Henrico County Manager John A. Vithoulkas today presented the 2018 State of the County address, highlighting major economic-development announcements, development projects, school construction and other facility improvements, collaborations and other efforts to enhance the community’s quality of life.
In a wide-ranging presentation to several hundred business and community leaders at The Westin Richmond, Vithoulkas credited the Board of Supervisors for providing a vision to pursue major initiatives during the past year, including a countywide expansion of transit service and plans for the simultaneous construction of two new high schools as well as a new aquatics center and a new indoor sports and convocation center.
He also lauded the board’s commitment to business- and resident-friendly fiscal policies that have allowed Henrico to keep taxes low and spur growth and investment, including Facebook’s $1.75 billion data center that is under construction in White Oak Technology Park.
“By consistently keeping taxes low for our businesses and residents, Henrico’s economy has thrived, and we’ve been able to do amazing things as a community,” he said.
Referencing the address’ theme of “Moving Forward Together,” Vithoulkas thanked members of the audience for all they do to make Henrico a great place to live, work, play and visit.
“You, along with other Henrico residents and businesses, are the heartbeat of this community,” he said. “The county’s government merely exists to serve you. Sometimes, our presence is noticeable. Other times, it’s hidden in the background. Whatever the situation, please remember that Henrico’s government is your partner. We are here, beside you, ready to move forward together.”
Vithoulkas highlighted how Henrico has been able to invest in schools, transit service, and other services while continuing to restrain its overall spending. The county’s general fund budget has increased by an average of 1.5 percent and supports 56 fewer positions than it did a decade ago.
“The efficiencies we’ve been able to achieve are even more striking when you consider the fact that we’ve enhanced public safety by adding 133 new positions for Police, Fire and the Sheriff’s Office,” Vithoulkas said. “We’re asking our employees to work harder and smarter, and they’re rising to the challenge.”
Other highlights of the State of the County address included:
- Economic development announcements of more than 1,022 new jobs and $763.7 million in investments in new and existing businesses;
- Private development projects underway throughout the county, including a Bon Secours freestanding emergency center in Short Pump, renovations and new businesses at Regency Square mall, continued investment at Libbie Mill-Midtown, construction underway on the Facebook Data Center in White Oak Technology Park, plans advancing for the River Mill community, new interest in the Westwood area and the completion of infield and other improvements at Richmond Raceway;
- Thriving tourism and sports tourism programs, supported by the opening of Glover Park and the start of installation of synthetic turf athletic fields at the county’s high schools;
- Continued construction on Cobbs Creek Reservoir, the largest public-utility project in Henrico’s history and a facility that will help ensure access to public water for the next half century;
- Other facility and infrastructure projects, including the opening of Short Pump Firehouse 19 and plans for new fire stations along Staples Mill Road and Nine Mile Road; a new fire training center at the Woodman Road complex; a new mental health clinic under construction on Nine Mile Road and a new Fairfield Area Library under construction on East Laburnum Avenue;
- A new housing initiative, with a housing specialist position and a $2 million fund focused on such issues as affordability, revitalization and the needs of aging communities;
- –Enhanced support for the operating and capital needs of Henrico County Public Schools, with nearly $100 million in school renovations and additions underway and supported by the 2016 bond referendum as well as plans to build simultaneously a new J.R. Tucker High School and a new Highland Springs High School;
- The start of service on the Pulse bus rapid transit system and expanded service countywide on the GRTC Transit System;
- Continued efforts to combat the opioid crisis through a recovery program developed by the Sheriff’s Office and other initiatives;
- Advancements in public safety, including crime reductions in several key categories;
- Regional cooperation in public health, public safety, tourism, and other areas;
- The announcement of a partnership with the YMCA of Greater Richmond to develop an indoor aquatics center and the ongoing review of proposals for the development of an indoor sports and convocation center; and
- Salutes to Harvey L. Hinson, who recently concluded four months of service as interim supervisor for the Brookland District; Gary R. McLaren, who is retiring as executive director of the Economic Development Authority; and Douglas A. Middleton, who is retiring as deputy county manager for public safety, capping a 46-year career with the county, which included five years as police chief.
“The State of the County address provides a great opportunity to reflect on our hard work and accomplishments — as well as the work that’s left to be done — before we shift our focus to a new year,” Vithoulkas said. “We are particularly pleased to share this message with the community because our success depends on having strong partnerships with residents, business leaders, and other stakeholders.”