Discussion of the possible location of an inland port in Southside Virginia was the highlight of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce’s legislative luncheon Wednesday, March 30, at Stratford Courtyard Conference Center in Danville. Senator Frank Ruff, Delegate Danny Marshall, and Delegate Les Adams presented updates and reports from the recent General Assembly session as well.
Marshall said he presented House Bill 99 as a way to help this area economically. The bill requests that the Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne Jr. study the feasibility of establishing an additional intermodal transfer facility on Route 58 in the Danville/Pittsylvania County/Henry County region.
Intermodal transfer facilities, also known as inland ports, usually collect 20 to 40 foot containers from manufacturing companies and ship them by rail to sea ports, significantly cutting down on truck traffic and wear on state roads and also reducing shipping costs. Inland ports also can receive goods by rail for distribution by truck to manufacturing companies.
“This type of facility can attract companies to send containers of product from a wide area, including North Carolina. It could be a hub and job center for products going out and coming in,” he said. “Manufacturers have an easier way to ship and to receive products abroad. It can reduce the cost of shipping. This can be another piece of the Economic Development puzzle and help to attract manufacturing companies.”
Currently, there is one inland port in Virginia in Front Royal for Northern Virginia commerce.
According to Marshall, approximately 30 different distribution centers are located in and around Front Royal, because of its status as an intermodal facility.
He said one of the requirements of an inland port is for it to be located 150 or more miles from the sea port.
Marshall said another possible location could be the former Klopman Mills site in the Town of Hurt.
“The Greensboro company that owns it has actually built five or six intermodal sites across the United States,” he said.
The delegate said that the property owners, Layne, and Pittsylvania County Director of Economic Development Matt Rowe are working together to try and make sure the inland port is built in Pittsylvania County.
“It may mean 20 jobs at the site, but it will bring distribution companies into the area,” he said.
Another key attribute to the Hurt site is rail access. Norfolk Southern passes close to the site and travels to the port of Norfolk.
Adams told chamber members that he is also excited about the prospect of an inland port in Pittsylvania County. About the Klopman site, he said Norfolk Southern feels “there’s some real promise there.”
Adams listed three items that he was particularly proud of accomplishing during the General Assembly session: balancing the budget, reversing the attorney general’s actions on reciprocity of concealed weapons, and electing a Virginia Supreme Court judge.
The delegate said the selection of Judge Stephen McCullough was a good choice, but was also about a much bigger issue than most realized.
“It was about the separation of powers and rules of law,” he said.
Adams said the selection of Supreme Court judges is the duty of the legislative branch, not the executive branch, and Governor Terry McAuliffe’s reappointment of Justice Jane Roush was unconstitutional, since the Virginia House of Delegates had not adjourned at that time.
“The governor made an interim appointment last year, but did not consult the people’s representatives,” he said, “and when the people’s representatives insisted on naming the appointment, the governor reappointed her even though the house was in recess but had not adjourned.”
Ruff detailed his work on education at the General Assembly this year, saying it focused on three levels.
“I sponsored legislation that would allow our localities to hire, on a part time basis, non-teachers to help our young people to better prepare for skilled jobs. This can be very effective using retirees or employees of companies that want to develop young people with the skills needed for their business,” he said.
Ruff said he also sponsored workforce legislation that will focus on getting people through community college programs, not just enrolling in them.
“It transforms our community colleges to true centers of workforce training with a focus on faster training as well as quality and independent certification of that training,” he said.
The third level involved research at universities. The senator said the legislation creates a research pool in which universities could compete with awards based on finding researchers willing to put their work into products that could made in Virginia.
He also discussed several economic development pieces of legislation, including Growth Opportunity (GO), which provides grants to regional proposals.
He said his portion of the GO legislation involved returning part of the income tax derived from joint job creation between two localities when $1 million dollars was invested and at least 25 jobs were created.
Janet Holley, chairman of the Chamber’s Legislative Committee, emceed the event.