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Mayor John Gilstrap told area business leaders on Tuesday that he is encouraged about the city and region “we are shaping for ourselves and future generations” because today’s economy has made the transition to a diversified, forward-looking mix of businesses.
Gilstrap’s’ comments came at a “State of the Region” address hosted by the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.
“We no longer hear the clatter of looms weaving cloth in Schoolfield, and even the chant of the auctioneers selling tobacco in the World’s Best Tobacco Market,” Gilstrap said. “However, what I am seeing today has me encouraged about the city and region that we are shaping for ourselves.”
Gilstrap cited several examples, including workforce development efforts focused on precision machining.
“Our ability to provide an ongoing supply of precision metalworkers has become the determining incentive for a company to locate here,” Gilstrap said. “This is why last month we were able to announce that Overfinch North America would locate its engineering and production facility in Danville.”
The company, which enhances luxury Range Rover vehicles, announced in July that it would locate its engineering and production facility in the Cyber Park and hire 41 employees within three years and invest up to $8.6 million at a locate its engineering and production facility. The Cyber Park is jointly owned by the City of Danville and Pittsylvania County.
Gilstrap said a precision machining program at George Washington High School will help provide an ongoing supply of precision machinists that is necessary.
“It is truly encouraging that students can achieve, in a relatively short timeframe, certification that industry honors, and these students can become employees earning well above median incomes,” Gilstrap said.
Gilstrap said he is encouraged by the improved economy.
“In February 2010, the unemployment rate for our region reached its highest point at 13.2 percent. Today, our unemployment rate is 5.1 percent, according to the latest figures available. That is great news!”
He also cited additional measures such as increased building activity and growing revenue from local sales and meals taxes.
In addition to a transitioning and improving economy, the mayor said he is encouraged by the city’s continued fiscal discipline and its growing quality of life.
“The best evidence of this (fiscal discipline) came a few weeks ago when Moody’s Investor Services upgraded the City of Danville’s bond rating,” Gilstrap said. “Among the factors cited by the agency were a well-managed financial position and strong reserves.”
With the higher score, the City now has higher tier ratings from all three major credit rating agencies.
When talking about the city’s growing quality of life, he cited the continuation of the River District Development Project, expansion of the Riverwalk Trail, and the aggressive approach in addressing blight and vacant properties.
“We have made much progress, and we have done this together. However, continued progress is never guaranteed,” the mayor said. “Going forward, we must continue to work together as partners. If we do, we will be prepared to adapt to any change and challenge.”
Jessie Barksdale, chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, also addressed area business leaders on Tuesday. He also cited continued regional cooperation as a key factor toward progress.
Barksdale presented highlights from the past year in economic development, budget and finance, health and wellness, and recreational facilities and programs.
The Chamber of Commerce coordinates an annual “State of the Region” address.