Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575
Heath: Recovery has started
Sunday, July 22, 2012
By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -
The area’s chief business recruiter says the area’s economy has started to recover from its downturn.
Mark Heath, president and chief executive officer of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., summed up his thoughts on this area’s economic prospects this way: “It’s getting better, it’s going to get better, and education and training is key.”
“A lot of people think this is the only place this is going to happen to. We’re not alone in this. It’s not anything the community did wrong. There’s a new global economy,” he said of the area’s economic setbacks.
“I’m encouraged, to be honest with you,” he said. “Not only will we recover, recovery already has started.”
Both RTI International Metals and ICF International have built facilities in Henry County and are ramping up operations. But they are not the only ones growing, Heath said, pointing to expansions by Drake Extrusion and Commonwealth Laminating. Some other local companies have expansion potential, he added.
Heath described Applied Felts as “a superstar.” He said the company started in the mid-1990s with about 10 employees and is up to about 200. It manufactures quality felt liners for the cured-in-place-pipe industry.
Also, the county and city are developing industrial parks, have a shell building available and are working on other areas, such as tourism, to boost the economy.
Aerospace, plastics and food processing are among the promising industries for this area, Heath said.
According to statistics Heath provided for Martinsville-Henry County, 2,641 jobs and $225.46 million in capital investment have been announced locally from 2006 through April 2012. That doesn’t take into account job losses.
Those totals break down like this: manufacturing, 1,050 jobs, $177.34 million in capital investment; distribution, 356 jobs, $15.47 million in capital investment; office, 927 jobs, $18.85 million in capital investment; and small business, 308 jobs, $13.80 million in capital investment.
Heath said there are jobs available here, and he suggest people look at the positions advertised in Sunday’s Martinsville Bulletin in health care and other fields.
What’s key, he said, is, “We’ve got to start training for jobs we have available. ... There’s no need to train people to make widgets if all the jobs are in health care.”
There are initiatives under way to get education and business officials together on the front end before educational programs are even in place, to find out what industries and businesses need, he said.
“We’ll never replace all the jobs we’ve lost,” he said, mentioning that businesses can do more work with machines and with fewer people today.
The jobs being created generally will be more skilled and require more training, he said.
“It’s a generational thing. We’ve got to get in grades 7-9 about what jobs are available when they come out of school, and try to train for those jobs,” he said.
The EDC is working with the Harvest Foundation, school systems, Patrick Henry Community College and New College Institute to meet the training needs, Heath said.
“We’ve got to supply labor to companies here and growing and fill in with new companies,” he said.
Education is key — a combination of four-year-degrees, associate degrees, and “a lot can be done with certifications and specialized training in advanced manufacturing,” he added.
According to Business Facilities Magazine, the strengths and assets of Martinsville-Henry County include its access to 60 percent of the U.S. population in one day; its “skilled workforce and a strong work ethic, rooted in decades of manufacturing”; its connection to a highly advanced optical broadband network; a variety of incentives offered by the commonwealth and area localities; Commonwealth Crossing and Patriot Centre business parks; and reasonable tax rates.
The article also mentioned Monogram Food Solutions and RTI International Metals’ job and capital investment announcements.
According to Mark Heath, president and chief executive officer of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., and information supplied by the EDC, nearly $27 million has been committed for the development of Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre.
The center, being developed on several hundred acres on U.S. 220 south at the North Carolina line, is scheduled to open in 2013.
Funding includes: tobacco commission, $9.1 million; Henry County, $7 million; the Harvest Foundation, $5.8 million; Martinsville, $1.9 million; Virginia Economic Development Partnership, $1.5 million; Small Business Administration, $800,000; Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative, $500,000; EDC, $230,000.
Heath also mentioned:
• $950,000 has been committed for grading Lot 2 at Patriot Centre, with $700,000 from the tobacco commission and $125,000 each from Henry County and the EDC.
• A new shell building on lot 10 at Patriot Centre is about a $3.5 million project, including a $3.3 million note. Heath said the EDC has committed about $150,000 for engineering and interest, and that the county and city are paying interest. The shell building will be sold to a business.
• The Harvest Foundation funded construction of the Smith River Sports Complex. The cost was $8.5 million, according to a Bulletin article.
• A marina is to be built at Philpott Lake. According to a Bulletin article, funding for the $800,000 project includes $400,000 approved by the Henry County Board of Supervisors, a $250,000 grant from the Harvest Foundation and $150,000 committed by the EDC.
Heath said all of these projects are meant to help with economic development and job creation.