deficiencies like information on the strength of local cell service providers, internet providers, as well as real estate listings and prices.

“The communication definitely needs to be improved and thats a two-way street.” he said.

The town agreed to develop a database of vacant properties, particularly commercial, retail and industrial and businesses that need assistance.

The council plans to continue discussion on economic development. The next Town Council meeting will be held Tuesday, March 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall.