Probably the only thing I enjoy more than Barnie Day's writing is the fact that I seldom agree with him. Yesterday was one of those rare occurrences. In an article written for the Martinsville bulletin, and replicated at Bacon's rebellion, Barnie spells out just what must be done to revitalize an area that has been hit hard by the realities of today's global economy and rapidly changing business climate.
Martinsville and Henry County have enormous advantages in attracting business. But our local leaders refuse to exploit them. We are less than an hour away, by a reasonably good four lane highway, from Interstate 81. We are less than an hour away, again by a reasonably good four lane highway (interrupted by less than ten miles of perfectly straight two lane) from interstate 40. We have more water than anyone could ever use up. We lie alongside the railbed of Norfolk Southern, one of the few profitable rail companies in North America. Once upon a time we had more trucking companies than any comparable size county in America, and can still be served well by the new trucking capital of the east coast, Mt. Airy, NC. Those same four lane highways mentioned previously also lead to two more than adequate airports, Roanoke Regional and Piedmont Triad International Airport. For those corporate jets, we also have Blue Ridge Airport, a local municipal facility. Barnie expands this list with;
Our real assets still await meaningful leverage. We have attributes here beyond the means of most communities our size-the Harvest Foundation, the Piedmont Arts Association, the Virginia Museum of Natural History, Patrick Henry Community College, Philpott Reservoir, Smith Mountain Lake, Fairystone State Park, the new Y, Martinsville Speedway. We have enough treated water capacity to replicate Niagara Falls.But, rather than attempt to market the area based on these and other resources, our local leaders tend to lean towards shell buildings and tourist trap "rails to trails" type endeavors. They tend to favor focus groups, consultants, and studies. Why? Who knows? My guess would be so as to provide a scapegoat should nothing magically appear.
Barnie finishes up his article with a plug for the New College, and I have to agree that it would, or could, provide a major boost to our local economy. But, I contend that a vigorous marketing strategy, promoting the advantages we already enjoy, would do as much, if not more.
Finally, as Barnie points out, we currently have 32 shell buildings, almost four million square feet, here in Henry County. We most certainly do not need another. What we do need is an aggressive campaign to market our most tangible assets, like those listed above.