Kaine sees Waynesboro business working firsthand

Third in a series

It can be easy for politicians running for office to stay within the bubble of campaign events – shaking hands, making speeches, eating on the run, rinse, repeat.

U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine has been making it a point to get out from under the bubble with a series of walking tours of business districts across the Commonwealth, including a tour of Downtown Waynesboro on April 14 that had Kaine’s ear full of talk about Internet sales taxes, technology education and historic tax credits.

The tour began at the historic Wayne Theatre, which has been the subject of a 12-years-and-counting effort by a local nonprofit that aims to renovate the building for reuse as a community arts and education center. Wayne Theatre Alliance chairman Bill Hausrath and executive director Clair Myers updated Kaine on the progress of the effort, which Kaine said reminded him of similar efforts in Richmond, where he served as mayor before being elected lieutenant governor in 2001.

Construction on the Wayne project could get going this summer, Hausrath and Myers told Kaine, with an eye toward a grand reopening of the 1926 theatre in the first quarter of 2014.

Kaine later met with representatives of the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation, which undertook a million-dollar-plus effort to renovate a former bank building on the corner of Main Street and Wayne Avenue into the new Waynesboro Heritage Museum, in the process learning a bit of River City history.

Another stop put Kaine in touch with Janet Harvey, the founder of the Waynesboro Area Learning Tree, a nonprofit that provides technology training for teens and adults looking for a leg up in the 21st century economy.

Among the things that Kaine learned from talking with Harvey: “You did it.” That’s what Harvey said to Kaine when the former governor asked how where the idea came from to get the WALT program started.

Harvey said she heard Kaine talking about the need to extend broadband Internet access into rural communities during the 2008 presidential campaign. She took the initiative to heart and began working on a business plan to integrate training for teens and young adults in rural communities into a working business model.

WALT’s mission has grown to serve older adults displaced by the economic downturn. It all started with Harvey listening to Kaine and then taking action.

“You’re in my business plan, quoted. You were the inspiration. I had to be here today to tell you that you did this,” Harvey said.

The last stop on the walking tour took Kaine to Blue Moon Galleries, an Internet retailer that grew out of a spare bedroom in the home of owners Stacey Strawn and Steve Dahl. Now with eight employees and $3 million a year in business, Blue Moon’s continued existence is threatened with discussion in Congress of legislation that would require retailers with $500,000 or more a year in Internet sales to pay sales taxes in states where those sales are made.

That requirement would virtually wipe out small Internet retailers like Blue Moon Galleries, for whom the compliance costs would be prohibitive.


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