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January 15, 2010
Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Friday, January 15, 2010

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Gov. Tim Kaine is proud to have helped establish the New College Institute.

"I kind of helped to get the ball rolling," he recalled Thursday while visiting the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville on his next to last full day as governor.

The state-supported institute in uptown Martinsville opened in 2006 with a goal of helping boost local economic development by increasing the number of area adults with college degrees.

While he was lieutenant governor in 2004, Kaine and a bipartisan coalition of state and local officials spearheaded legislation to establish a college in southern Virginia. Then as governor in 2006, Kaine signed into law a bill passed by the General Assembly establishing the institute.

In 2012, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia is expected to decide whether NCI should remain in its current form or evolve.

Kaine said that as governor, he has strived to help rejuvenate the economy of Henry County and Martinsville, which have seen thousands of jobs lost as industries closed during the past decade. For many months, the city has had the state's highest unemployment rate. In November, it was 20 percent.

Gordon Hickey, the governor's press secretary, said Kaine has visited the area at least 16 times during his four years as governor.

Along with helping launch NCI, Kaine said he is proud that the museum's new building on Starling Avenue was established under his watch. The facility opened in 2007 and is five times larger than the museum's previous building on Douglas Avenue.

Kaine indicated that by being a more modern facility, the new building has the potential of luring more visitors from out-of-town. Officials have said those visitors spend money when they are here and boost the local economy.

Another source of pride for Kaine is the Martinsville schools. In October, he visited Martinsville High School and proclaimed that the city schools are the best in the state in terms of striving to help students be successful at learning. He called the city schools the "poster system for excellence."

Speaking to Piedmont Regional Governor's School students - many from Martinsville - who were at the museum, Kaine said it is "remarkable" that graduation standards at the high school are higher than state standards.

He said he also is glad to see increasing numbers of high school students in the city taking advanced placement courses.

The governor said he also is proud of helping to preserve open space in the area through conservation efforts he has promoted.

He said that about 437,000 acres in Virginia, "an area twice the size of the Shenandoah National Park," have been legally preserved as open space while he has been governor.

Although the area needs new businesses, Kaine said it also needs open space to help protect air and water quality, as well as because "people love the great outdoors" and want places to enjoy recreational activities.

Thursday was Kaine's last day traveling in the state as governor. As part of that trip, he visited the museum to announce recipients of grants of federal stimulus funds for alternative energy projects. Two of the 15 recipients are in the Henry County-Martinsville area.

Kaine said he came to Martinsville because he wanted his last day traveling to be memorable, and area residents "have always been so welcoming to me."