By Dwayne Yancey of Cardinal News, July 7, 2022
Something happened recently that you might have missed – or, if you didn’t miss it, you might have thought it was odd.
A group of important entities in Danville – involving local governments, businesses, the nonprofit community – have formed a group to prepare for “serious growth coming from the region’s many economic development successes.”
If your view of Danville is out of date – and, let’s face it, people’s views of most things are out of date – the idea of “serious growth” there might have seemed an oxymoron, much like the old joke about “military intelligence.”
After all, just four years ago, Corey Stewart, then the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, singled out Danville as a place of “boarded-up shops, closed-down factories.” The conservative publication Brietbart was even harsher. In a story headlined “Left For Dead in Danville,” it described the city as “a decomposed industrial hulk.” I wrote at the time for The Roanoke Times that both those accounts were wrong – you can walk around any community and find “boarded-up shops” if you want – but they’re even more wrong now.
Danville was a place that hit bottom two decades ago when textiles collapsed. That was a dramatic fall. Danville has also spent nearly two decades rebuilding its economy and today stands as something of a textbook example of how to make that comeback. The same year that Stewart and Brietbart were bad-mouthing Danville, the Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, was taking two jetloads of state officials to Danville to see what aspects of its revival could be duplicated in his state. Twice now, Site Selection magazine has named Danville as one of the Top 10 micropolitan cities in the country. Alas, Site Selection magazine doesn’t have quite the circulation of Breitbart, and an out-of-state governor quietly doing his due diligence doesn’t get nearly the attention of an in-state political candidate looking for an issue.
So I don’t blame anyone if they haven’t kept up with what’s been happening in Danville, other than some vague recollection that a casino is on the way (scheduled for opening in 2024; here are the particulars on that). Adjectives and words in general are easy to throw around. That’s why I often prefer numbers to tell a story, so let’s look at the relevant numbers for Danville and Pittsylvania County. Here’s why community leaders now see a need to prepare for something that would have seemed preposterous not that long ago – growth.