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Work set to begin on marina
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Craig “Rocky” Rockwell (standing), operations project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, discusses Philpott Lake with the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce’s board on Thursday. Listening are (from left) chamber President Amanda Witt and board Chairman Guy Stanley. (Bulletin photo by Mickey Powell)

Friday, May 10, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Construction on a marina at Philpott Lake is expected to start in about a week, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official.

Craig “Rocky” Rockwell, the corps’ operations project manager at Philpott, said he was unable to estimate how soon construction will be completed.

“But I think it will be a relatively quick build because it’s a relatively small marina,” he said.

Rockwell spoke briefly about the marina while discussing the lake with the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce’s board on Thursday.

The marina will be built at Boat Ramp 1, near the visitor’s center. It will be operated by the Henry County Parks & Recreation Department.

Construction is estimated at $1.35 million. The Harvest Foundation is giving $250,000, and the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) is giving $150,000. The county is to pay the rest of the cost.

Rockwell said the marina will have a “wide open” boat launch lane, about 40 “slips” where boats can be parked and a small store that will sell bait, tackle and other supplies.

Also, “real gas” — not the kind containing ethanol, which is believed to be harmful to boat engines — will be sold at the marina, he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the roughly 3,000-acre lake and dam as well as about 7,000 acres of recreational land surrounding it.

Each year, the lake sees an average of about 650,000 visitors who together contribute about $20 million to the area’s economy, such as through gas and supplies they buy as well as food and lodging, Rockwell said.

Most lake visitors are from this area, he acknowledged. However, the money they spend on supplies for their lake visits stays in the community, he said, instead of going to support places near other recreational venues.

Even in slow months, such as those during the winter, Philpott Lake can see as many as 20,000 to 50,000 visitors, Rockwell said. He thinks there is the potential to attract more if marketing efforts can be increased.

For instance, people from all over the world travel the Blue Ridge Parkway during the fall to see leaves change colors, Rockwell noted.

“Why can’t the National Park Service shuttle them down here” or otherwise convince them to visit Philpott, he asked.

But it is unlikely that money for marketing efforts will increase, he indicated.

Rockwell said that during the four years he has been at Philpott, its annual federal funding has dropped from about $6 million to about $4.7 million.

Amid ongoing massive federal budget cuts, he expects federal dollars to be reduced further because the lake is a nonessential expense.

The government cannot make cuts to essential programs without cutting nonessential ones, he reasoned.

Therefore, Rockwell said he aims to promote the lake’s economic impact on the area to encourage residents to visit and support it.

Also Tuesday, the chamber board approved adding four businesses to its membership rolls and dropping 11.

Eden Jewelry, GSI Commerce, KS Electric and Rooster Walk are the new members.

Members dropped were Beaver Hills Early Learning Center, Martinsville LCD Repair, Ultimate Performance School of Cosmetology, Wings & More, Willie’s Lawn & Tree, Pine Products, Collinsville Engraving, Lynn Mabe Insurance, N-Hance Wood Renewal, Unique Bridal Boutique and the Martinsville Education Association.

Chamber President Amanda Witt said most of the dropped businesses could not be reached about renewing their membership dues.

The chamber now has 632 members.

The board also:

• Learned that about 65 people so far have registered for an upcoming seminar on what employers should know about health care reform.

The seminar will be held from 1:30 to 3 p.m. May 23 at the Rives Theatre. It will cover topics such as timelines for new laws to be implemented, payroll changes and new employer taxes and notifications, a flier shows.

It will be geared toward human resources professionals.

Beth Maiden, an employee benefits expert who Witt said has spent about two years studying health care reform, will be the speaker.

• Found out that the deadline to submit nominations for the 2013 Small Business of the Year and Young Professional of the Year awards has been extended until the end of this month.

The awards are to be presented during the annual Business Appreciation Luncheon tentatively scheduled for June 26. The luncheon is sponsored by the chamber and the EDC.

 

 
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