Recovery briefing set

Published 12:09 pm Saturday, April 3, 2010

FRANKLIN—Community leaders involved with the economic recovery task force will share their plans with the public during a community forum at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Paul D. Camp Community College Regional Workforce Development Center.

Opportunity Inc. of Hampton Roads, a regional workforce organization based in Norfolk, is sponsoring the forum. It is scheduled to run until about 8:30 p.m.

“The main emphasis will be to get the message out to the citizens of our region as far as what we have been doing as an executive committee and with our subcommittees,” Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors Chairman Phillip Bradshaw said Friday. “We realize that we haven’t been properly communicating that to the public, so we’re trying to step up our communication efforts to get the message out. At the same time, we want to be able to generate feedback from our citizens.”

Bradshaw, who serves with Franklin Mayor Jim Councill and Southampton County Administrator Michael Johnson on the executive committee of the economic recovery task force, said Tuesday’s meeting “is going to be less talking and more interaction and communication.”

Both Councill and Johnson echoed that sentiment Friday.

“This is an opportunity to report out to the community what we’re doing and what is happening to the best of our knowledge,” Councill said.

Said Johnson: “I’m hopeful that the meeting will reassure the community that all three localities remain dedicated to working on this collectively, that rumors can be put to rest, and that the most recent developments will be shared.”

The executive committee and four subcommittees — formed to address workforce development, economic development, small business and forestry industry issues — will make presentations during the first 45 minutes of the forum. After a short break, the public will be invited to ask questions of the subcommittees separately.

The task force was formed in November in the wake of International Paper Co.’s announcement that it would close its Franklin mill, the region’s largest employer and economic anchor.

Judy Begland, president and CEO of Opportunity Inc., chairs the workforce development subcommittee, where Capron District Supervisor Moses Wyche represents Southampton, Newport District Supervisor Stan Clark represents Isle of Wight and Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson represents Franklin.

Meanwhile, Isle of Wight Department of Economic Development director Lisa Perry and John Smolak, president and CEO of Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc., head the economic development subcommittee. The subcommittee also comprises Jerusalem District Supervisor Anita Felts from Southampton, Windsor District Supervisor Thomas Wright from Isle of Wight and Ward 2 Councilman Benny Burgess from Franklin.

Jim Carroll, the director of Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center, heads the small businesses subcommittee. Isle of Wight-Smithfield-Windsor Chamber of Commerce President Connie Rhodes, Teresa Beale, executive director of the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce, and Dan Howe, downtown manager for the Downtown Franklin Association, are also on the small business subcommittee.

Southampton County Forester Harvey Darden chairs the fourth subcommittee, which is devoted to forestry industry issues.