I am writing to express my support for Ken Heath as our next state senator. For the last 25 years, those who live in and around Marion, Virginia, have benefited from Ken’s foresight and effort in transforming Marion from a somewhat depressed small town to one that is successful and prosperous. Heath has been either leading or involved in almost every important addition to this community during that period. There have been numerous projects — Lincoln Theatre, Song of the Mountains, tourism office, Small Business Incubator and dog park — to name a few.

The Main Street Revitalization Project was an important early infrastructure development for Marion. The downtown area received a facelift with new, attractive sidewalks and trees.

In 2009, he introduced the “Pop-Up Marion” program. New business owners and existing small-business owners who want to expand their business are eligible for a grant up to $5,000 and up to $15,000 for a low-interest loan. Applicants must go through a “boot camp,” which offers intensive training on all aspects of running a small business. This program has had a major impact on Marion. To date nearly 300 people have been trained, 11 buildings have been sold and 22 vacant storefronts have been filled. In total, 30 new businesses have resulted with 118 new jobs. Pop-Up Marion is now in its 14th iteration. The Virginia Municipal League not only presented Marion with an award, they now use this program across the state with other communities (with the name “Community Business Launch”).

Heath’s actions over the last 25 years have had a positive effect on our economy. The vacancy rate is less than 3%, factories are full, and there has been over $2 million in private investments in Marion. Our best chance to see the same result for a bigger chunk of Southwest Virginia is to elect Ken Heath as our next state senator.

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