Park authority members respond

Published 11:21 am Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Members of the Heartland Regional Industrial Facility Authority, who are responsible for the Heartland Industrial Park in Charlotte County, responded to concerns from residents about the impact of the park and a cited lack of business in the area.

Gary Walker

The industrial park and authority were the subject of recent investigative broadcasts from WDBJ-7 on Dec. 18 and Dec. 19 by investigative reporter Victoria Shirley regarding the industrial park’s development, funding for the park and responses from members of the Heartland Regional Industrial Facility Authority about concerns from members of the public.

Gary Walker, chairman of the authority and chairman of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors, said the park has been funded by grants from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission among other organizations.

Six counties — Amelia, Buckingham, Cumberland, Charlotte, Lunenburg and Prince Edward — established the authority to create the industrial park. The park is nearly 773 acres, with 402 of those acres being suitable for construction, according to a 2016 report.

The Virginia Growth Alliance (VGA) holds its office in the park. The office is also the site of the industrial authority, which meets every three months.

Other financial contributors have included, since 2000, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Industrial Site Fund and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

ForestPro, a company that sells logging equipment, is in the process of building a facility just west of the park sign.

Walker said in a Friday phone interview that development of the industrial park and economic development can be a long process.

“If you check with Lunenburg, and Amelia, and Cumberland and Buckingham, you realize they all have the same issues that we have,” Walker said. “But if there were no Heartland Park, how would we even attract any industry to even come and look?”

He also said that when collaborating with representatives from the tobacco commission and an economic development organization in Richmond, they had made the suggestions to include features that are present in the park, including having installed water and sewer and internet access.

“You’ve got to have a facility infrastructure (that) has to be in place,” Walker said. “You have to have the land. You have to have the water. You have to have the sewer. You have to have the roads. You have to have the internet, and you have to have a highway like (U.S. Route) 360 that they can get their product to and from. Without the infrastructure in place, you aren’t even in the ballgame.”

He said members of the authority will work to address the concerns expressed by members of the public in their next meeting, Jan. 23.

Prince Edward County Administrator and alternate member of the authority Wade Bartlett said a conflicting meeting prevented him from attending the broadcast interview, but he held Walker’s view that economic development may take time.

“Infrastructure like industrial parks and water lines and roads are long-term investments,” Bartlett said in a phone interview with The Gazette, “and while you may not achieve immediate success, in the long term, those investments will help bring jobs and taxable investments into your community.”