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Hodge: Industry not enough to revive local economy
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Economic development involves more than just recruiting businesses and industries — it also involves attracting new people to the area to pay taxes and patronize businesses, according to Martinsville City Council candidate Sharon Brooks Hodge.
Noting that she and her husband have a combined six-figure income, Hodge said “Martinsville needs people like us” and “people with assets looking for a place to retire.”
To recruit new residents, Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. and city officials must promote local amenities providing an “excellent quality of life,” such as the Smith River Sports Complex and the Dick & Willie Passage walking trail, plus the “very, very low cost of living” here, she said.
Having lived in Greensboro, N.C., Hodge noted from personal experiences that the cost of living there is about four times as much as it is here.
She said the community must find ways to attract young professionals to Martinsville. She said she recently was in a room with various local business leaders and, at 52, she was the youngest one.
Hodge said she thinks the biggest issue affecting Martinsville right now is “merging the past and the future.” She said the textile and furniture industries are gone for good and “we need to get over it.”
Jobless residents who worked in those industries must seek retraining for modern jobs, such as those involving computer technology, she said.
Modern employers such as RTI International Metals may have to hire people from outside the area for jobs at their companies because local residents do not have the education and skills needed for the jobs, she indicated.
Hodge noted that the city is “already committed” financially to take part in developing the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre with Henry County. But “somebody didn’t do their due diligence” beforehand, she said.
For instance, she said the city should have done a feasibility study to see if the return on its investment in Commonwealth Crossing will be more than its investment. She said that due to the industrial park’s closeness to the North Carolina line, it is unlikely that anyone from that state who works in the park would come to Martinsville to shop or do business.
To reduce expenses with projects, the city should use fewer consultants and instead rely on its employees’ expertise, Hodge said. She added that the city should quit supporting the Martinsville Mustangs baseball team financially.
Keeping city finances in order is “a matter of spending money wisely,” she said.
Hodge said community revitalization involves more than spending money on improving the appearances of buildings — it also involves finding ways to use the structures that put them to their highest and best use.
She also suggested that the city re-examine some of the funds it provides agencies outside city government annually. In particular, she mentioned the Boys & Girls Club, which is getting a little more than $15,000 from the city this fiscal year for what she described as “glorified babysitting.”
Hodge said some of that money could be redirected for other efforts. One she recommended is helping city residents start small businesses to support their families and occupy vacant buildings.
Small businesses in trades such as shoe repair, welding and painting would be useful, she said.