Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NYT on how Martinsville tried to copy Charlotte

Interesting story in the New York Times today about how Martinsville, VA, site of a much-revered half-mile racetrack on the Sprint Cup circuit, lost most of its traditional industry over the years and once hoped to reshape its fortunes along the lines of Charlotte's success in motorsports. It hasn't exactly worked out, as a few excepts below indicate.

Reporter Katie Thomas wrote:

As those industries faded, Martinsville turned its hopes toward the increasingly profitable motorsports industry. With a track beloved by drivers and fans alike, community leaders sought to transform Martinsville into a miniature Charlotte, the hub of the racing industry. But despite the creation of two educational programs and statewide economic incentives for the motorsports industry, the effort has largely failed. Economic development officials say that they have shifted their attention to other pursuits and that motorsports are no longer a priority.

…..It was that heritage that economic development officials hoped to build on about six years ago. In Charlotte, less than 150 miles away, the motorsports industry was exploding as racing teams converged on the area, quickly followed by suppliers and other related companies.

….John Connaughton, a professor of economics at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, said Martinsville faced a challenge because the motorsports industry had increasingly consolidated around Charlotte. “There is a specialized labor pool here that you cannot replicate anyplace,” Connaughton said of Charlotte.

He studied Charlotte’s racing industry after Virginia and other states created motorsports initiatives. “Our conclusion was that while they may be able to pick here and there, it’s extremely unlikely that there’s going to be any kind of functional shift in where racing cars are built,” he said.

In 2003, the Martinsville area lost an anchor of its small motorsports industry when Wood Brothers Racing moved from Stuart, a small town nearby, to the Charlotte area.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was "raised" in Martinsville, Va.
In my childhood, Martinsville was a lovely tree lined town, with incredable homes, and Im not talking about Mulberry and the lake. Downtown had dizens of 4 and 5 stories houses.First they were all torn down and replaced by stores and banks. there was a lot of money in Martinsville. In the
80's dozens of manufacturing plants didn't fade away, they all deserted the town and people that made them. Dupont, was the last remaining life support and when it left, that was it.Martinsville didn't die it was murdered.

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