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Kaine: Permit crucial to area
U.S. senator says Corps policy is counterproductive
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Sen. Tim Kaine (right) discusses the Commonsense Permitting for Job Creation Act with Henry County Administrator Tim Hall during an open house Friday at Kaine’s Southside regional office in Danville. (Bulletin photo by Sam Jackson)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

By SAM JACKSON - Bulletin staff writer

DANVILLE — Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said Friday the effort to get a permit for grading at the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre in Henry County is crucial to Southside Virginia, and proposed legislation by the region’s federal officials is meant to expedite the process.

Kaine spoke about the dilemma during an open house at his regional office, saying the permitting process is stalling an opportunity for economic development the area needs.

“The global economy creates challenges,” he said. “This community and Martinsville and Henry ... understand it, because we’ve lost companies and lost opportunities to other countries.”

Local efforts to land a tenant at the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre have been stymied by the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision not to issue the grading permit until a tenant has committed to the business park. Thus far, efforts by local, state and federal officials have yet to move the permitting process along.

For that reason and others, Kaine co-sponsored the Commonsense Permitting for Job Creation Act with fellow Democratic Sen. Mark Warner and Republican U.S. Reps. Robert Hurt of Chatham and Morgan Griffith of Salem. The measure specifies that the lack of a committed end-user company shall not be a reason to deny a corps permit that meets all other legal requirements.

“I really felt like it was sort of unjust for the Army Corps to imply ‘we won’t give you a permit until you have an end user,’” said Kaine, a former Virginia governor and mayor of Richmond, “because frankly, having done economic development as a mayor and governor, you don’t get an end user unless you have a workable site.

“Hopefully, we can make a change to the law, because we think it would be a common-sense approach that affects what happens with economic development. The other thing is, we think it sends a signal to the Corps that hey, we’re really serious about this.”

While Kaine said he understands the Corps’ caution in issuing permits, he said the policy is counterproductive to industrial growth.

“Martinsville-Henry County needs economic development and we’re serious about moving it forward. And even the mere fact of putting the bill in will have a positive affect on the Army Corps,” he said.

Henry County Administrator Tim Hall attended the open house at Kaine’s office Friday, saying he came specifically to thank Kaine for supporting the bill that could have a positive impact on the Commonwealth Crossing project.

Hall expressed gratitude to all Virginia’s representatives for working together, a sentiment he said he shared with Griffith when Griffith was in Collinsville last week.

Hall said he told Kaine and Griffith he welcomed their help on getting the Corps to issue the permit for the industrial park, telling them, “your hammer is a lot bigger than my hammer” in terms of political influence.

Local economic development officials continue to try to secure tenants for the site, and neither Kaine nor Griffith have given a timetable when the bill might pass. Still, Kaine said, the issue is important.

“I understand that Martinsville and Henry (County) are having discussions with end users, and that’s great, but we want to do everything we can to help them” expedite the process, he said.

A side benefit to the bill, one Kaine hopes will be noticed elsewhere, is the fact that it was co-sponsored by two Democrats and two Republicans. Such bipartisan cooperation might be uncommon in today’s political environment in Washington, but Kaine said that’s not the case with the Virginia delegation.

“We have 13 House members and two Senators, and we have lunch every month,” he said. When the delegation meets, he said, representatives bring issues to the table “and say, ‘here’s something I need help with; maybe we can work on it together.’”

Kaine serves on the Senate committees on armed services, budget and foreign relations. He also said he’s been asked to serve on what is called the “near east subcommittee,” which involves “everything from Bangladesh to Morocco,” he said.

Kaine said being on the foreign relations committee helps give him a better feel for what the international business community is looking for when searching for a site to open a facility in the United States.

In addition to learning about the challenges in the global economy, “it’s also good to learn where we can gain opportunities in the international economy,” Kaine said.

International companies that have moved operations to Southside “have found that it’s a good place to do business” because of factors like location, infrastructure and quality of life, the senator said.

Kaine met with local officials and media members during to thank them for their support and update them on his first seven months as Virginia’s junior senator, serving alongside Warner, under whom Kaine served as lieutenant governor from 2002-06.

 

 
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