Looking back: TVDC dues/Industrial Development spark debate

Published 9:00 am Friday, July 31, 2015

by Clyde Parker

July 31, 1965

Membership in the Tidewater Virginia Development Council (TVDC), a semi-annual “hot potato” with the Franklin City Council, prompted a revealing discussion on the City’s industry seeking efforts Monday night.

TVDC is an industry-hunting organization whose membership is made up of the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Suffolk, and Franklin and the Counties of Isle of Wight, Nansemond and Southampton.

Some people believe that Franklin is competing with all the other member municipalities when it should be investing its time and resources to an individualized and concerted effort that will bring additional industry here.

Franklin Chamber of Commerce Executive Director George Washington was in attendance at the Council meeting. Councilman Floyd Briggs turned to Washington for his input.

“What is your opinion on TVDC membership and its industrial development initiatives? Do you have the time to do all this?”

“Yes,” Washington said.

Washington responded further: “What Franklin has to do before they start worrying about TVDC is to make up its mind that they really want additional industry. For 11 years Franklin has been talking about new industry. There is none here yet. Franklin is looking for a General Electric or Westinghouse. We’re not going to get a big company like that because we don’t have the skilled labor.”

In contrast to Washington’s statements, many community leaders point to the fact that Franklin and the Franklin area already have substantial industry.

Look across the river in Isle of Wight where the huge Union Bag-Camp Paper Corp. complex, with over 2,500 employees, is continually providing employment as the Company continues to expand. A new paper machine which will require 150 new jobs is being installed. And, through attrition, jobs are continuously coming open for new people.

Although Union Bag-Camp is located in Isle of Wight, it benefits Franklin in many ways too numerous to detail here.

And, look at Franklin Equipment Co. It is certainly a new industry — home-grown and “right under our noses.” That company is “off and running.” Franklin Equipment Co. manufactures logging tractors in its manufacturing facility on East Second Avenue right here in Franklin. The Company is developing new markets and distribution. It is growing and is providing jobs.

“Right now, we have 49 workers — 150 full-time jobs are projected over the next year or so,” said Company President Roger Drake.

But, both Union Bag-Camp and Franklin Equipment Co., for the most part, are looking for skilled workers.

And, then there is St. Regis Paper Co., on the south-side of Franklin, employing approximately 250 people, many of whom are women. Back in 1954, St. Regis was planning to leave Franklin but due to strong efforts and persuasions by the Franklin Chamber of Commerce, Sol Rawls Jr., Camp Manufacturing Co., and several community leaders, St. Regis reversed itself and decided to stay. That is when they relocated from behind the Camp Manufacturing Co.paper machines to a new site on part of the old Paul D. Camp farm. This was industrial development — an existing industry was not only RETAINED, but also expanded. For the Franklin area, back then, a major catastrophe was averted.

Pretlow Peanut Co., here in Franklin, employs an average of 100 workers.

And, then there is Hercules, employing approximately 100 workers.

And, looking out in Southampton County, there is Hancock Peanut Co., with over 100 employees, in Courtland; and over in Boykins there is the new Boykins Narrow Fabrics Co., which will employee over 150 people. Incidentally, Boykins Narrow Fabrics was placed in Boykins largely through the efforts of TVDC.

Back in Franklin, Southampton Memorial Hospital is a major employer, with over 150 workers and growing.

And then, there is agriculture — definitely a major component in the economic structure of Southampton County, Isle of Wight County, and Franklin.

What we need to do is have concerted efforts and incentives aimed at retention of existing businesses and jobs. Retention, some believe, is just as important as new industry — if not more important. The best industrial development program a community can have combines the two elements.

Camp Manufacturing Co., Chesapeake-Camp Corp. (predecessors of Union Bag-Camp), along with Hancock Peanut Co., Pretlow Peanut Co., Southampton Memorial Hospital, and Franklin Equipment Co. are all “home-grown” businesses. They did not come from somewhere else. They came from here.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net