City officials react to economic crisis

Mayor asks for curtailed restrictions, Turner issues call to bring jobs back

By Debbie Hall and Brandon Martin

Martinsville Mayor Kathy Lawson asked Gov. Ralph Northam to consider a “roiling curtailment of the current restrictions for areas” less affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Particularly in the Southwestern region of the state, infection cases are either extremely low or are nonexistent,” Lawson wrote in an April 20 letter that also was sent to State Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Moneta; Dels. Les Adams, Danny Marshall and Charles Poindexter, as well as to administrators in several areas served by the West Piedmont Planning Commission.

“In the event this remains a situation, and once the cases in Virginia have peaked and a decline in additional infection has been documented, we respectfully request that you consider” modifying current Executive Orders to allow “for a reopening of business activity in areas of the state which have not suffered from COVID-19 infection so that Virginia’s economic engine and its citizens do not unduly suffer from an extended period of inactivity,” Lawson stated in the letter.

She also suggested discussions of “how to reopen Virginia should include input from the various regions of the state, perhaps with some decision-making authority in that regard given to the regions or localities themselves.”

Lawson said city leaders “believe a statewide one size fits all restriction on activity restriction on activity, while essential in arresting the spread of COVID-19, is not the best solution once additional data of regional infection rates become apparent.”

She added that the fiscal health and security of residents “should be given an opportunity to begin recovery, just as” the physical well-being prompted Northam’s orders.

In a separate letter Martinsville City Council Member Danny Turner asked President Donald Trump, Northam, and other federal and state government officials, to consider Martinsville, Danville, and Henry and Pittsylvania counties as potential locations to solve some of the country’s supply chain manufacturing needs.

“I feel that this part of Virginia would be perfect for that relocation from overseas,” Turner said.

He added that the decision to send the letters came after Trump discussed the importance of securing the nation’s supply lines during a coronavirus (COVID-19) task force meeting.

“There’s been a lot of folks on the national level talking about relocating our country’s manufacturing from overseas,” Turner said, “and if they are going to do it, I want them to know that our area is really a prime spot.”

In his letter, Turner listed a variety of reasons why the area would be the ideal location for manufacturing companies to set up shop.

“The housing cost is less than half the state average,” he said, adding that “we check almost all of the boxes. Our area can compete with anybody.”

Other reasons listed in the letter are the city’s broadband capability, four industrial parks, the strategic location of the area on the East Coast, and low cost of living.

Turner said he was uncertain if the letters will receive a response but he felt that it was “just important to at least get our name out there.”

“I believe that we really are a fantastic area and if they are thinking about it anyway, I don’t see why we wouldn’t at least throw our names in the hat,” he added.

China has been the second-largest supplier of medicine and medical supplies since the 1990s and the administration is currently looking for ways to end the dependence on foreign manufacturing for pharmaceutical and military supplies.

“This pandemic has reaffirmed the importance of keeping vital supply chains at home,” Trump said during the April 20 press conference. “We cannot outsource our independence, we cannot be reliant on foreign nations. I’ve been saying this for a long time. If we’ve learned one thing it’s let’s do it here, let’s build it here, let’s make it here.”

Whether Trump or Northam will respond has yet to be seen, but Turner said he received positive feedback from Marshall, R-Danville, who said “he liked the idea.

As of April 21, a social media post Turner made on the subject received 240 likes, 69 shares and 47 comments, most of which were supportive of the efforts made by Turner.

“Bring back what should never have left,” Terresa Welles Keller Leopold said when commenting on the post. “This is great, and with planning and work it can happen.”

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