February 26, 2015

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Danville’s economic development director, Telly Tucker, posed one simple question to a roomful of business owners, investors, community stakeholders and engines of change: “Who exactly is in charge of Danville’s economic future?”

Tucker framed the larger picture of Danville’s economic development outlook and potential at Wednesday’s Chamber of Commerce Business at Breakfast event. His presentation spotlighted all the dimensions of the Dan River Region’s profile and his optimism for its future.

“I’d like to have our community talking about the Danville economy soaring,” Tucker said

To accomplish that dream, Tucker explained that lots of variables enter the economic development equation. His office operates to create an environment that is conducive to the tricky science of economic development. Their actions need to stand out as the competition has grown global — meaning Danville competes with 2.5 million cities in 196 countries.

The pro-business approach in the Dan River Region presents potential businesses with favorable taxing conditions. From the lack of local income tax to having the lowest machinery and tools tax in Virginia, Tucker calls the conditions pro-business.

A one-stop expedited permitting process aims to ease potential business owners’ start-up experience. Tucker bragged about the talents of his office’s staff and the city departments’ staff. Their knowledgeable and approachable method of handling job duties is beneficial, he explained.

When the point of incentives came up, Tucker took the opportunity to clear the air. He emphasized that he and the office are responsible not only to prospective businesses but also existing businesses. That means that the incentives available are not all cash paid out to new companies.

“There are a lot of opinions about incentives. Well let me just clear a few suspicions, a few ideas that people throw out there about whether we should do incentives or not,” Tucker said. “Whether you believe in them, whether or not you’re opposed to the thought that government should be providing incentives, incentives are here to stay. Incentives are not an option. They have to be on the table, particularly in communities that have been distressed historically.”

The trick to incentives, he explained, is determining the right return on investment. Finding that equilibrium and making a wise gamble makes the difference between a waste and a chance at economic progress.

The economic development office seeks to advance its response to new and existing business. A portion of investments of energy and resources are being directed toward small and entrepreneurial business and business incubators. Anything that is an engine of development that further encourages growth is being supported.

Industries receiving attention from the Dan River Region include food and beverage, aerospace and advanced manufacturing, wood and paper product manufacturing and data and information technology. The food and beverage approach seeks to leverage the vast agricultural options for the Dan River Region. Equally, Danville’s city-owned utilities is appealing.

Advanced manufacturing and aerospace concentration utilizes the strength of the precision machining educational programs and the proximity to large manufacturers. When reaching out to the wood and paper manufacturing industries, the office points to the existence of Yorktowne and Ikea plants. The data and information technology sector is attracted to Danville’s Cray supercomputer and gigabyte broadband status.

Other broader aspects need improvement, Tucker said. One big aspect is education and workforce preparation. Science, technology, engineering, math and health care is a continued push. On-the-job training and other workforce development needs to be taken advantage of by the community. The culture needs to develop into one that supports lifelong learning. Another part of the picture is the refinement and improvement of tourism and branding efforts.

Tucker concluded his thoughts with a quotation from James Cash Penney: “Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”

The wider understanding of the cogs in the Dan River Region economic development machine matched Tucker, who was described by chamber Chair and Danville Register & Bee Publisher Steven Kaylor as multi-faceted.

In Kaylor’s introduction, it was highlighted that Tucker has taught Spanish and SOL remediation as well as coached football and basketball. Tucker also has served in music director in numerous cities and is an accomplished and award winning pianist, served in music director roles in numerous cities.