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Diversifying development in Scott County

By Jim Conrad, jconrad@wcyb.com
Published On: Apr 15 2013 03:53:23 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 15 2013 11:00:00 PM CDT

A small investment in the late 1960s in a regional industrial site continues to pay off.

SCOTT COUNTY, Va. -

For decades Southwest Virginia has struggled with a one industry economy centered around coal.

Back in the late 1960s the concept of taking a regional approach to diversifying their economy was born with a group known as the Duffield Development Authority.

Duffield, Virginia has always been a sleepy little whistle stop in the middle of a fertile valley. Nowadays that fertile land is paying off not in crops, but in industrial jobs.

As he stares out a window high about the industrial park, Skip Skinner, executive director of the Lenowisco planning, district remembers when it all began. "One of the first regional plans that Lenowisco wrote was the need to diversify the area's economy. One of the ways it was done in those days was we're going to construct an industrial park, a regional industrial park," Skinner says.

With an initial investment from three counties and a city of $360,000 and matching funds, it has paid off. "Over time there has been a number of investments that have been made. I think through 2002 the investments here in Duffield was $119 million of private investment," Skinner said.

And the real payoff has been jobs at the many companies that have located in the valley -- around 1,400 now, sometimes topping out at 2,300. "As we've seen over time if you depend on one industry for too long that will come to haunt you. Mining will continue to be strong hopefully in the region but we could not depend on that," he adds.

And the counties have, through cooperation diversified their economy, even through tough times. It all began with a sleepy little crossroads.

All of the documents and artifacts from those early beginnings have now been turned over the Southwest Virginia Museum for those to view and study.