DANVILLE, Va. -- There are so many ways you can tie the industries that built so many cities and towns in our area to their more recent fates.
Danville, Virginia, is one of them.
Dan River Inc. was a major textile company whose White Mill dominates the riverfront. To this day, though, it hasn’t produced any fabric in years. And the southern end of town is filled with old tobacco warehouses that are looking for new life.
“I won't deny that the city hasn't seen some rough times, lately, with the disappearance of textiles, tobacco, of course,” said John Crane, who not only covers what happens in the city as a reporter for the Danville Register & Bee, but he grew up in Danville.
“The city officials have brought a few job announcements over the last year or two," Crane said.
But most people know that’s not enough and some of the town’s leaders see salvation in the idea of a casino.
“It’s the biggest economic development opportunity in my lifetime,” “Yes! Weekly,” Magazine quoted Danville Vice Mayor, Lee Vogler as saying.
The city commissioned a report from a firm in Richmond that claims a casino can bring a billion dollar economic impact within a decade and either create or help spawn as many as 7,000 jobs.
There aren’t a lot of projects that can do that.
Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, recently signed legislation that will allow for a referendum on whether to allow casino gambling. That should be on the ballot in November of 2020.
Crane says it will get both support and opposition from each of the major political parties.
“I don't see it as a simple right/left issue because there are positions you can take on a casino because you get into the social and economic issues, the right/left paradigm, the right/left dichotomy doesn’t apply,” Crane said. “There's a left-wing argument that you can use against a casino, but there is also a right-wing argument that you can use for the casino. And, conversely, there are some conservatives who would advocate bringing it and other conservatives who would be against it because talking to people and the experts I've talked to, they aren't that easy to categorize like that.”
Crane describes Danville as “A city of churches,” and that may be the one group solidified in its position.
“I've talked to clergy here, of course. Just about all the clergy here are against it,” Crane said.
The other big problem may be getting people to buy into anything big and new.
“Of course, if you go on social media, you do see naysayers and complainers,” Crane said. “They're going to complain and criticize Danville, no matter what."
See where a casino might fit into Danville’s downtown in this edition of the Buckley Report.