From the desk of Harvest Foundation President Kate Keller
As you know, Harvest launched its new five-year strategic plan in January. However, we still need to take the time to reflect on the last plan. We need to celebrate the wins and understand the losses or the benchmarks not quite achieved. Anyone who has planned, implemented, and evaluated a strategic plan knows that all levels of success and failure are equally important.
The last plan had three main areas of focus: Building a Ready Workforce, Growing a Strong Tax Base, and Increasing Community Investments. We are working on a more comprehensive report sharing the outcomes, but here are some of the successes that stand out to me.
In building a ready workforce, we worked with various sectors to increase the numbers of workers and opportunities for people to engage in the workforce. Over the last six years, the number of community members with an Associate’s Degree or a Bachelor’s Degree significantly increased in both Martinsville and Henry County. Our partnership with Patrick & Henry Community College really supported this effort through the SEED Fund and we are glad to see it paying off!
Health issues can also be a workforce barrier. We worked with multiple partners to help secure health insurance for over 2,000 residents and to provide primary care and behavioral health services. Hope Center Ministries is a community partner that supports men through their addiction recovery and helps them to gain employment. Our most recent grant supported the recovery of 24 men that graduated and secured jobs, and 13 men who earned a credential from P&HCC.
Increasing the tax base was an important strategy to bring more jobs and opportunities for MHC. Over the past six years, more than 2,100 new jobs were created and the average wage increased by 31% from $15.11 to $20.35/hr. In addition to higher wages, the unemployment rates went down from 9% to 5.5% in Martinsville and from 6.8% to 3% in Henry County. With the new jobs came substantial capital investments of over $450 million that will increase the annual tax base by $3.6 million. These are long-term wins that have long-term payoffs for the community.
Finally, Harvest focused on increasing investments in our local communities. For every dollar Harvest invested into the community over the past six years, an additional $1.44 was leveraged back into Martinsville-Henry County. Some of the community investment projects we participated in were the Smith River Small Towns Business District Revitalization Project for Fieldale and Bassett, the Philpott Marina and Campgrounds improvement, the Dick & Willie Trails expansion, and the Five Point Neighborhood.
Our progress over the past six years took a lot of committed partnerships and dedication. As I mentioned above, we didn’t accomplish everything we set out to do and there is more progress to be made, so stay tuned and get involved!