Alliance hopes teamwork will add up to more jobs for Southside

Other areas in the state have similar workforce and incentives. What it will come down to is "product" like available industrial parks, shell buildings and graded shovel-ready sites.

One hurdle will be changing the mindset about rural areas because in actuality, the region isn't outdated but progressive, she said. It has major airports within 50 miles, four four-lane divided highways and broadband capabilities.

One challenge with marketing the 3,500-acre megapark is that prospective companies cannot yet see its vision, Cockram said. The master plan currently under work will achieve that.

Additionally, becoming a "certified mega site" by McCallum Sweeney will be a huge help, she added.

Danville City Manager Joe King said getting the park ready is complicated, but the megapark won't be for those companies that could move into the other industrial sites in the area.

"We're looking for that big game-changer industry," King said.

Cockram is concentrating her efforts on attracting advanced manufacturing companies or data center types — those that would fit the entire region. Individual cities will continue to market for their own niches, like small high-tech companies for downtown Danville.

King admitted he had been skeptical of how well the alliance could work, as it had been tried in the past and failed. Yet, this time, all of the region's economic development directors are on board and the effort garnered funding.

He added everyone will need to continue working in an "integrated way" to ensure the success of the alliance.

Max Glass, development council board member and a former vice president of workforce services for Danville Community College, said that the region's localities need to join together to have the strength needed to compete in today's economic climate.

"Being new to this, I think it's a tremendous idea," Glass said. " ... We've got to do this. We don't have a choice."

By the numbers

What's available in the region:

  • 27 industrial parks with 18 shovel-ready sites ranging from eight graded acres to 100 acres
  • 12 shell buildings with the largest more than 100,000 square feet
  • 3,500-acre mega site in development
  • Extended labor market within 25 miles of region: 1.1 million people
  • 10,926 people are unemployed
  • 19 percent of labor market is in manufacturing, compare to 9.6 percent in the U.S

(Source: Leigh Cockram presentation, info updated last in mid-July)

Who is the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance?

  • Danville and Martinsville and Pittsylvania, Patrick, Henry and Halifax counties

The funding for the alliance

  • $600,000 in funding:
  • $200,000 from the state
  • $200,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Commission
  • $200,000 from the cities and counties
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