The center’s reach spans 16 counties and surrounding cities and has contributed millions to the economy in an area traditionally known for long-gone trades like textile manufacturing, which has gone overseas, and for its role in growing crops like tobacco. The demise of that economy left the area with generations of families where education wasn’t as important.

“We were in high cotton here. Factories were going like crazy and tobacco markets were at full tilt and everybody was doing well,” said Betty Adams, the center’s executive director and a native of South Boston, where 18-wheelers loaded with fabrics from the nearby factory once regularly rumbled past her house.

A combination of state, local and other support has helped “develop an oasis in a desert” for students to get an education without traveling more than an hour away and help train them for current and future job fields, Adams said.

“We need to train people, educate people to use the technology that is really transforming manufacturing, (and) is transforming entrepreneurship,” she said. “In little, rural, southern Virginia we’re doing some really innovative things and thinking outside the box.”

Associated Press – from an article by Michael Felderbaum, AP Business Writer

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