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Sawyers project an excellent example of home-grown growth

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By The Gazette

Local governments spend an enormous amount of time and resources trying to recruit new businesses and industries to come to the area, sowing seeds of future growth by flying in CEOs and cultivating relationships with potential employers.
Whether these efforts bear fruit is unpredictable, so it is always encouraging when a local idea sprouts, without the labor-intensive process of recruitment.
Such was the case with the new owners of the old Sawyers Furniture plant in West Galax, a building that had sat vacant for 15 years on Kenbrook Drive.
Brothers Bob and Keith Andrews of Andrews Farming bought the property and invested their own resources in fixing it up and turning it into Tractor Service of Virginia, a full-service dealership and repair center. This home-grown effort will employ as many as 18 people, put an industrial site back into service, add to the city's tax revenue and revitalize an often overlooked area of Galax.
Just having the site cleaned up and repainted has gone a long way toward beautifying the Oldtown/Kenbrook/Nuckolls Curve neighborhood off U.S. 58 West. From an aesthetic standpoint, the sight of brightly colored farm tractors on the lot perfectly suits the surrounding farms, residences and small businesses.
The Andrews brothers are to be commended for their investment, the most recent example of the Oldtown farming family's commitment to community service. Keith Andrews has been heavily involved in efforts to better Galax, particularly through his work with the Twin County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The brothers' work has earned them a state Industrial Revitalization Fund grant of $382,000 — which matches what the Andrews brothers already have invested in renovations — to remake the old Sawyers site into a business incubator for those who need smaller industrial spaces to start new businesses. This could help even more with employing local folks.
The City of Galax staff was wise to work with the Andrews family to help land this grant and support their efforts. Studies have shown that expanding local businesses with a stronger stake in the community is often a better investment in the long run than recruiting a larger firm from outside the area.
The new business is also a strong indicator that farming and agriculture is still a viable industry, as worthy of investment as a factory in terms of job creation.
Just across U.S. 58 from the tractor dealership is an industrial park site that has remained undeveloped for more than a decade, jointly owned by Galax and Grayson County. It could house more agriculture-related commerce if marketed properly.
Imagine a West Galax farm-based business community that perfectly meshes with that community's rural character.
Healing Springs Animal Hospital, West Galax Diner, a flea market, laundry, car wash, the Mini Mart and small businesses like D&J Hobby — all locally owned — already draw customers to that area. Maybe it's time to tap into that traffic.
The diner already plans to expand by adding a butcher shop and bakery.
What about a year-round farmers' market with local produce?
An auction house for local livestock?  
An equestrian center to tap into the tourism potential of horse enthusiasts?
A demonstration farm to introduce youth to farming as a potential career choice?
There is great potential in that community. Congratulations to the Andrews family and the City of Galax for recognizing it. Now, let's see what else we can grow there.