Richmond Times Dispatch 12/17/2009, Page B02
McDonnell and Bolling pay visit to Southside
They and other officials discuss ways to boost jobs in hard-hit region
BY CATHERINE AMOS
Media General News Service
DANVILLE — Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling met in hard-hit Danville
yesterday with dozens of local elected officials and economic development leaders. The session,
followed by another meeting yesterday in Martinsville, kicked off McDonnell’s promise to work
directly with Southside on ways to improve the local economy.
Secretary-Designate of Commerce and Trade Robert C. Sledd joined McDonnell, and Bolling,
whom the new governor has named the state’s chief job creation officer.
The unemployment rate for the Danville metropolitan area dropped from 11.3 to 11.2 percent
from September to October, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.
But that’s up from 9.4 percent a year ago, and the metropolitan area still ranks the worst among
Virginia’s 10 metropolitan areas.
The city of Danville’s unemployment rate fell from 13 percent to 12.6 percent, which ranked
fifthhighest in the state of 134 jurisdictions.
The city of Martinsville finally dipped below a 20 percent unemployment rate at 19.7 percent,
down from 20.2 percent in September but up from 13.1 percent a year ago.
Martinsville’s unemployment ranked highest in the state.
The Danville meeting was the first of what McDonnell pledges to be monthly discussions in the
area featur ing high-ranking officials of his administration.
In Danville, the two main issues of discussion during the session at the Institute of Advanced
Learning & Research were improving local work-force development and the need for state
funding to successfully compete with other states for economic development projects through
incentives, such as the Governor’s Opportunity Fund and Enterprise Zones.
“You’re ahead of the game, and that’s a good thing,” Bolling said of the cooperation between
Danville and Pittsylvania County in building industrial parks.
“What we want to figure out now is how we can help you get farther ahead of the game,”
Many in the group touted the advantages of bringing advanced manufacturing to the area and
the need to develop a qualified work force— along with prepared sites such as industrial parks.
Many expressed concerns about the scattered structure of the current work-force state
agencies and the need to streamline those programs.
McDonnell said Virginia is “way behind” North Carolina but said his economic development
team has proposals and budget amendments to present to the General Assembly in January.
“There’s tremendous opportunity in Southside Virginia,” McDonnell said.
“There’s great ideas down here. There’s uniquely unified leadership between Danville and
Pittsylvania County. There’s a lot of vision.
“What we need now is to provide the tools and some resources to be able to close the deals.”
• Catherine Amos is a staff writer for the Danville Register & Bee.