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Economic Develop-Mentally Challenged

The day after Danville’s Economic Development Summit, Danville’s Economic Development director resigned. Oh, that’s a good sign.

After an unplanned SouthsideCentral hiatus, I’m not sure where to start…

Day-long summit dives into good — and bad — facing Danville

You know, it sounds like a good idea. Let’s get a bunch of high-caliber people into a one-day conference and figure out how to attract businesses. What’s wrong with that? I’ll take that one. Instead of more blah-blah-blah talk, how about a little action and results instead?

I’m not fighting or denouncing the (soon to be dearly departed) Jeremy Stratton on his last 2 years worth of work. Danville’s “China Strategy” seems to be working. But besides that? We’ve had Job Bust after Job Bust after Job Bust. SouthsideCentral wishes Jeremy Stratton well in his new endeavor but in the Economic Development business, you either are a big dealmaker or you’re out the door.

At least Danville’s got an economic development office. It could be as bad as Pittsylvania County, where the idiotic and dysfunctional Board of Supervisors wiped theirs off the map by the firing of Ken Bowman. A few weeks ago, Jerry Hagerman (one of the members) said he wasn’t ready to hire a new economic development director, as he’d prefer to see what the county staff could do with the job. The answer to that is “Diddly-Squat”. Jerry Hagerman is an idiot for thinking that way.

Let’s get back to the summit. Jeremy Stratton was there on Wednesday and his resignation was announced at the lovely “send out bad news late in the day so nobody picks up on it” time of 4:40PM on Thursday. From the photos I saw, it sure looked like Stratton wasn’t a man ready to quit his job yesterday. Maybe he’s got a future in Hollywood as an actor. I just don’t get it.

One of my favorite parts of the R&B article was the remarks of Linwood Wright (yes, I spelled his name correctly unlike the R&B)…

There are also perception problems, with young people feeling the city does not have enough good-paying jobs or entertainment options, and a population that has developed a negative attitude about the city.

Lynwood Wright, with the city’s economic development department, said the negativity is extremely frustrating, since economic development prospects generally don’t say why they are in Danville as they are scouting around and chatting to with residents.

“If you can’t say something good about the city, why would they think it’s a place to bring their business,” Wright said.

I’ll answer that one. Linwood Wright is old, white and rich. That only meets one of Danville’s attributes with that one being “old”. What’s Danville got for the rest of the people that’s not old, white and rich? Occasional weekend festivals… and even they turn out to be as racially segregated as Sunday morning at 11 AM. Why do you think that very few high school graduates return to Danville after college? There’s not much for them to do in Danville and there are no good-paying jobs like in metropolitan areas.

Let’s look at a list of young people that have stayed or returned to Danville to “make a difference”.

  1. Lee Vogler
  2. Bryant Hood

That’s it. Danville has a number of “young professionals” but I can’t think of any that have rolled up their sleeves and actually done something with/for the community. If I’m wrong, let me know in the comments.

If you want real professionals who know what it takes to get real economic development going in this area, it’s time to make a fresh start and hire somebody like Jeff Reed (no matter what the cost is). He used to work in Danville’s economic development office and knows what’s happening. the other person that would do wonders would be Laurie Moran, the president of the Danville-Pittsylvania Chamber of Commerce. Yes, I know she doesn’t have the time for a job like this but she’d be my dream on how to showcase the area to potential businesses. If Danville was able to land those two, things would happen quite fast.

So that happened… Anyway, I have no idea if anything was actually accomplished at this “summit”. We’ll know if lessons were learned by seeing what results come out in the new 12 months. This has been a long rant and it veered off-topic a bit, but hey, it’s my first article in over a month. I’ll do better, I swear.

16 comments to Economic Develop-Mentally Challenged

  • Jeff

    I was once a young person who stayed in Danville, now I am an older person wishing I had left it 30 years ago. 🙁

    Linwood Wright presided over one of the biggest reasons Danville has no good-paying jobs, it was called Dan River Industries; the best worst thing that ever happened to Danville.

