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IW told to brace for growth

By Stephen Cowles

Special to the News-Herald

Bob Crum’s message to Isle of Wight at the State of the County Breakfast this week was direct: “Growth is coming this way.”

Crum, who is the executive director of Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, was the guest speaker at the annual event, this year taking place in the Smithfield Center on Tuesday.

The HRPDC includes 17 localities and 1.7 million people and, he said, “We think that our region is a sleeping giant.”

Program areas the agency is concerned with include economics, education, information, water resources, legislative affairs and transportation, said Crum, who was involved with guiding the restructuring of the Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization.

Isle of Wight, he noted, has a population of approximately 36,107 people living in 316 square miles, and 114 people per square mile. The county has seen a 112-percent increase in population since 1960, and 12.4 percent just within the past decade.

Manufacturing, not incidentally, is strongest in what Crum referred to as West-Southside, which also includes Suffolk, Franklin and Southampton.

Every four years, forecasts are done by the HRPDC, which projects that by 2040, the population for that area will rise from 344,289 to 533,534.

Earlier in the meeting, a short video presentation included Supervisor Chairman Rex Alphin, Economic Director Tom Elder and Windsor Town Manager Michael Stallings, among others, talking briefly about how their respective territories have progressed in the past year, and what they foresee in the 12 months ahead.

Alphin said the past year has been one of transition, such as seeking a new county administrator and welcoming three new supervisors to the board.

Elder said his department will become more aggressive in business outreach, trade shows and conferences.

Stallings noted that Windsor has erected new signs welcoming visitors, enabled the creation of a mural depicting town history on the sides of a building and set up the police department in its own building, which includes a live video camera the magistrate can use to more quickly process suspects.

The locality is also beginning a master plan for a new municipal center, which could include a library.