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Danville, Pittsylvania County look to bring together their economic development efforts
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Danville, Pittsylvania County look to bring together their economic development efforts

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Danville and Pittsylvania County are getting closer to establishing a formal alliance that officials hope will enhance economic development in the Dan River Region. 

"The purpose of the alliance is to make sure that leaders coordinate and hold accountable the organizations that have a meaningful role in the region's economic development efforts," Danville City Manager Ken Larking told the Danville Register & Bee on Tuesday. 

City and county officials talked about a formal agreement during a State of the Region meeting via Zoom that was hosted by the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday morning.

"The economic development alliance is an opportunity for us to coalesce all the various economic development interests in the community," Pittsylvania County Administrator David Smitherman said during the meeting. 

The results of an $85,000 study earlier this year, paid for by the city, county and the Danville Regional Foundation, recommended forming a regional economic development alliance. The study was conducted by Dewberry, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based economic leadership firm, and Chicago-based JLL. 

The Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors was set to vote on Tuesday night about whether to pass a resolution in support of the county's participating in the Danville-Pittsylvania Economic Development Alliance. 

If the board were to vote in favor, Danville City Council would plan to make a similar move at a future meeting, Larking said. 

"We wanted to first see what they [board of supervisors] adopted and mirror what they're doing," Larking said. 

The alliance would include city and county officials, economic development directors, representatives from local colleges and schools and leaders from local organizations. 

The group would be overseen by a leadership council that would include the city manager, county administrator, the CEO of the Danville Regional Foundation, the executive director of the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, the president of the chamber of commerce and two industry leaders.  

"The purpose of the leadership council is to provide guidance and strategy to those groups in order to assist our economic development efforts," Larking said. 

Board of Supervisors Chair Bob Warren said he was excited about the idea because it would expand input to more stakeholders. 

"The alliance will do a lot of that," Warren said during the State of the Region meeting.

Warren added that, although the city and county have a good working relationship, their current, informal alliance needs improvement. 

"We need to branch out and expand to make it more regional and bring in some more partners that are just outside our two areas," Warren said, pointing to Franklin County as an example. 

Other topics discussed:

  • Warren pointed out the role delivery van manufacturer Morgan Olson has played in the community. He said officials have been hearing from industries that would-be suppliers for the company and could locate here. 
  • The county is in talks with a company about expanding broadband, Smitherman said. 
  • Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones said fundraising continues for construction of a riverfront park along Memorial Drive next the White Mill building. About $5.4 million has been raised for the $10.1 million project, he said. Although fundraising has slowed down, it's still ongoing, he said. "That's going to be very exciting for our city," Jones said of the project. 
  • Warren praised the work Pittsylvania County Parks and Recreation Director Mark Moore has done since 2011. Moore, who has taken a job as assistant town manager for Rocky Mount in Franklin County, was instrumental in developing parks at the county's middle schools and walking trails. There was also the Wayside Park renovation in the northern part of the county, Warren pointed out. 
  • County officials are looking into development of a master plan for a major county park that could become a regional park, Warren said. "We realize that quality of life is vital to promote economic development," he said. "We don't want to leave any stone unturned."  
  • Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, sales tax numbers are strong, Smitherman said. "We're not experiencing the gaps in revenue we had anticipated," he said.  

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