  • Wayne

    They should recruit Anne Moore Sparks back , I kind of think she left because of her boss Mr. Stratton . Im sorry but I don’t believe in much of a future for Danville , because the people with the power wont listen to anyone outside of their click. Way to conservative of an approach , people need to think more outside the box and get creative , be different . Why would I come here instead of Lynchburg or Greensboro? What do I remember about Danville , what stands out ?
    The new fountain is a joke , my shower looks better, it could have been that one outstanding thing that , or colored uplighting of the bridge arches which to me are the best designs in Danville which should be accentuated .
    Back to the fountain, big mistake ,most high school designers could have done better . I went to the ” public meeting’ when the designs were first proposed , evidently there was a big rush and people thought LPAD should just do it since they were already doing the streets cape even though they had never designed a fountain . I was told by them at that meeting when I bought up the use of different materials ect. that this is the South and everything is traditional and thats the way it is . Well, this is a big part of the problem , people stuck in time and close minded .
    I would have been willing to for free put together an Art advisory committee , solicited proposals from Artist around the world through sculpture magazine ,choose a design and had it fabricated and installed locally .The City should have a well rounded designer on the payroll anyway , for projects like this , landscaping , signage , real-estate ect. instead they way over spend on outside consultants and that money for the most part leaves the city forever.
    Trust me just some cool colors and color design on the buildings downtown could change the whole dynamic at minimal cost. Oh I have many ideas but nobody wants to hear them because Im not part of the click.
    When we said we were going to sell are building and close the Art gallery , not one person said wait . why , is there anything we could do to help it work out so you could stay .
    Just like when Matt Charles got a better job offer that took him and Melissa Charles and the Union St. Theatre from Danville . The Danville Regional Foundation to whom Matt was employed by should have tried to do whatever they could to get him and Melissa to stay , that Theatre was priceless for Danville
    Oh and I hear you about the segregation , on Facebook there is a group , I think ist called woman leaders of Danville , has like 240 women , how many do you think are African American maybe 10. Kind of hard to believe when Danville’s racial makeup is like 50 / 50

  • Stuart Coates

    Lillie Mae Jones is another person that came back to Danville and is trying to make a difference.

  • Buddy Rawley

    Bruce my friend you are way off on this report. There have been many more than two people who have come back to the area and many that did not leave. Linwood Wright is one of the best community leaders we have ever had in Danville. He has spent countless hours as a member of city council. Mayor. Executive for Dan River Inc. and many, many boards and commissions helping move Danville forward. I worked for Linwood for 10 years and know first hand his dedication to Danville and it’s citizen. Bruce what the Summit was all about was to let the citizens of our area know they play a tremendous part in helping our area move forward in a new economy. I hope you move you commentary more towards the many positives we have going on in our region. Example the press conference yesterday announcing the first company The Launch Place will be working with in the River District. I don’t want you to stop how you are reporting but a few more positve stories would be appreciated.

    • I’ve got no problems commenting and reporting the good things that happen around here. I throw Thumbs UP! as much as I can. That being said, I’m also one of the few people with the guts to call things as I see them and to stand behind my word. It’s my opinion and I’ve been blessed with a forum to present that opinion. If I’m wrong, I strongly encourage people to call me out on it (just like you do).

      I never criticized Linwood Wright’s leadership and devotion to the cause. What I did criticize was his lack of understanding of the issues facing Danville from the majority’s viewpoint. As for “The Launch Place”, heck yeah… they’ve got their first company in and I hope they do great. However, The Launch Place can be much more useful if they mirror what the Dan River Small Business Development Center is doing (What’s happened to them, anyway? Are they still around?).

      I don’t want to be known as the guy who complains about everything, but I will continue to call horsecrap when I see ridiculous spin and forced oblivion by anybody who denies what is really going on in the SouthsideCentral region. The Job Busts that I wrote about were truly Job Busts. Nobody else had the guts to call them for what they were.

  • kooldown

    Before Bryant Hood, and Lee Vogler even thought about trying to “Make a difference” in shitville, I myself tried several times to get Danville a nightlife and fun/friendly environment. Each idea was thrown out of the idea pool by the city manager and other blokes in the area.
    I refuse to care or put any more of my money towards the city. Considering several of my ideas that were fully paid for went to shit causing me to lose well over $500k throughout the past few years.

  • Anonymous

    @Wayne, I really liked some of the ideas that you posted, it’s a pity that some of the people here are “stuck in time and close minded”, but unfortunately, I couldn’t agree more. Whomever said “this is the South and everything is traditional and thats the way it is…”, well I just wish someone would have asked him or her how many slaves he or she owns to find out exactly how “traditional” he is. Albert Einstein said – “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” If this person holds any sort of power, he or she needs to be stripped of it IMMEDIATELY. Progress requires CHANGE!!!!!!

    @Buddy, I really appreciate your enthusiasm & dedication to our “River City”. The problem with seeing more positive stories here is that there aren’t as many as any of us wish for our *cough* *cough* “Great” *cough* *cough* city (I can’t even type that without laughing). The positive stores can be found on the R&B whenever there are any to report, but then as they slowly fade away, the reports also vanish. We hardly hear about the travesties that have occurred to our “Great City”. Almost as if they were “meant” to be hidden. They are reported, but “hidden” as best as they can be. I’m glad to hear about a new company coming to the area to bring much needed employment to the local population. I sincerely hope that they do not end up like the 10 companies that made the Job’s Bust (I hope my code worked [if not, see Job’s Bust links above in original post]). I applaud your efforts on city council as well as other civic duties you hold to try to make a difference. Please never lose your passion and devotion, because without it and people like yourself, Lee Vogler, Bryant Hood, & Lillie Mae Jones, our city will surely die (what the hell, I’ve always liked Fred Shanks, why not throw him in there as well [Hey, Fred…lol]).

  • Anonymous

    @Jeff, I feel your pain. I was born in Martinsville, lived in Halifax county for 12 years now, received my Bachelor’s from Averett (in Computer Science) and have been employed in Halifax Co. as a Software Developer for almost a year and a half now. I still live below the poverty level.

