‘Get out of here to get the phone ringing’
WARRENTON — Ken Bowman, director of economic development for Warren County, intends to be proactive in bringing new industry into the county.
Businesses aren’t just going to drop into his lap; it requires getting out there and promoting Warren County’s assets.
“Have you heard the telephone ring?” he said. “You have to get out of this chair. You’ve got to get out of here to get the phone ringing.”
By aggressively reaching out to potential clients, Bowman said he could show them the business opportunities Warren County offers.
Bowman brings a mix of experience to his position. In addition to 31 years of experience with the U.S. Army and the Virginia National Guard, he has functioned both as staff and as a board member at the county level. In both capacities, his focus was on economic development.
During his time with the military, Bowman held a variety of staff and command positions. He spent eight years on active duty, including a 12-month tour in Vietnam. He retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
From 2002 to 2009, he worked as a senior military analyst at Fort Monroe, Virginia. During that period, he was elected to the York County Board of Supervisors, the equivalent of North Carolina's county commissioners. Four of the five supervisors were former military people, and the fifth was the wife of one.
“We understood the decision-making process,” he said. “It was great training for me.”
Bowman was instrumental in establishing the first Boys and Girls Club in the county and in the development of the county sports complex.
After his move to Pittsylvania County, he was successful in attracting industry to the county’s industrial parks, experience that will be useful as he considers the potential of Triangle North Warren campus.
His immediate experience prior to accepting his current post was as director of economic development with Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
He has spent much of his first six weeks in Warren County networking with other organizations and individuals involved in economic development.
“We need to ask, ‘This is your county: What do you want it to be?’ ” he said.
Bowman said economic development involves a twin approach.
“We need to look inward at our assets,” he said. “How do we build on them and at the same time go out and get new industry?”
Promoting agriculture is high on his agenda because it’s the county’s largest industry. In addition to supporting large farmers, it is important to help small farmers become successful, he said.
The four Interstate 85 interchanges in Warren County offer strategic opportunities for development, as there’s not much between South Hill, Virginia, and Henderson, he said. Those interchanges could provide some needed revenue for Warren County, if travelers have a reason to stop.
“When you’re fishing, if you don’t get your hook out, the fish keep on going,” he said.
Bowman established the Pittsylvania County economic development office from scratch, so he said he appreciates coming to an up-and-going operation in Warren County. Peggy Richardson, who has served as administrative assistant and at times as interim director, is a great asset, he said.
In spite of his proactive approach, Bowman acknowledges that economic development is a long-term process.
“We can’t do it all at once,” he said. “It will be done in phases.”
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