Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors unanimously endorse New College Institute

January 13, 2006

The Martinsville Bulletin

The Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors on Thursday unanimously endorsed the proposed New College Institute.

"Our top legislative initiative" for the current General Assembly session is the institute, said chamber President Kim Adkins.

A resolution approved by the board says that the chamber endorses plans to establish the institute in the community.  Also, it states that the chamber "wholeheartedly recommends" that legislation be enacted to establish the school based on a planned two-stage framework, with $4.5 million that Gov. Mark Warner included in the state's 2006-08 biennium budget.

The framework "allows for eventual development of the…institute into a free-standing public baccalaureate college or a baccalaureate-level branch campus" of another higher education institution, the resolution reads.

Plans are for the institute to open July 1, but students would not be taught until the fall of 2007.  Students would have local access to baccalaureate degree-granting programs offered by colleges elsewhere in Virginia.

The school could evolve into an independent institution or a branch campus of another four-year college or university by 2012, based on the framework.

The institute could be a catalyst for revitalizing Southside's economy, the resolution says.

Leanna Blevins, vice president for student and community development for the institute planning commission, told the board that local lawmakers "need a quantity" of phone calls, e-mails and letters to convince the legislature to support the institute.  And they need them now, she said.

Barry Dorsey, the institute planning commission's new executive director, is moving to Martinsville this week and will start his new job next week, Blevins said.  She added hat he will be pushing for local leaders to communicate with lawmakers.


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