    I have lived in Southside my entire life (minus a few months here and there). I was born here, raised here, and I’m beginning to believe I will die if I DON’T leave here. I firmly believe that things are headed in the right direction. With a focus on technology, Danville is attempting to create a better future for its residents. However, the skill level for these type of jobs is almost non-existant, and few people are aware (or care) about the programs that are available to educate them in these fields. The ones that do have the skills, are turned away by the companies coming here (not everyone knows how to program a super computer). Ask Ecomnets how many of their 172 jobs they have created (or WILL create now that they have switched from computer manufacturing to a data center) OR how many software developers have been hired earning that 6 figure salary working with the supercomputer? Better yet, ask how many of these companies are hiring people with the education and the skills, but maybe don’t have the experience? How many are trying to grow their employees from the workforce that IS skilled? When you find them, let me know.

  • Anonymous

    I have also been around some of the more influential people in Halifax county in the past year and a half and I have heard one VIP say (who is pretty much in Economic development say “Our goal is to provide our residents a ‘living wage’.” Let’s break this statement down. According to Wikipedia – “…a living wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their needs that are considered to be basic.”

    WOW. I have to say…way to aim high. Maybe in 20 years I’ll be able to afford to rent an apartment and feed myself (but I’m not holding my breath).

    I have lived in Southside my whole life, which has helped me realize that I have to leave Southside, because I cannot afford to wait another 30 years for the local economy to “turn around”. I am not thrilled with that decision as I do care about the people here and would love to see our city become a Rahleigh or Greensboro (which of all of Southside, Danville has the potential AND the opportunity to do so. I just hope that one day it will.

    Thank you for your time. I wish I had more positive things to say here. Perhaps someone reading this will share some….

    (correction, spelling error in post #1, stories not stores…)

  • Anonymous

    I have one thing to say: clique, clique, clique. That’s the main problem. The “leaders” think they are smarter than everyone else and have a real snobbery problem going on. That stuff doesn’t work like it used to. They refuse to believe anyone has a brain but them. The elitist attitude had very much damaged this struggling town. Sad. But there’s still hope – if the old guard would let a new breed take over.

  • Local Business Owner

    I normally bite my tongue on such matters but I feel that having directly worked with Jeremy Stratton, Anne Moore Sparks and Linwood Wright on private projects over the past few years for the city I have an insight of what goes on beyond the press release news “reporting” that the Register Bee normally does.

    Here is my 2cents on each of these players:

    Jeremy Stratton–While I do not like him personally due to his lack of passion for his job and follow up, I feel he genuinely wants to do good and just lacks the focus to pull of more stuff. I am sure we would all be SHOCKED at all the projects he normally works on at once. That doesn’t excuse his lack of passion or lack of balls to go against Anne Moore Sparks. His rush to make deals meant he typically overpaid on properties. I know of repeated situations where this happened, including one property where I had got the seller to agree accept 25% less than asking but the city/IDA/Jeremy purchased it at full asking first.

    Anne Moore Sparks–I never had one good experience with her. Every single project that was green lit by Jeremy, she would try to get more profit for the town (to the point where the numbers simply didn’t work so projects were scrapped.) She was way too by the book to work in a town like Danville in my opinion. She wanted to be in charge (and from what I saw, she was but wasn’t supposed to be.)

    Linwood Wright–this man has more excitement for new projects than the other two. He does his best to snap Jeremy out his daze and did his best to keep Anne Moore Sparks from vetoing anything she didn’t come up with. His ego never came into play and he was always the first one up looking at properties as a plan B.

  • Local Business Owner

    (the post button disappears with long posts on Chrome)

    Overall I feel the Economic Development Office did decently over the past 5 years–even when they never helped me or actually approved a project I put together. They were slow to respond, quick to overpay and never reach out to existing local businesses to see what they can do to help support them or even help them grow.

    If I ran the department, I would touch base with every business owner at least twice a year to see how things were going and what I could do to help. You here the statistics that small businesses create 70% of all jobs…well I feel investing in existing SUCCESSFUL local companies is a better plan than throwing money at people with a biz plan on a cocktail napkin. I also feel that the local ED office could do more to partner existing businesses with new ones to help prevent pitfalls. (For example the new grocery store/ice cream parlor with ZERO parking spaces.) There is so much wealth of knowledge locally but it is not brought together in a way that celebrates the successful to help the newbies.

  • Local Business Owner

    One last thought before I go….no business fails due to the economy. They fail because they didn’t plan properly for down cycles and also refused to retool to adjust to the current market. Yet what does just about every Register Bee article say when the owners are asked why they are closing or why they failed to hire the promised job count? Yep…the darn local economy or the national economy or traffic (like somehow they didn’t see that one coming either)!

  • I understand much of the sentiment of this post but I think a dis-service was done to the many young people that are heavily engaged in this community. Check out This is only one of the many things young folks are involved in. (One of the young men you mentioned is involved in this project.)

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