June 20, 2010
The Harvest Foundation board, in what it said was a vote of confidence for the work of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC), voted to give the EDC $1 million for the last year of a three-year grant to help it create, attract and retain jobs.
Harvest chose not to cut its EDC funds, unlike the Henry County Board of Supervisors and Martinsville City Council. For the fiscal year that starts July 1, the supervisors cut EDC funds by $60,000 and the city reduced its contribution by $80,000.
In fiscal 2009, the county and city both cut their funds by 5 percent due to the weak economy. Harvest followed suit, cutting its $1 million contribution to $950,000, according to Jeffrey W. Mansour, senior program officer for Harvest.
The EDC is a public private partnership between city and county governments, the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce and the Harvest Foundation. In the original partnership agreement, the foundation made its funding contingent upon the other partners maintaining their levels of financial support.
But this year, the foundation board felt that matching the localities’ larger cuts would “cripple the EDC and greatly reduce its impact at a time when our community needs it most,” according to a release from Harvest.
“In a very harsh economic climate, the EDC has helped our community retain current employers while attracting new investment. Their efforts have helped many local employers weather the current recession and save local jobs,” the release stated.
The EDC led efforts to attract new employers, bringing thousands of new jobs and related investments totaling more than $100 million, it added.
Additionally, the EDC coordinated and expanded the promotion of tourism in the region and helped dozens of entrepreneurs start businesses to help diversify the economy, the release stated.
“While our community continues to face job losses, the work of the EDC helped create new job opportunities for our residents and expand our community’s tax base to fund local government,” it stated.
The Harvest board added that its action confirms its confidence in the EDC and shows the importance, “especially during the current uncertain economic situation,” of continuing to invest in the area’s economic development, the release stated.
“Our board of directors believes it is highly important for community members, local leaders and the foundation to support a unified and effective approach to our community’s economic development,” Paul Toms, chairman of the Harvest board, said in the release. “Our work together has magnified our success in the face of a tough economic situation. It has made us more attractive and competitive to new investors and should be one of our community’s highest priorities.”
The Harvest board also called for a meeting of officials with the city and county governments and those in the local corporate sector to plan for their continued collaboration, according to a release.
Mansour said the end of the current three-year grant period with the EDC gives the funding partners an opportunity to re-negotiate what has been a successful partnership. Harvest has paid $1 million for two of the three years of the grant and $950,000 in the other year.
“As we move forward,” the foundation felt it is a good time to discuss the future infrastructure with the end goal of continuing and building on the EDC’s success, he said.
“The Harvest Foundation’s support for the EDC is greatly appreciated by the EDC’s board of directors,” Mark Heath, the organization’s president and CEO, said in a release. “We would not have achieved the success we have without their support and the support and collaboration of our partners.”
Heath did not return calls for additional comment Friday.
The Harvest Foundation was established in 2002 with proceeds from the sale of the Memorial Hospital in Martinsville. It invests in programs and initiatives to address local challenges in health, education, and community vitality.
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