Manassas Journal Messenger | Manassas moves

CBS newsmagazine ?48 Hours? opened a segment featuring drug dealer Justin Wolfe?s murder trial with an establishing shot of Manassas. It began with the camera focusing on the water tower and then panned downward to a clanging train crossing. This was done to show how a callous drug murder occurred in Manassas ? middle America.

The only problem was that Wolfe, and his cohort who carried out the murder of a rival drug dealer, never entered the city limits while committing the crime. The murder conspiracy took place in nearby communities in Prince William and Fairfax counties. But Manassas got the credit.

The ?48 Hours? piece was a prime example of Manassas? problem with proximity. If a bad thing happens in Braemar, Yorkshire or Lake Jackson, the news is often associated with Manassas. That?s one of the difficulties of being the largest municipality among the sprawling communities of western Prince William County.

More positive occurrences have graced the communities outside Manassas, such as America Online at the Battlefield Business Park, the proposed Eli Lilly facility at Innovation and the establishment of George Mason University?s Prince William campus.

These and other community assets are near, but not inside, Manassas city limits. Some may benefit from the Manassas name with their proximity but the taxes go to the county.

This brings us to the city?s off-again, on-again membership in the Prince William 66 Partnership. At last we checked, the city is back in the regional organization that promotes economic growth. The city council voted last week to leave the partnership and spend its $10,000 in dues on its own promotion of Manassas.

This brought out the heavy hitters of the Manassas business community who convinced the council to reconsider its decision, which it did. Instead, the city will belong to the Prince William 66 Partnership based on $5,000 in dues.

However, it did not end there. The city council also voted to withdraw Manassas from the fledgling Prince William County/Manassas Convention & Visitors Bureau. City officials will instead spend the $75,000 in annual dues on its own marketing plan.

It?s safe to say that through these recent transactions, the city of Manassas is putting everyone on notice. While not willing to totally abandon all partnerships with the outside, the city is willing to go it alone when attempting to lure targeted industries and encouraging tourism.

Manassas has its Old Town, which is such an effective attraction that Prince William planners have attempted to duplicate it with their town center zoning. The county, however, has yet to duplicate the genuine article. The city also has the Manassas Gateway Business Park which could get lost in regional marketing when packaged with the likes of Innovation and the Battlefield Business Park.

This movement toward municipal unilateralism should not be viewed as a snub toward the Prince William County government or businesses. But considering the economic climate that has seen Micron scale back its employee base, the city of Manassas needs to act in a more aggressive fashion in promoting its assets.

The city can no longer afford to risk getting lost in the crowd.

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