Could Dean Johnston be looking for you? Johnston is looking for anyone who daydreams during long commutes and in congested spaces of a city where traffic is nearly non-existent. He’s looking for anyone who sighs when paying rent and daydreams of a city where the cost of living is a third less than the national average. These daydreamers don’t want a faraway cabin in the woods—they still want access to restaurants, entertainment, and other people—they just don’t want the headache and hubbub of a metropolitan life.
Why is Johnston looking for these particular daydreamers? Because Johnston wants to introduce them to the city of their daydreams. Johnston wants them to meet Martinsville.
Because Martinsville is a small, quiet city beautifully nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with easy access to the urban offerings of Roanoke and Greensboro, it’s perfect. At least, it perfectly fits the daydream shared by many people in congested cities. The only problem was that no one seems to know about it. In 2019, Johnston decided he was tired of his hometown not getting noticed.
“After a day of river rafting, my friend and I would sit at the local winery complaining about how great this region was yet how few people noticed or cared. Finally, I decided we have to stop complaining and we need to start doing something about it.”
In 2019 Johnston and his associate Jim Roberts created Move to Martinsville – a nonprofit designed to get the word out about Martinsville. They began promoting local businesses and regional assets and created a site called Martinsville-life.com which helps people discover things to do in the area. Despite the fact that 2020 was a hard year to start a nonprofit, the pandemic did not stop Johnston’s plans.
In November 2020, the Move to Martinsville group won a grant that put wind in their sails and opened a new kind of door. Then, Johnston met with a champion of the region who offered even more opportunities for growth.
Dr. Angeline Godwin, who was then president of Patrick & Henry Community College, has been one of the region’s most active supporters for nearly a decade. As both a transplant to the area and a champion of the region, Godwin seemed like an ideal connection for the Move to Martinsville organization. However, it was the access she offered the group to P&HCC’s resources that really opened doors. Beyond offering opportunities for residents to seek personal development, Patrick & Henry Community College has actively worked to start and sustain economic development initiatives for the entire region.
“P&HCC’s fingerprint on this region is remarkable. For sixty years, the college has been dedicated to helping this region grow and prosper, and the fruits of this work can be seen all over the region,” said Johnston. “From everything that P&HCC does for this region and its people, we can see that the folks at the college share the same convictions that we do at Move to Martinsville.”
From his meeting with Godwin, a new partnership emerged. Move to Martinsville will partner with P&HCC’s IDEA Center in Uptown Martinsville to utilize in-person meeting space and to tap into the marketing, data, and business expertise that P&HCC’s staff can offer.
“Not only will we really benefit from the intellectual capital that P&HCC is willing to share with us, but the IDEA Center is the perfect place to locate our Move to Martinsville operations. It’s centrally located in Uptown and, thanks to its innovative technology, it’s a draw for prospective businesses and newcomers.”
The IDEA Center is a high-tech hub for entrepreneurs, craftsmen, and businesses looking to design, prototype, and create. Makers, inventors, and designers can gain full access to the 3-D printers, laser cutters, design software, and more through monthly subscriptions to the space. The college also uses the space to teach technology and hobby-related classes and camps.
“The IDEA Center should be nationally and regionally recognized, yet so many people don’t even realize it is here. Just like Martinsville –if more people knew what’s right here, more people could benefit,” said Johnston. “We need to help each other get the recognition that we deserve.”
IDEA Center staff and Johnston expect that this partnership will be mutually beneficial for both exposure and for the mission of each entity.
“This region’s success is at the heart of both of our missions. We both do everything we can to support the success of the businesses and the people here,” said IDEA Center Director Matthew Ratliff. “Because the P&HCC IDEA Center’s goals mirror Move to Martinsville’s goals, this partnership just makes sense. We’re happy to share our space and our knowledge.”
To learn more about Move to Martinsville, go to movetomartinsvilleva.com or find Move to Martinsville on Facebook.