County considered economic development strategy

By Brandon Martin

The Henry County Board of Supervisors discussed a number of issues at their Nov. 26 meeting, including the county’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).

Topping Henry County list of projects this year is the Commonwealth Crossing Building Centre. Additional expansion is planned for the regional industrial park including economic measures, grading, utility installation and various other upgrades equating to a price tag of approximately $26 million.

Next on the list is renovation on the Lower Smith River Treatment Facility to provide service to industries, businesses and residents equaling $24 million.

The county also looks to make grading and infrastructure improvements to the Patriot Centre at Beaver Creek and to the Bryant Property totaling $13 million in upgrades.

Plans for the development of a speculative hangar for aviation-related business at the Blue Ridge Regional Airport would cost around $1.2 million.

An extension of water service along Route 58 West corridor to Mayo River and adjacent residential areas including to the Blue Ridge Airport would cost $7.9 million.

The county also wants to start a community development project to develop trails, recreational activities, cultural opportunities and curb appeal along the Smith River corridor in Bassett and Fieldale, at an estimated $3 million cost.

Housing rehabilitation, costing $1.5 million, is planned, but the exact location hasn’t been determined yet.

Finally, the design, grading and construction of a multiple-field outdoor recreational facility, estimated to cost around $10 million, also is one the list.

Upgrades to the Patriot Centre and development at the Blue Ridge Airport will be partially funded by the EDA.

Updating the list “is a requirement from the economic development administration in order to receive federal funds for projects,” said Assistant County Administrator Dale Wagner said. “Most of the time we compile the CEDS as a wish list for economic development.

“We used to just list everything imaginable that we may want to do for upcoming years, but this year they only want us to submit what we think can be completed over the next five years,” he added.

When approved by the Henry County Board of Supervisors, Wagner said the list of projects will be forwarded to the West Piedmont Regional Economic Development District. The district, which serves Henry, Patrick, Franklin and Pittsylvania counties, the cities of Martinsville and Danville and the town of Rocky Mount. Each compiles an updated CEDS list.

CEDS contributes to effective economic development in America’s communities and regions through a locally-based, regionally-driven economic development planning process. It also provides a vehicle for individuals, organizations, local governments, institutes of learning, and private industry to engage in a meaningful conversation and debate about what capacity building efforts would best serve economic development in the region.

Regions must update their CEDS at least every five years to qualify for EDA assistance under its Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance programs.  In addition, a CEDS is a prerequisite for designation by EDA as an Economic Development District (EDD).

The document must contain a list of prioritized projects and the WPPDC annually requests that each locality submit its proposed future projects. It is essential that all projects the Board will consider within the next year be included in the CEDS because only projects on the list are eligible for EDA funding.

It is recommended that projects that can be funded from other sources be included in order to give the county maximum flexibility in the management of its resources.

When completed, the plan is forwarded to the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to maintain participating localities’ eligibility to receive EDA funding.

The CEDS provides the capacity-building foundation by which the public sector, working in conjunction with other economic actors (individuals, firms, industries), creates the environment for regional economic prosperity.

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