By Callie Hietala
Music, wine, food, and a view that can’t be beat were just a few of the assets on display on August 26 when Move to Martinsville hosted a “FUN”raiser at Hamlet Vineyards. The sold-out event, featuring music by Will Overman and a lobster roll dinner, was part of the group’s effort to promote the quality-of-life people can expect living in Martinsville.
Move to Martinsville is a nonprofit group that formed in 2019, said Dean Johnston, president of the organization. Its mission is to recruit a mobile, professional class to the area by promoting local and regional assets.
“Historically, this is an area that, because of manufacturing, had to compete against its neighbors for blue collar workers,” said Johnston. “But one of the beauties of Martinsville is not just what’s available in our community, it’s also what’s available inside the 60-mile economic circle of Martinsville. If you live in a big city, a 45 to 50-mile drive to the airport is nothing. A 50-mile drive to a Broadway play is nothing. So, the people moving here didn’t see 45 minutes as being a hindrance to anything. They thought it was inclusive.”
The organization received its 501 c3 status in 2019, but its efforts were abruptly halted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It wasn’t all bad news for the new organization, however.
“COVID proved the premise that we were already thinking,” said Johnston. “People are becoming more mobile. They don’t have to work in a congested city, and they can live wherever they want to. They can live here.”
Johnston said events like the one at Hamlet Vineyards are not fundraisers. Rather than asking people to donate money to Move to Martinsville, “we want people to contribute to those things that make Martinsville better.”
The group has funding, said Johnston. In 2019, it hosted a social event where donors contributed seed money to the organization. The City of Martinsville also gave the group a CARES Act grant to help their efforts in promoting the community.
Thus far, the organization has created a Facebook page (MovetoMartinsville) and a website. The site includes a regional search engine called Martinsville Life that allows people to search for particular quality of life components “that maybe we don’t have, but it’s close by,” Johnston said.
The group also has partnered with other organizations, including the Uptown Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Economic Development Corp. to help promote local assets, including a joint promotional piece that can be handed out at local events that draw crowds from outside the area listing the benefits of living in Martinsville.
“The biggest thing we hope to do,” Johnston said, “is to collaborate with everyone else that’s trying to make Martinsville a better place.”