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Bowman says he will make sure Southside is 'not forgotten'

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ken Bowman believes he has what it takes to help state and local officials attract companies to Southside if he is elected to the General Assembly.

Bowman spent four years as the director of Pittsylvania County’s economic development office before the county’s board of supervisors closed the office in March and gave its duties to the county administrator’s office.

He said he never was told why.

Companies he recruited to the county created at least 200 to 250 new jobs, he estimated.

Bowman is one of two Republicans vying for the party’s nomination for the 16th District House of Delegates seat in Tuesday’s primary. The other is Les Adams, a Chatham attorney. The winner of the primary will face Elizabeth Jones, a Democrat from Pittsylvania County, in the Nov. 5 election. She is the chair of the Pittsylvania County Democratic Committee.

The winner of the Nov. 5 general election will succeed Del. Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania, who did not seek re-election.

Unlike with Adams, Bowman said “there will be no learning curve” if he wins, at least in terms of helping with the region’s economic development.

He said he knows how to “interact and interface with state agencies ... in leveraging resources and assets ... to make sure Southside Virginia is not forgotten” in state economic development efforts and other matters.

Bowman emphasized that as a delegate, when he would be in a position to talk with companies about coming to Southside, “I won’t steer them to one area or another,” such as Pittsylvania County and Danville or Henry County and Martinsville.

Rather, he said he would tell them about properties in the region which he knows are available and other amenities, such as potential state incentive packages, and then refer them to the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance. The alliance then could refer them to local economic development offices, Bowman said.

He favors looking at economic development from a regional perspective.

“We’ve got to get a unified message out there,” Bowman said, “and maybe knock on some doors (of companies) in other areas,” letting them know that properties are available in Southside.

After the economy improves and companies are ready to expand, they will come to Southside to look at potential sites, he predicted.

Adams does not have experience in recruiting companies, Bowman said.

“Most politicians, when they go to Richmond or Washington, there is no substance” in their comments about how they would help make economic development deals happen in their localities, he said.

“I have those skills” needed to talk with companies one-on-one, Bowman emphasized. “I talk the talk, and I walk the walk.”

Bowman said workforce training programs must be supported and by the eighth grade, students must start being shown career options and guided toward obtaining skills they will need to earn a living and raise families.

There seems to be a shortage of training opportunities in the area to help workers move toward middle management, he said.

He also expressed support for trade education programs, such as masonry and plumbing. He indicated that such skills will be needed far into the future and people with them can be compensated well.

Bowman, 62, lives in Dry Fork. A Carroll County native, he grew up in the Williamsburg area and lived in York County before moving to Pittsylvania in 2008 so he and his wife, Brenda, could be closer to her family in Danville.

He spent more than 30 years in the Army, National Guard and civil service before retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He also served four years on the York County Board of Supervisors, including stints as chairman and vice chairman.

In talking with voters, Bowman said “it’s crystal clear” that the moratorium on uranium mining statewide should not be repealed so that Virginia Uranium Inc. can establish a mining and milling operation near Chatham.

At least for now, he indicated.

More research wold have to show that “the maximum risk can be taken out” of uranium mining before the state could consider lifting the ban, he said.

He noted environmental concerns, such as effects of mining on underground water sources including wells and aquifers, as well how byproducts of mining and milling would be stored.

Any decision on whether to lift the ban should “be all-inclusive,” Bowman said, taking into account facts and opinions of lawmakers and all interested parties, including ones not in Southside but close to the region and which might be affected by environmental contamination.

“There is only one opportunity,” he said, “to make sure any regulations are written properly and are strict” to ensure mining is done safely.

Bowman declined to say if he would have voted for Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation package had he been in the General Assembly this year. He said he had not been privy to all arguments, either positive or negative.

Highways are critical to recruiting companies since trucks that businesses use travel along them, he pointed out.

“I don’t want to raise taxes,” Bowman said. At the state level, “I want us to live within our means,” but there must be a way to fund highway needs.

If anyone has ideas for funding such needs without increasing taxes, “I’m all ears,” he said.

Bowman said he thinks having Ken Cuccinelli, the current attorney general, for governor, Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson for lieutenant governor and state Sen. Mark Obenshain for attorney general would be “a “winning ticket” and they “would continue to move Virginia forward” if elected.

They are the Republicans running for statewide offices in November.


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