Artist's rendering of the casino in Danville. Courtesy of Caesars Virginia.
Artist's rendering of the casino in Danville. Courtesy of Caesars Virginia.

My paternal grandfather, like so many other Danvillians, labored in the Dan River Mill for over 30 years. My maternal grandfather, like other people in the region, was a farmer and harvested tobacco. For a long time, that’s what Danville was known for, tobacco and textiles.  The Home of Dan River Fabrics sign on top of the white mill building used to hug the horizon. When the mill closed in the early 2000s, I remember my high school history teacher emailing me the news. I was a junior in college and immediately said aloud to myself, “Danville has been sold.”

Now the city is having an economic awakening. I’m very happy for the city, and the hard-working, hospitable people of Danville and Pittsylvania County. Although some may disagree for ethical reasons with gambling, the casino has been an economic driver with $12 million in revenues the first two weeks. It may be an initial surge, or it may become the average revenue, but at that pace extrapolated over a year would account for over $300 million.

In addition to the casino, the over 3500-acre Megasite at Berryhill in Pittsylvania County is primed for a company to move in. It’s rumored that Ford Motor Company was interested in the site but was vetoed by the Governor for partisan optics. Moreover, the Planning Commission of Pittsylvania County recently recommended approval of the 600-acre mixed use project, to include housing, a hotel, and a retail shopping center. The primary driver of the project was housing, which is needed to support the growth of the region.

Indoor vertical farm company AeroFarms broke ground on their facility in Ringgold in 2021. Although they pivoted to focus on energy, they are increasing staff levels over their current 115 employees to maximize production. Plans to move forward with the luxury RV Park were postponed again, but I believe it will be approved in due time.

Since 2021, a slew of other companies have expanded or are working to expand in the Danville region. Some of the companies include the following: Zollner Elektronik AG investing $14 million and creating 80 jobs, Engineered BioPharmaceuticals investing $6 million and creating 34 jobs, Axxor’s $3.5 million expansion and creating 21 jobs, Tysons Foods investing $300 million and creating 375 jobs, MEP Ltd. investing $6.4 million and creating 45 jobs, and Intertape Polymer Group Inc. investing $45 million and creating 50 jobs.

There’s a buzz around the city again. The same buzz that used to be there when my family moved to the region in the early ’90s. I don’t see Riverside Drive becoming the Las Vegas strip with Circus Circus and the Taj Mahal hotels, but I do see other developments popping up and fueling economic activity in the city. My hope is that more Danvillians will be able to consider staying in the community for economic prosperity versus leaving for Greensboro or other cities like I felt I had to do in the early 2000s.

Recently, a friend told me that Danville is going to be bigger than Greensboro. I’m not sure that’s going to happen, but I will say that Danville is on a great trajectory that the citizens should be proud of and is probably experiencing the most economic development in the city’s history than it has in the last 100 years.

Jeff Bennett is a native of Danville. Besides freelance writing, Jeff works as a business consultant...