January 11, 2004
All of those things were evident Saturday when The Harvest Foundation board voted unanimously to issue a $50 million challenge grant to the commonwealth seeking establishment of a four-year public college or university in Henry County or Martinsville by January 2006. That is a serious amount of money that must be taken seriously by the state.
The idea of establishing a public college in Southside is not new, but it seems to have been gaining momentum recently in light of the region's economic decline. A college not only would raise the educational level of the area's residents, but it also would fuel economic growth by creating jobs and related businesses. It would be the large new industry we want and need.
By putting this huge grant on the table and requiring that the college be built in the county or city, The Harvest Foundation has ensured that this area is a prime contender for this institution. Competition will be tough, but this grant gives our area a massive edge.
And by requiring such an accelerated schedule for the project, the foundation has ensured that it will not get brushed aside. No one expects this effort to be easy, considering the state budget shortfall, but it surely will get prompt attention because of the foundation's deadline.
It deserves that. It also deserves the full support and active lobbying of area residents and organizations.
The foundation was created from the proceeds of the sale of Memorial Health Systems to improve the health, education and welfare of residents of Henry County and Martinsville. We can imagine few projects that would have more impact on all those areas than a university.
We applaud the foundation board members -- President Donald R. Hodges; Michael P. Haley, immediate past president; Douglas I. Payne, vice president; Marshall W. Stowe, treasurer; Dr. W. Dan Prince III, secretary; W. Clay Campbell; Robert M. Davis; Dr. William D. Lewis; Simone H. Redd; Joseph A. Roach; Eliza H. Severt; and Paul B. Toms Jr. Their bold move with this challenge grant shows true leadership.
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