September 7, 2017
The Commonwealth Centre for Advanced Training (CCAT) will be a “game changer” that will give Martinsville and Henry County a critical edge in recruiting industries to the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre.
That is according to Dr. Angeline Godwin, president of Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC), and one of the speakers at Wednesday’s groundbreaking for the new center at Commonwealth Crossing, an industrial park in southern Henry County.
With Wednesday’s announcement, “I declare Commonwealth Crossing is open for business,” said Henry County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim Adams.
About 70 people gathered for the program and groundbreaking which were held under a large tent due to the heavy rain that fell throughout the day. That prompted Godwin to quip, “Rain or shine, Martinsville-Henry County delivers” on economic development.
The business park is the culmination of more than 10 years of work by dedicated public servants, residents and others, Adams said.
The 720-acre park, with two graded lots, rail service and full utilities, shows that this is a progressive community that takes economic development seriously and “will do what it takes to get jobs,” Adams added.
The Harvest Foundation approved a $5 million grant in 2013 for the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. to build the training center when Commonwealth Crossing was ready for the project. Market interest in Commonwealth Crossing led the EDC to decide to build the centre now so the EDC could meet with companies in the business centre and it would enhance their recruiting efforts, according to Mark Heath, president/CEO of the EDC.
CCAT will enable companies to recruit, hire and train employees near their new operations under construction at Commonwealth Crossing. The training center will overlook Lot 1, one of the two graded sites there.
Workers will train on actual equipment they will use on the job as their employer builds its presence nearby, Godwin said. PHCC will be the training partner for CCAT. Once the training is completed, the company will remove the equipment to make way for the next business to move its machinery in, and so on.
Only companies locating in that business park will be able to use the CCAT, unlike training facilities at PHCC and the New College Institute which serve companies locating throughout the area.
CCAT will “complement and support” the work of PHCC and NCI, and he expects they will do the same for CCAT, said James McClain, a member of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. board who also spoke at Wednesday’s groundbreaking.
The CCAT facility will include about 25,000 square feet of office and training space. This will include a high bay area for the specialized training equipment.
The one-level building also will have office/training facilities where employers can conduct interviews and other aspects of the hiring process; rest rooms and showers adjacent to the high bay; breakout rooms; and office/conference space for the EDC to use when recruiting and working with Commonwealth Crossing companies.
This project is a “game changer” which tells prospective industries that Martinsville-Henry County is serious about workforce training, Godwin said. She added that the locality that creates a successful workforce-development strategy—one that does it the best, the fastest and the cheapest — will have a competitive edge in the economic development field.
CCAT is a big step in finding the right solution for workforce development here, McClain added.
Construction of the CCAT building hopefully will begin by the end of the year and likely will take 12-18 months to complete, Heath has said.
The Harvest Foundation’s support is essential to the new building, he said.
Dr. Paul Eason, chairman of the foundation’s board, said the CCAT mirrors the foundation’s focus on supporting economic development to improve the community. He called the facility “a vital resource” that will help attract new companies with skilled, higher paying jobs.
“The entire area wins,” he added.
Dale Moore, who represented the Tobacco Commission at the groundbreaking, called the business center and CCAT plans “impressive.” He added that he likes to see investments in workforce training, and he looks forward to hearing of good things to come from the local efforts.
Adams gave a brief history of Commonwealth Crossing. A study which recommended the business park was completed in 2006 and the land was bought in 2007. But it stalled until 2014 when permit issues were resolved.
With 160 acres of pad-ready sites, the park is attracting interest from mega projects — defined at a $250 million or more investment and creation of 400 or more jobs — for which it was designed.
Commonwealth Crossing has one of only two industrial pads in the state that have 120 or more acres and rail service. It is within miles of an airport and two interstate highways and more than 1.2 million potential workers within a 60-mile radius, Adams said.
The EDC on Tuesday, with 15 representatives of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), toured Commonwealth Crossing as well as the Patriot Centre at Beaver Creek industrial park.
Partners in the development of Commonwealth Crossing included Henry County, the Harvest Foundation, the City of Martinsville, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Tobacco Commission, and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Martinsville Mayor Gene Teague said Commonwealth Crossing is a “vital part” of the area’s growth plans, and it will benefit the city through revenue-shared lots. He called it the top site in the region to locate a new industry.
He also noted that the late Benny Summerlin, who was Henry County administrator in the project’s early years, “would be proud of the work he started.”
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