This is potentially very good news. Tom said yesterday that he would support using stimulus funds to expand U.S. 58, which has recently been hit by a cash crunch. Stimulus money would also go toward building I-73, though that project will certainly take more time given the diplomatic wrangling that still has to occur between the state, landowners and localities.
I've blogged before about how these infrastructure improvements can help rebuild an economy that, at least on the local level, seems closer to depression than recession. As the huge stimulus package heads into the 111th Congress tomorrow, there will undoubtedly be Republican opposition on the grounds that Obama is trying to spend the recession away. But that argument ignores the fact that the stimulus is a long-term investment that is decades overdue. New roads, bridges and telecommunications networks will lower the barriers to entry for companies looking to relocate in Southside, and new money for education will create human capital that will make for a more versatile workforce.
On the micro level (i.e., Martinsville and Henry County), here is my take on what the stimulus can and can't do. In the short term, these infrastructure projects will undoubtedly create construction jobs and make our area more attractive to new businesses. The real key will be for our local government and business leaders to capitalize on that opportunity--expanding 58 will not bring about any lasting economic change for Martinsville if Danville and Pittsylvania make a better case for businesses to locate there. Likewise, I-73 will not save us if Greensboro and Roanoke are more attractive prospects.