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Adkins seeks support for stalled project
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Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins stands with Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders at the White House Mayors Manufacturing Summit in Washington. Adkins went to the event to ask for federal officials’ help in getting Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre in Henry County developed (Contributed photo)

Friday, December 6, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins went to Washington on Thursday to ask for federal officials’ help in getting Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre in Henry County developed.

She said she is optimistic they will provide assistance.

Commonwealth Crossing is an industrial park planned south of Ridgeway at the North Carolina line. Approval of permits for a site to be graded there has been held up by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, acting on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) behalf, because no specified end user of the site has been identified. Yet companies will not consider a site unless it is graded, county and city officials have said.

Adkins attended the White House Mayors Manufacturing Summit, held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The event included panel discussions in which local leaders from across the nation told how they are trying to boost their communities’ competitiveness for manufacturing investment and jobs.

About 50 local leaders nationwide attended the event by invitation, she said.

Her main reason for deciding to go, she emphasized, was to persuade federal officials to try and get the Corps of Engineers to do something to help facilitate Commonwealth Crossing’s development.

One of the officials with whom Adkins talked was former Hampton mayor Molly Ward, who recently was named special assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Ward has held that post for 16 weeks. Adkins said Ward told her that she already had heard 19 complaints about the corps’ permitting requirements.

According to Adkins, Ward said “we (Ward’s office) need to make a call to the president.”

An organizational chart they examined shows the president ultimately heads the corps, Adkins said.

As mayors of Virginia cities, “I’ve known Molly” personally, she said, and “I feel so good ... that she’s going to definitely follow up” on the issue.

Adkins said she also met with Jason Miller, special assistant to the president for manufacturing policy, and Charlie Bartsch, economic development adviser for the EPA. Both said they would look into permitting issues pertaining to Commonwealth Crossing, she said, adding that they seemed sincere.

Miller, Adkins added, “said publicly to all of us” at the summit that the White House “wants to build capacity at the local level for economic development” and “help you be successful” at attracting companies.

Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders also attended the event to seek help in getting a large industrial park planned at Berry Hill in Pittsylvania County developed, according to Adkins.

The summit included remarks by various federal officials including Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council; Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, according to a Martinsville city release. Foxx is a former mayor of Charlotte, N.C.

Adkins said other panelists included the mayors of Lansing, Mich., and Flint, Mich., and the mayor of Shreveport, La., all of whom spoke about what their localities are doing to attract industries.

Martinsville and Henry County are “doing much the same things” as those localities, Adkins said, such as promoting regional cooperation and efforts to improve skills training among the local work force.

Adkins received her invitation to the summit last Friday. She said those attending were chosen by the White House because they represented communities that have had significant manufacturing bases.


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