A report commissioned by the Danville Regional Foundation says that area could be an ideal place to live and work but it has a lot of challenges to overcome.
The six-month study, conducted by James Johnson Jr., a professor for the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
says that officials must shed the area’s image as an old-line manufacturing center by embracing a more entrepreneurial spirit.
Johnson and his colleagues suggested that the area should support locally grown businesses rather than focus on recruiting national companies that could
create hundreds of jobs. “Efforts to facilitate small-business growth and development will help to diversify the economy, reducing the community’s dependency
on several very large employers,” the report notes.
The study also recommends that the Danville area create a “civic-entrepreneurial culture” that relies on sound, socially responsible business practices to
solve pressing social issues, such as high rates of teenage pregnancy, homelessness, poverty and unemployment. It also suggests that the region re-engineer
its educational system to include training opportunities in entrepreneurship and overcome population decline with programs that encourage homegrown talent to
Jeremy Stratton, Danville’s director of economic development, says the study didn’t come up with anything that local officials didn’t already know. “There
was nothing in there that was new or shocking, but it’s good to have an outside source validate our own conclusions,” he says. “The truth is: This report
could have been written about any small or medium-sized city. We’re in the same situation as hundreds of different communities.”
Stratton notes that the city is working to provide entrepreneurs with more venture-capital opportunities while also trying to attract companies in
recession-proof or rapidly growing industries, such as food processing, high-tech and alternative energy.
He cites the example of the Advanced Vehicle Research Center (AVRC), which broke ground on a 25,000-square-foot building in Pittsylvania County’s Cyber Park.
The company, which is focused on advanced technologies and alternative fuel vehicles, will hire 30 local employees and offer salaries of more than $50,000 a
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