On the Road
As members of the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee, Vince Callahan, Bob Brink of Arlington, Joe May of Loudoun County and I (for the first time), joined most of the other members of the Committee in visiting public institutions supported by state funds in Southeastern and Southside Virginia.
The tour began with a visit to The Mariners’ Musuem, home the U.S.S. Monitor Center, in Newport News. The slow, tedious restoration of the Monitor and the full scale model of the Union ironclad ship are worth a visit in themselves. The Museum also houses unique logs, diaries and other documents from the Civil War sea battles.
The tour focused on capital improvement needs in public colleges and universities, correctional facilities, facilities for the intellectually disabled as well as Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest and the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, near Lynchburg.
Higher education successes
We visited Christopher Newport, Hampton, Old Dominion and Norfolk State universities in the southeast, as well as Longwood, Virginia Tech, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville and the New College Institute in Martinsville.
Each higher education institution demonstrated a commitment to developing unique areas of research and leadership. Christopher Newport, under the leadership of former Senator Paul Trible has developed a strong reputation for its impressive undergraduate program. Its recently completed Ferguson Hall performing arts facility designed by internationally known architect, I. M. Pei, is worth a visit
Hampton University, one the nation’s most respected historically black colleges and universities, along with Norfolk State University, is pioneering in the development of proton beam technology for cancer treatment.
Old Dominion University has initiated strong regional partnerships with the Norfolk Public School System, the Tidewater Community College and Lockheed Martin in research, development and application of cutting edge technology in modeling and simulation for medicine, emergency planning and homeland security.
The Virginia Department of Corrections & Agribusiness
In several sites throughout Virginia the Department of Corrections has developed a sophisticated agribusiness enterprise system. It uses inmate labor to construct and operate buildings and parking lots to support and store food for other inmates. This impressive system helps inmates develop marketable skills by growing, harvesting and selling vegetables, cattle, and bees and honey. It operates several thousand acres with the support of the Commonwealth and local governments.
Research and new jobs in Southside and Southwest Virginia
In Danville and Martinsville, where many jobs have been lost to technology and outsourcing, the Commonwealth, in partnership with local governments, community colleges and universities have recently developed two new institutions to stimulate research, learning and new jobs.
In Danville the IALR is developing technologies and new products to stimulate new jobs in agriculture, motor sports and biofuels with the aid of economic development assistance from the Governor and the General Assembly. It is also developing partnerships with industry and training educators by offering institutes on using technology in the classroom.
Since 2005, as a result of the work of IALR, the Commonwealth, Virginia Tech, area businesses and local governments, 5,500 new jobs have been announced by local economic development offices.