Looking Back: Industrial survey under way in Western Tidewater

Published 10:07 am Friday, May 4, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: Looking Back features past articles from The Tidewater News with commentary by local historian Clyde Parker.

May 4, 1962


John R. Fernstrom, the director of research for the Tidewater Virginia Development Council, arrived in Franklin on Tuesday to begin a comprehensive industrial resources inventory of Southampton County and Franklin.

He will compile and publish a detailed survey of the area. TVDC puts forth industrial development initiatives for the Tidewater Virginia region. The region includes the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Franklin and the counties of Norfolk, Princess Anne, Nansemond, Isle of Wight and Southampton.

Last year, our area was the beneficiary of TVDC’s efforts when it brought Boykins Narrow Fabrics to Boykins. Boykins fits the profile for what the fabrics company was seeking.

(NOTE: Much has changed in the Tidewater Region — now called Hampton Roads — since 1962 and TVDC. In 1963, to avoid further annexation by the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Norfolk County (including the towns of Great Bridge and Deep Creek) and the City of South Norfolk successfully petitioned the General Assembly of Virginia for consolidation. As a result, the new City of Chesapeake was created.

Also in 1963, to preclude further annexation by the City of Norfolk, Princess Anne County and its unincorporated towns of Kempsville, London Bridge, Oceana and Princess Anne Courthouse merged with the small City of Virginia Beach (10 square miles at the oceanfront) to become the large City of Virginia Beach.

In July 1972, to avoid annexation by the small City of Suffolk (eight square miles), Nansemond County, which included the unincorporated towns of Whaleyville and Holland and the Village of Chuckatuck, after General Assembly approval, became the City of Nansemond.

That put the small City of Suffolk, geographically, smack in the middle of the new City of Nansemond, an unusual thing for sure.

Then, after about 18 months of this unusual existence, a turnabout in the thinking among the citizens and governmental officials in both jurisdictions began to emerge. More thought was being given toward working together for the common good.

Discussions about shared services began. Negotiations for consolidation of the two cities ensued. On Jan. 1, 1974, the City of Nansemond merged with the small City of Suffolk to become the large City of Suffolk.

Over time, these new large cities developed their own industrial development organizations and independent initiatives. As a result, TVDC became fragmented and eventually dissolved itself.

Geographical lines and political alliances changed. Thus, gradually, the counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton and the City of Franklin were left to fend for themselves. Independent industrial development organizations evolved.

It must be noted that the Franklin Chamber of Commerce, which in 1968 became the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce, has been in partnerships with various industrial and retail business development efforts for decades prior to, concurrent with and following Franklin-Southampton’s alliance with TVDC.

And, there have been many successes. Today, Franklin Southampton Economic Development, Inc. with significant accomplishments is under the leadership of President and Chief Executive Officer Amanda Jarratt.

The Isle of Wight County Department of Economic Development, with much success is under the leadership of Lisa Perry. It is the primary economic development agency for that jurisdiction. And the Isle of Wight-Smithfield-Windsor Chamber of Commerce is involved with many development pursuits).



A new industry is emerging in Franklin. The Manufacturing Division of Franklin Auto Supply, under the direction of Roger W. Drake, has developed a new type of logging tractor called the Franklin Logger. Prototype tractors, incorporating the Drake concept have been developed and tested in area woodlands over the past few years by local logging contractors. Union Bag-Camp Paper Corp., through its Woodlands Division, has helped facilitate trials of the prototypes.

The main differences between the new Drake concept and traditional track driven type tractors are that the Franklin Logger operates with oversized rubber tires and an articulated center section. There is less downtime for repairs, and tractor maneuverability is greatly enhanced. The Franklin Logger can go into almost any kind of terrain.


The demand for tractors of this type prompted Drake to set up a manufacturing plant in a hangar at Franklin Municipal Airport. Lloyd Story, the company’s first employee, is establishing production procedures and is well versed in the tractor’s mechanical makeup.

Lloyd Story’s son, Walter Story, the company’s second employee, is working with Drake in developing tractor design and component procurement. The company is looking for assembly mechanics and welders.