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Heath sees positive trends in economic data for area

February 8, 2012

Martinsville Bulletin

A review of economic development data shows that Martinsville-Henry County has lost more jobs than it has gained in recent years, but the data also illustrates several positive trends, according to Mark Heath, president and CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC).

Heath provided the information in response to criticism from a local taxpayers group, which cited a net loss of 1,232 local jobs between 1995 and 2012, based on data from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP). The Martinsville-Henry County Taxpayer’s Association believes that job deficit shows that the area needs to change its approach to economic development. (See related story.)

Also using data compiled by the VEDP, the EDC generated reports that show the Henry County-Martinsville area was fifth in the number of new jobs announced per 100,000 people between 2006 and 2011.

Henry County and Martinsville are counted as one because there is one economic development office to serve both areas, according to Heath.

The combined area ranked 10th among the 135 localities in Virginia in the number of new jobs announced in 2006-2011, with a total of 2,415 jobs in 33 announcements, according to information from the EDC. Several of the localities that ranked higher were in urban areas, such as Fairfax County and Virginia Beach, the report showed.

Henry County-Martinsville tied with Danville for 13th place for the 33 economic development announcements in the last five years.

Henry County-Martinsville also ranked 14th in the total number of economic development announcements per 100,000 people, 22nd in the amount of capital investment announced per 100,000 people and 23rd for the $204.45 million announced in capital investment in the same time frame, according to the information from the EDC.

Overall, the area is among the top 25 localities in Virginia for the number of new jobs announced, the number of economic development announcements, the amount of capital investment and several other areas between 2006 and 2011.

Job creation is only part of what the EDC does, according to Heath. In addition to attracting businesses that will create jobs, the EDC invests in product development, Heath said, referring to infrastructure investments such as for grading, water lines and other work.

The Harvest Foundation contributes $1 million per year to the EDC, which also receives a combined $800,000 from the Henry County and Martinsville governments and another $25,000 from C-PEG (Chamber’s Partnership for Economic Growth), according to Heath.

“Roughly 25 percent of our budget helps to lower the costs the localities have to spend on product development,” Heath said of the EDC’s investment in developing infrastructure to help attract companies to the area. “We believe that if the city and county put money in, we ought to be at the table, too” and invest as well.

Those funds “come off the top” of the EDC’s budget, Heath said of money spent on projects such as the grading of revenue-sharing lots at Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre and the installation of a water tank and lines; constructing a shell building; grading Lot 2 in the Patriot Centre industrial park; and others.

A report on the true net cost of the EDC to each locality, from 2006 through the projected totals in 2013, shows that the EDC spends much of its funding on product development.

Without an infusion of funds from the EDC, some projects could be tabled, and others “certainly wouldn’t get done” as quickly, Heath said, estimating the return on tax dollars contributed to the EDC is roughly 17 to one.

For instance, of the county’s $3.8 million contribution from 2006-13, the EDC reinvested more than $2 million in developing product. The same was done with more than $1.3 million of Martinsville’s $2.9 million contribution.

“One reason we are able to do this is because the Harvest Foundation funds us so well,” he said.

In addition, between fiscal 2006 and 2012, the EDC has worked to bring incentives to Martinsville and Henry County from state agencies, including more than $6.3 million in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds and more than $10 million in other Tobacco Commission grants; more than $1.5 million in Governor’s Opportunity Funds and other awards totaling $6.5 million from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) and the Harvest Foundation for site preparation work at CCBC, according to a report from the EDC.




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