For 25 years now, we have tracked economic development projects in well over 2,000 different markets in the South, from tiny hamlets to mega-markets. There are only 154 metropolitan statistical areas in the South, meaning the other 1,800 markets are either micropolitan cities or rural markets.
There are many successful small economic development cities in the South. Columbus, Miss.; Aiken, S.C.; Mississippi County, Ark.; Cullman, Ala.; and Martinsville, Va.; among others, have consistently outperformed other small and rural markets over the last 25 years in project activity. What’s their secret? In every case, their economic development agencies are well funded. They advertise on a regular basis, their workforce training programs are impressive and they are constantly developing product such as industrial parks and certified sites.
Take the case of Martinsville-Henry County, Va. Since July, over 500 new jobs and over $75 million in investments have been announced in Henry County. The Martinsville-Henry County EDC has invested years and countless dollars in a new development called Commonwealth Crossing. The 720-acre site is rail-served, and it just secured its first tenant, a Polish glass manufacturer that is investing over $43 million and will create 212 jobs.
Workforce training in the Martinsville area is second to none. The area is served by the Patrick Henry Community College, as well as the New College Institute, a new facility where Martinsville-Henry County EDC has its offices.