Any thoughts on the story, or the forum itself if you attended? Feel free to share them in the comments.The construction of Interstate 73, proposed to create a corridor from South Carolina to Michigan, hasn’t been a topic of much discussion in Southwest Virginia of late.
Roanoke business leader and philanthropist Heywood Fralin says that’s a mistake.
At the Roanoke Regional Forum, held Monday at Jefferson Center’s Fitzpatrick Hall, Fralin said that building I-73 should be the region’s top economic development priority. He called for stronger leadership to unite localities with one another and with the business community, and said the region should recognize that “Virginia Tech is the most important economic driver of our economy.”
He cited statistics to bolster a case that Southwest Virginia lags behind the rest of the state in job creation, salaries and education.
“It’s possible to take an economically depressed area and turn it around,” he said. “If you’re going to make it happen, everyone has to get on the same page. That requires leadership.”
Fralin spoke at the forum with his son, former state Del. William Fralin, R-Roanoke, who also emphasized a need for stronger regional leadership. The younger Fralin said that Roanoke, with neither the clout of a large city nor access to the government assistance offered to rural areas, will have to organize its own financial resources to bring in amenities essential to future economic development, such as fiber optic cable networks.
Roanoke should strive to be the most business-friendly community in the country, he said.
“Leadership’s important. Being involved is important.”