Augusta Making Changes to Increase Business, Tourism - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Augusta Making Changes to Increase Business, Tourism

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Augusta County is making some aggressive moves to lure new business, grow existing employers, and attract more tourism dollars. That new effort began Monday on several fronts.

Some of these moves will not cost the county any money because they involve a shifting of job duties, and a move into higher profile office space. But Augusta Supervisors also ordered an engineering study of improvements to its mostly-vacant industrial park. Surveyors are taking their first steps toward major improvements to Augusta County's Mill Place Commerce Park.

Supervisors have agreed to spend about $80,000 to extend the main access road into Staunton's nearby industrial park, improving access to both. Step two would be creating a "pad-ready" lot of up to 40 acres, where a new tenant could quickly set up shop.

"When they do make decisions and are ready to go, they want to go right now. Time in the market is critical. You could look at anywhere from a six- to a nine-month savings on time, if it's pad-ready and ready to go," said Augusta Economic Director Dennis Burnett.

As Augusta throws out the welcome mat at its commerce park, It does the same thing in its own government center by moving the economic development offices out of the basement and just inside the front door.

"It's as much as a message to the business and industry communities that we are easily accessible and want to foster business development and growth," Burnett.

The director is also getting some help from Augusta County's first tourism specialist. Jessica Staples, Augusta tourism specialist, makes that lateral move from the department of parks and recreation where she gained experience working with special events and heritage tourism sites.

"The Fields of Gold and the Artisan Trail are tourism-related, however, they do promote again working with economic development and promoting the small businesses and industries in the county," said Staples.

Staples and Burnett moved into their side-by-side offices this week. Staples says one priority will be helping promote agritourism, such as the Hermitage Hill Stables, and the Barren Ridge Vineyards. 

For several years, Augusta has averaged $2.5 million in lodging and meals taxes.

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