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Bowman talks jobs

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Attracting employers to the area and providing young people with specialized training will benefit Southwest Virginia, according to 16th House District Republican hopeful Ken Bowman.

Bowman, 62, spoke at the April meeting of the Henry County Republican Committee on Tuesday evening. He is one of two candidates hoping to win the party’s nod in the June 11 primary.

The other candidate, Les Adams, was not able to attend the meeting, but he is expected to attend the committee’s May meeting.

The 16th District seat opened when Del. Don Merricks announced recently that he was not seeking a fourth term. The district includes Martinsville and large portions of Henry County and Pittsylvania County.

Bowman, a retired Army officer, is a native of Carroll County. He has served as the economic development director for York and Pittsylvania counties.

He said his experience in economic development is one of the elements that makes him a strong candidate for the 16th District seat.

“I don’t create jobs,” Bowman said. “It’s the industry that creates them; it’s the business that comes to the area that creates them. In order for them to be successful, you’ve got to have everything they need ... . I know what it takes, on the state level, to incentivize a company” to come to the area.

According to Bowman, while working with the economic development office in Pittsylvania County, he helped recruit several major businesses to the area. These include Canadian Bank Note Co., which prints driver’s licenses and passports for the entire state, and Axxor, a supplier for Swedborg, which is a subsidiary of Ikea.

“It took about year to get (Axxor) over there and put them in a building we had existing in Pittsylvania County,” Bowman said. “We sold them that building, which was one that had sat vacant for eight years.”

Bowman said that in the economic development field, he has traveled to China to recruit furniture manufacturers.

“We’re looking at great things from China because they want to locate in the U.S.,” he said. “‘Made in the U.S., assembled in the U.S.’ is a big deal in the world, and (China) understands that. Made in China does not cut it anymore.”

Bowman also said Southwest Virginia would benefit from teaching specialized skills and trades to students graduating from high school, rather than pushing them to go to four year colleges. He said he believes students who attend four-year colleges are unlikely to return to the area due to a lack of jobs in their fields.

“There are a lot of kids who want to stay here,” he said, “and we don’t give them the opportunity to stay here because we don’t provide the training locations for them.”

At Danville Community College, many of the two-year certification program students are hired by local employers as soon as they graduate, Bowman said.

“We’ve got to figure out how to make this exodus of our young people stop or slow down,” he said, “but we need to start training them locally.”

After the meeting, Bowman said that if he is elected, one of his first projects will be resolving the development issues with Henry County’s Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre and Pittsylvania County’s Berry Hill Road Megapark.

“What the (Army) Corps of Engineers has done is pretty much stopped development in its tracks by not issuing a permit on both of those parks,” he said. “Both of the localities have money in hand to go in and start doing the grading ... . That would be one of my first priorities ... to try and get an audience with the local Corps of Engineers representative or go to Norfolk and try to get an audience there.”

Also in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting at the Henry County Administration Building were representatives for Virginia attorney general candidates Sen. Mark Obenshain and Del. Rob Bell, and representatives for Virginia lieutenant governor candidates Corey Stewart, Scott Lingamfelter, Pete Snyder and Susan Stimpson.


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