John Killeen is a graduate student in the Department of City and Regional Planning and works in Caswell County.
Located a swift 20 minute drive from Yanceyville, Danville, Virginia is the closest shopping and working destination for northern Caswell County residents. It offers the usual big box and discount stores; both chain and interesting local dining options; a handful of educational institutions. In addition to these Danville’s now ten-year-old Institute for Advanced Learning and Research offers further potential still for Caswell County.
Conceived to generate wide-spread regional economic development, the Institute is a partnership between the City of Danville, Virginia Tech University, Averett University, Danville Community College, and other major players. The Institute’s mission balances education and community-building with innovation, research, and commercialization of alternative energy products. In addition to its in-house research on biomass, nanotechnology, and vehicular performance, the Institute has been instrumental in attracting firms conducting research and product development in these fields to the CyberPark, Danville’s research campus.
Programming such as the Institute’s STEM Mobile Lab could benefit Caswell County in the very near term, offering outreach and basic community education about the work being done by its researchers. Around Danville it is hoped this outreach will encourage young people in disadvantaged neighborhoods to pursue the sciences while they are in high school and come to value its role in their education and career prospects. Some Institute programs are restricted by their funding to serve Virginia counties (as when they are funded by Virginia’s Tobacco Fund), but the Mobile Lab is federally funded. Caswell County educators should consider inviting the Mobile Lab to visit their school and conduct a day of bio science outreach.
Further connections to Caswell County may be facilitated by the Institute’s interest in transforming the regional agriculture base from tobacco production to alternative fuels production. This is actively underway in Pittsylvania and Henry Counties, but northern Caswell County is as close to Danville as these counties in Virgina are. Affinities with the Institute’s areas of expertise such as these could yield job growth and increased revenue for the North Carolina county.
For a copy of the author’s essay “Restructuring the Southside for Innovation: Technology, Education, and Holistic Job Growth in Danville, Virginia” please drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.