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The Revisionist: Does Wilder Deserve Credit? 

Call it blurred vision, or blood-in-the-eyes vision.

Mayor L. Douglas Wilder's Visions newsletter blasted to more than 10,000 residents every two weeks has gotten a little testy of late. Consider the Sept. 5 edition, which came a day after Style's cover story detailing Wilder's lack of attention in the arena of economic development.

In the newsletter, Wilder takes a bare-knuckled swing at the Greater Richmond Partnership, writing that it's "Highly Paid to 'Trash' the City."

The partnership, the newsletter continues, "dare not take any credit for any jobs resulting from the Virginia Biotech Park, the new Philip Morris research facility, or the Hilton Hotel project Downtown. We know who is responsible for all of that, don't we?"

Well, not exactly. Is Wilder taking credit for the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park, which launched in 1992 as an incubator for technology and biotech firms but struggled for years to attract startups?

The biotech park opened in 1996, four years after it was announced, and struggled for several years to attract new jobs. Certainly the biotech park launched while Wilder was governor, but the jobs he's taking credit for didn't come until years after Wilder left the Executive Mansion.

How about the Philip Morris research facility, under construction downtown?

The announcement of that project came in 2005, three months after Wilder took his post as mayor. The courtship with Philip Morris involved former Gov. Mark R. Warner and — dare we say his name — Greater Richmond Partnership President Gregory H. Wingfield, who with a group of local businessmen aggressively began recruiting Philip Morris USA to move its headquarters from New York to Richmond in 2002, not long after New York banned smoking in public buildings. That paved the way for Philip Morris to bring its research facility downtown.

And the Hilton Hotel project?

The planned hotel, in the works since former City Manager Calvin Jamison helped launch the Broad Street Community Development Authority in 2002, hasn't created any new jobs — yet. Construction on the former Miller & Rhoads department store downtown has barely started.

The vitriol directed at Wingfield and the partnership, City Council President G. Manoli Loupassi says, seems a bit disingenuous. After all, Loupassi points out, Philip Morris' John R. Nelson, president of operations and technology, sits on the partnership's board of directors and was recently named vice chairman for 2006-2007. Loupassi is the partnership's chairman.

"That alone speaks for how much Philip Morris values the presence of the organization in the region," Loupassi says. "In that respect, it is bad form to send out an e-mail with that kind of misinformation to 10,000 people."

Wingfield declines to comment on Wilder's newsletter. S



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