Western Tidewater billed as ‘Sweet Spot’

Published 8:21 am Friday, April 23, 2010

ISLE OF WIGHT—Local economic development officials are hoping that state backing will help entice companies to set up shop in the region.

“We are branding Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight County as Virginia’s distribution central or “the Sweet Spot,”” Lisa Perry, Isle of Wight County’s director of economic development, told the county’s Board of Supervisors.

Perry said her office, along with Franklin-Southampton Economic Development, has been working with state and regional officials to develop a strategy to market the region and its strengths, including the proximity to the ports and the skilled workforce.

“I think this is great,” said Phillip Bradshaw, chairman of the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors.

With uncertainty still surrounding the possible repurposing of the International Paper Co. property, officials are pushing for development in industrial parks like the Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park near Windsor, Franklin’s Pretlow Industrial Park and the Southampton Commerce and Logistics Center.

“We really need to focus and step up our activities to recruit new industry into those existing sites,” she said.

The construction of the Rolls-Royce aircraft-engine components manufacturing facility in Prince George County presents unique opportunities for the region, Perry said. She said suppliers will be looking to locate within 75 miles of the facility.

“We think that we are absolutely perfectly situated with our location with respect to the ports of Virginia and the easy access up 460 to the Rolls-Royce industrial campus,” she said.

This summer, local economic development officials will be attending the Farnborough International Air Show in England. Perry said Gov. Bob McDonnell has agreed to host a reception for Rolls-Royce and its suppliers and make special introductions for Franklin, Isle of Wight and Southampton.

“An awful lot of resources have been brought to bear, so we’re really excited about the potential for moving forward,” she said.