Arlington County recently announced the official launch of a new type of economic development partnership between Arlington County and Martinsville/Henry County, Virginia. The partnership between the localities is the first of its kind in Virginia, and is expected to bring business development and investment benefits to both regions.

Located 200 miles south of the Washington, DC area, Martinsville/Henry County became emblematic of many of the negative effects associated with the changing face of international trade in a global economy, and the subject of national recognition after many of its major textile employers left the region, creating large-scale unemployment.

“I commend the leadership of Arlington and Henry County for their creative reshaping of traditional business development models,” said Virginia Governor Mark Warner. “I hope the success of this model will pave the way for similarly diverse north-south partnerships within the state.”

“Arlington has always been a leader in new and innovative ways to grow the regional business community,” stated Arlington board chair Barbara A. Favola. “Our partnership with Martinsville/Henry County represents the first in what I hope will be many examples of similar partnerships throughout Virginia. Arlington and Martinsville/Henry County have many resources to offer to each other and much to gain by working together.”

A resolution endorsing the Arlington-Martinsville/Henry County partnership was approved by the Martinsville City Council and the Henry County Board of Supervisors in a unanimous vote in February 2004, and by the Arlington County Board in March 2004. Tom Harned, director of economic development for the city of Martinsville, is upbeat about the possibilities of the partnership. “This is something very exciting,” stated Harned. “It gives us an opportunity to have a partnership with a strong region that has something unique to offer us and allows us to bring something unique to the table ourselves. We know we can carry our weight. This is a win for all three localities.”

Collaboration with Arlington will provide Martinsville/Henry County with access to the deep business base of the Washington, DC area. Conversely, the partnership will provide Arlington County with exposure to Martinsville/Henry County businesses that may seek the type of large-scale facilities, such as training or data centers that could not be created in the Washington, DC area. Moreover, the availability of an educated, trained and less expensive labor force and other resources makes Martinsville/Henry County an attractive partner to Arlington.

The launch is the first of many such gatherings that will bring businesses together to explore possible partnerships, and will include discussions of many of the financial incentives available to businesses that engage in such partnerships.