West Piedmont Planning District Economic Strategy

The West Piedmont Planning District Commission retained Thomas Point Associates to prepare an economic adjustment strategy for region (Franklin County, Henry County, Patrick County, Pittsylvania County, Danville City and Martinsville City). Shepstone Management Company assisted in addressing agricultural economic development and economic dislocation in the industry as a result of the Tobacco Settlement. Analysis indicated that agricultural sales were up significantly over a decade earlier. Although the tobacco industry had undergone tremendous changes, there was still potential for both tobacco and dairy on larger moreefficient farms able to compete in the marketplace. It was, nonetheless, clear that smaller tobacco farmers would have to diversify, change crops or find other employment and approaches were suggested.

Shepstone Management Company identified financing needed to spur development of transgenic tobacco and provide capital for alternative and added-value agricultural ventures as well as on-farm diversification into agricultural tourism, nurseries, contract poultry operations, wineries and similar ventures. Technical assistance needs, strategic alliance opportunities, low-cost input options and more cost-effective methods of producing, marketing and purchasing products were also pinpointed. Finally, the study recommended establishment of another shipping point market in the Central Virginia/Piedmont region.