Heath: EDC busy with prospects

December 14, 2011

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. is dealing with the highest number of prospects it has had this year, which its president/CEO attributes to 10 years of efforts paying off.

“We believe what we are beginning to see is the coming together” of the work and investment by Martinsville and Henry County in economic development in the past decade, EDC President/CEO Mark Heath told the Martinsville City Council at its regular meeting Tuesday night.

The EDC is working with 31 projects — 18 inquiry projects, in which firms have expressed interest in the area but have not visited, and 13 active projects, in which representatives have visited the area.

“That has been trending up for the past three months,” Heath said, adding that the EDC also is being taken more seriously by consultants in the field. He attributed that to its work with ICF and RTI, companies the EDC recruited to the area, and the fact that officials with those companies tell others of their good experience here.

“It appears slow, but we’re taking necessary steps” on projects such as the grading of the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre south of the city, he said. Bids will be opened for that project in late February, Heath said.

“We believe we will see strong results going forward,” he added.

Health also discussed the EDC’s work on research; small, minority and entrepreneurial business; and tourism, including the finalized contract with the Martinsville Mustangs and the NCBA (National Club Baseball Association) to bring a three-day baseball tournament to the area in May. The Dutch Inn was chosen as the host hotel.

He gave the results of surveys distributed at all local hotels, the Visitor Center and in welcome packets so far this year. Responding were 349 adults with 49 youth who spent an average of 2 1/2 days in the area. They averaged traveling 343 miles (5 3/4 hours) to get here and spent an average of $258 per party here.

By comparison, figures from 2010 surveys showed 268 respondents with 22 youth who spent an average of 2.8 days here. They traveled an average of 364 miles (six hours) to get here and spent an average of $95 per party while here.

Heath also distributed a chart showing that 10,544 Henry County-Martinsville residents travel outside the local area for work, versus 9,400 who travel into this area to work. He pointed out that about 200 more people from Danville and Pittsylvania County travel into Martinsville and Henry County to work than the other way around (1,584 to 1,385).

The locality attracting the largest number of local employees is Roanoke-Salem, with 1,714, the chart shows.

When the EDC talks with a prospective industry, it “sells” the outflow numbers, Heath said, explaining that those are people who want to live here but have to travel elsewhere to find work. “Their (a prospective company’s) work force is working for someone else,” he added.

Heath mentioned a Boston Consulting Group study that forecasts that 3 million manufacturing jobs could come back to this country in the future and said the EDC wants to be prepared to capitalize on that. It plans a meeting on marketing to prepare for that possibility.

Vice Mayor Kimble Reynolds Jr. said he was in Richmond recently and overheard a conversation in which Martinsville was referred to as a competitor for economic development, not a victim of the poor economy.

Heath responded that the resources given to the EDC by the city, county, Harvest Foundation and Chamber of Commerce have helped it be competitive.

“We don’t want a fair fight,” he said. “We want an unfair advantage. Thank you for giving us the resources” to have that.


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