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EDC to receive $6M grant from Harvest
Grant is double its current funding

Sunday, March 2, 2014

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Harvest Foundation is awarding a $6 million grant to the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., to be allocated over three years, starting with the new fiscal year July 1.

The grant is double the amount the EDC was given three years ago. It is based on the EDC’s success over the past three years and its eight-point plan for the next three years, Harvest announced.

Harvest Foundation President Allyson Rothrock said the increased funds will help pay for the EDC’s plans to further existing opportunities and spur new major economic growth opportunities for the area, including tourism, services for existing businesses and retail business development.

“We are investing heavily (in the EDC) because we think we’re at a tipping point in this community. ... I hope the increased funding helps push us over,” she said. “He (Mark Heath, president/CEO of the EDC) brought really exciting ideas to us. The board considered them” and approved the grant.

Those ideas are a strategic plan approved by the EDC’s board after a planning process that began last April, Heath said.

“We looked at what we have in place and where we come up short, where we didn’t have the resources to do a deal in specific areas. ... We also looked at what other organizations are doing, leveraging existing resources with others. A lot of things are close to getting done; we want to bring in the resources to complete things,” he added.

The plans also will help the EDC focus on its holistic approach to expanding the local tax base and jobs, he said.

The major areas for increased funding are:

• The EDC’s move to the New College Institute’s new facility being constructed on the Baldwin Block.

• Creating a grant pool for existing “legacy” industries — those that have been here many years — to supplement state and local incentives.

• Creating a “deal closing” fund to supplement state and local incentives.

• Providing “seed funding” to attract specific specialty retail development.

• Creating a loan pool for entrepreneurial small businesses.

• Providing funds to help Henry County and the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) expand the local trail system.

• Providing additional funds to improve gateways into the community.

• Providing annual increases in each EDC division — traditional marketing, tourism and small business — to ensure they have the resources to accomplish their missions.

These plans will help the EDC and the community in several ways, Heath and Rothrock said.

For instance, the EDC’s move to the NCI building will help solidify the partnerships between the EDC, NCI and other entities that focus on education.

“... Training is the most critical work we’re involved in over the next 10 years,” Heath said. “If we can’t deliver (skilled workers), we will fail. There is no way around that. There are plenty of good people here, but many of those at present don’t have the skills they need to compete for these jobs.

“Part of our responsibility is to educate people. Our role is to make sure the education community understands specifically what industry needs,” he said, and conversely, to tell the business community how education works.

The plan also provides for annual reviews with specific targets, which Heath said he appreciates. Also, the increased funding is dependent on accomplishing specific goals, he said.

There are no plans to add to the EDC’s eight-person staff, except one new position in the Tourism Division required to maintain a state-certified visitor center, which will be in the new NCI building, Heath said.

Rothrock and Heath both stressed that these plans will depend on partnerships the EDC has built with other agencies and groups. For instance, it will work with Gateway Streetscape on improving the area’s appearance and Henry County Parks and Recreation and DRBA on the trails.

Heath added that the Harvest grant is “additional money to work the margins and do what we do better. If we lose other funding, we lose that ability.”

The EDC’s current annual budget is $1.765 million, Heath told Martinsville City Council in October. Assuming other funding stays the same, it will rise to about $2.765 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1 due to the larger Harvest grant.

If the EDC is successful with this strategy, Heath said the result will be a different community.

He mentioned the new NCI building, the possible approval of permits to start grading the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre, grading for Kilgour Industries Ltd. by the Army Reserve this summer and other projects underway.

“It’s been a long time since there was this much construction, this many projects going on here,” Heath said. “We think it will energize a lot of people who will want to be part of this. There will be a lot more opportunity for people who want to advance and improve their work situations. Part of our responsibility is to bring those opportunities, and at the core is the education partnership. We can’t do it without an educated workforce.”

Rothrock praised the EDC’s performance.

“The EDC has delivered to the community,” she said. “Their approach to economic development has expanded existing industry, brought in new businesses, partnered with K-12 education and promoted and expanded regional tourism efforts, now in excess of $64 million annually (in local tourism expenditures).”

Harvest board Chairman James McClain II said that since 2007, the community has invested $14.735 million in the EDC. The funds come from Harvest, the Henry County and Martinsville governments and C-PEG, the Chamber’s Partnership for Economic Growth/Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce.

“During that time, the EDC has assisted in leveraging that investment into $312.32 million of capital invested in our community. For every $1 invested in the EDC, our community’s return has been $21.19 of capital invested,” he said.

The rate of return is based on anything taxable, Rothrock added.

Also, 3,181 jobs have been created during that period.

The EDC’s latest plans, Rothrock said, will raise the bar for the area, and as each goal is reached, the bar can be raised even higher. “We can get to the Promised Land if we all participate,” she added.


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