Creating Opportunity in Hard-Working Southside
The Martinsville/Henry County area has been hit hard by the decline of manufacturing over the last few decades. Although the area is rich with manufacturing history and has a famous work ethic, recession stemming from 2008 has been particularly tough on residents. In April 2011, official statistics showed the city of Martinsville with an unemployment rate of 16.7%, and Henry County with over 10% unemployment.
The area is trying to transform into a more technology-based economy with a reliable local source of well-paying and stable jobs. However, the area is disadvantaged by its considerable distance from Virginia’s major public educational institutions.
Recently, four major public universities expressed interest in establishing NCI as a regional branch campus in the Southside area. As of late last week, three of the universities-Radford, Virginia Commonwealth and Virginia State-submitted their proposals. Meanwhile, George Mason declined to continue the process due to budget cuts.
Officials close to the process have expressed a desire to turn NCI into a branch campus to gain access to resources and more name recognition. NCI board member Eugune Trani was quoted as saying “we have seen sincere interest in what each of these prospective parent institutions could bring to Martinsville and Henry County.” The selection committee is expected to announce their recommendation late summer which will have to be approved by the General Assembly.
Building and strengthening the Martinsville/Henry County area through education is an essential step in the development process. Economic benefits will unfortunately not be immediate, but improving educational access will plenty of long term implications. The area currently has one of the lowest rates; raising the attainment rate of college degrees will attract more businesses to the area and allow more local residents to be the beneficiaries.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of members of the NDP Steering Committee.