‘Poised for a renaissance’

Published 10:04 am Friday, June 21, 2013

Western Tidewater got another encouraging sign the area’s economy is on the upswing. Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office has announced that Franklin Lumber LLC has bought the sawmill formerly owned and operated by International Paper in Isle of Wight County.

In addition to initially creating 72 jobs, with the potential for more, the new mill owners Terry Godwin and Perk Taylor will put in $14.8 million for capital investments over the next five years.

The project has come about in part through a cooperative effort among several different agencies. But it was International Paper that made the most significant contribution by allowing the mill to be reopened, a rare move by the company.

This alone tells us that the region is worthy not just of new industry, but also reinvestment by existing business.

There are three other examples that deserve recognition that support our claim.

Last week The Village at Woods Edge announced a memory care center will be built at the retirement community. The Village’s Board of Directors worked with both the city of Franklin and Southampton on the project, which will cost $3 million, and ultimately employ 14 full-time equivalent positions to the existing 70 employees.

During last week’s 50th anniversary celebration, the guests were told the nearby Southampton Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center is expected to open in autumn. The Skilled Nursing Facility will also get a facelift. Both are signs that the hospital’s not content to merely rest on an already golden reputation. Instead, the board of directors sees that the needs more than justify the costs for these projects.

Last fall, Dominion Power began converting its Courtland plant from coal to wood-fueled. The project will cost $45 million, and is expected to be ready late this year, according to one of the company’s spokesmen. Further, the 30 employees will stay on with an annual payroll of $2.8 million. The conversion could also return as much as $25 million annually into the area economy, and even create 100 more jobs for forestry and trucking industries.

We encourage all existing businesses and industries to research how they can grow and enrich the community just by expanding in one form or another in Western Tidewater. Phil Wright II, chief executive officer at the hospital perhaps put it best last week in his remarks, “We’re poised for a renaissance.”