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Bolling bemoans stalled permits
At left, Del. Danny Marshall (left) and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling look out onto the Martinsville Speedway on Friday before the start of Bolling’s roundtable talks with area business people and officials. It was held in the speedway’s new Club 47. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Sunday, October 28, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said Friday he has met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to try and move the permits for Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre forward, without success.
Bolling held a business roundtable event with area business leaders and other officials at Club 47, the newest suite at the Martinsville Speedway. Dels. Danny Marshall, Don Merricks and Charles Poindexter also attended the event.
He discussed the development of mega-site industrial parks in Virginia and the difficulty in dealing with federal regulations concerning them.
“We’ve lost a couple of other projects to other states” because Virginia does not have mega-sites developed for manufacturing companies that are ready to build, he said.
There are four in various stages of development, three of which are in Southside, Bolling said of those in Pittsylvania, Greensville and Henry counties. The fourth mega-site is being built in Wythe County.
“The problem we’re having now is we can’t get the permits” from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is acting on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bolling said.
Commonwealth Crossing in Henry County is the first to reach the permitting phase, Bolling said. He added that a drainage ditch is responsible for the hold-up.
Local officials also have said the EPA was not issuing the permit because it considers the development speculative since there are no industries committed to the business center.
Bolling said he has explained to the corps the importance of developing Commonwealth Crossing, and he has had positive feedback that those at the corps understood the importance of the project.
But at the end of the conversations, Bolling said he has asked if that meant the permits would be issued. Each time he has met with a negative response.
County Administrator Tim Hall, who was among the local officials at the forum, thanked Bolling for efforts by him, Gov. Bob McDonnell and legislators in trying to further the permitting phase.
“It’s a constant struggle,” Bolling said.
Also discussed Friday were requiring drug tests for people who receive state benefits, workforce training and a request to continue supporting the New College Institute and other educational facilities.
Bolling said William Wampler, NCI’s new executive director and a former state senator, is a “very aggressive spokesman” for the New College and its future. NCI is “uniquely positioned” to be part of “a great foundation for expanding educational opportunities” in southern Virginia, he added.
State officials are doing more “than ever before” to market Virginia internationally and domestically, with economic development offices open in Spain and other places abroad, Bolling said.
Although they still are too high, the unemployment rates in Martinsville and Henry County have dipped under the leadership of Bolling and McDonnell, the lieutenant governor said.
Friday’s meeting was to “help us get ready for where we go from here,” and the information he gleaned from the discussion will be used to help craft the economic development strategy for the final year of the McDonnell/Bolling administration, he said. Bolling is holding similar events at several areas in the state.
Transportation and access, both in general and as they relate to Interstate 73, topped Martinsville businessman George Lester’s list of concerns that he mentioned at the meeting.
Bolling said there has been “a fair amount of progress in the last three years” on transportation and the administration is continuing its efforts to find the funds needed to address additional needs.
Part of the problem at the state level is the two opposite schools of thought on transportation funds, Bolling said.
One side feels funds can be taken from existing revenue, and the other side feels new revenue is needed to address transportation issues, he said.
“When you’ve got two sides with such competing views,” he said it is difficult to reach a consensus, especially when the money is “just not there.”
Lester also raised concerns about the cost and availability of energy/electricity.
Bolling said federal regulations, particularly on coal and coal-fired plants that are used to generate electricity, are responsible for much of the cost increases because power companies must build facilities that meet or exceed the regulations. Those costs are passed on to customers, he added.
Recently, Bolling said he attended the opening of a state-of-the-art coal-fired plant in Wise County.
The same plant, he said, could not be built today because of the increased regulations and costs.
“We’ve got to set a goal of having Virginia be an East Coast leader” in developing new energies that include not only nuclear and natural gas — instead of spending money to help Brazil develop its energy — but also traditional “green” energy, such as solar and wind power, Bolling said.