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Survey finds support for economic development incentives

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A Virginia survey has found strong support for the use of financial incentives to spur economic development.

Eighty percent of respondents to a poll by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University said they backed the use of tax credits and other incentives as an economic development strategy.

Many respondents, however, said the details surrounding such incentives make a difference in their support.

While 80 percent said they supported the use of incentives, 72 percent of the respondents in that group would oppose incentives be provided upfront to companies, which ultimately may decide not to bring their business to Virginia.

Likewise, 41 percent of those who support incentives in general would change their stance if the incentives were unlimited in amount.

Of the 15 percent of respondents who said they opposed the use of financial incentives, 48 percent said they would shift their position if companies were required to return incentives if they don’t bring their business to Virginia. Similarly, 43 percent of those originally opposed to incentives would become supporters if incentive amounts were capped.

The findings, part of the Wilder School’s Summer 2017 Public Policy Poll, follow efforts by state lawmakers to reorganize Virginia’s economic development programs. Financial incentives came under scrutiny after some companies receiving them failed to follow through with economic development projects. 

The poll, conducted by landline and cell telephone from July 17-25, is a random sample of 806 adults in Virginia with an overall margin of error of 4.2 percentage points. Results also show that Virginians see higher education as having a strong value to society and believe the state’s colleges and universities are doing a good job of preparing graduates for the workforce.

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