May 27, 2015(Editor’s note: Most of this article comes from one published in the Martinsville Bulletin on Dec. 26, 2014. Some of the information, especially concerning the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre grading project, has been updated.)
Bryan McAlexander is working at his dream job — project engineer for Henry County.
“I got lucky with the county. I think they saw I was local, and I was in the right place at the right time,” he said, and added that he began his new job Aug. 18. “These opportunities don’t come along often.”
County Administrator Tim Hall recently said the area needs more young people such as McAlexander.
“He is the kind of young person that we need to hold onto and if they’re not ours originally, we need to get them here. He’s smart, loves the community, is invested in it and has the intellect and work ethic and devotion to the community that we need more of,” Hall said.
Word of mouth can help recruit such young people here, he said.
“Whatever our reputation is as a community in disarray or trying to recover from economic issues, we are more than that. A lot of times it takes (building) brick by brick” to create that base, Hall added.
McAlexander, a Henry County native, grew up in the Bassett area and attended both Figsboro and Sanville elementary schools before going on to Bassett Middle School. After school consolidation a decade ago, McAlexander said, he attended Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School and then Bassett High School.
At James Madison University in Harrisonburg he majored in engineering and learned he didn’t want to stay away from his home long-term.
“I think this community is kind of a tight-knit community. I was raised in a big family, and we were close,” said McAlexander. “I know a lot of kids don’t think there’s much to do around here, but if you live out in the country, there’s plenty of stuff to do outside. I just had no desire to leave” the area permanently.
McAlexander also knew opportunities to find work in his chosen field would be slim in Martinsville and Henry County.
“There were a few local companies I looked into,” he said, but McAlexander also decided to explore other options that included finding work in the region, perhaps in Danville or Roanoke.
He started his search in May.
“I honestly didn’t know if I would be successful or not, but I was optimistic,” he said. “I just wasn’t quite sure how it would turn out because there were somewhat limited opportunities.”
Still, McAlexander said he felt confident he could find work somewhere in the region, even if it meant a longer commute.
His parents, Larry and Peggy McAlexander, adopted a similar outlook about their son’s job prospects, he said.
“They wanted me to stay here, too. They knew the opportunities were limited, but they wanted me to stay close,” he said.
McAlexander applied with Henry County and another local company, as well as for positions outside the area. He said he eventually turned down a job offer in Harrisonburg after landing the job in Henry County.
As the county’s project engineer, McAlexander oversees building projects are being done by the county.
“I oversee them and make sure things are going according to spec. For example, one of the largest projects underway now is Commonwealth Crossing (Business Centre),” and he spends most of his days there now, he said. He is responsible for daily inspections to make sure everything is being done correctly, he added.
That grading project is on track to be completed in January.
McAlexander added that work on the new business center began around same time he started his new position, “and it’s probably one of the best projects” that he could be involved in because it will teach him about many aspects of engineering.
The industrial park is near the state line south of Ridgeway.
“I’ll get a lot of exposure to a lot of different things. It is very useful for me in my career,” he said.
One of his older sisters, Jessica Gillispie, also found work locally as a speech/language pathologist, he added.
He hopes his other sister, Lindsey Mabe, can follow suit when she completes her studies at Virginia Tech and becomes a veterinarian.
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