Editorial – Isle of Wight’s on  the move in 2023

Published 4:41 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2023

2023 is shaping up as a transformative year for Smithfield and Isle of Wight.

Riverside Health Systems has set a July 26 groundbreaking for what might be the most significant boost to economic development and quality of life in this community since Smithfield Foods built a global headquarters campus on the banks of the Pagan a few decades ago.

The 50-bed, full-service hospital on Benns Church Boulevard will fill a long void for a community that, while conveniently located near metropolitan Hampton Roads and the Peninsula, has checked all of the boxes for a successful, stand-alone economy — industry, housing, excellent public schools, retail — except one: major medical services.

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Isle of Wight has long outgrown the unfortunate necessity of sending its sick people to Suffolk or Newport News for hospital care. The scope of services to be offered at the Smithfield hospital will meet most all of the community’s major health care needs. It will include an emergency room, a labor and delivery department with six obstetrics beds and a neonatal nursery, 34 medical/surgical beds, 10 intensive care unit beds, four operating rooms and diagnostic imaging services. 

Not that we need anything to encourage more residential growth, but having our own hospital will surely make the northern end of the county more attractive to prospective residents.

Then there’s the economic impact of construction and ongoing operations of the $100 million facility. Once it opens, several hundred people, including many locals, will have permanent employment with an organization, Riverside, known for competitive wages and excellent benefits. Spinoff and support vendors will provide untold additional jobs.

On the subject of overdue enhancements, we commend Town of Smithfield officials for quickly working out their differences with the developer who will build a new Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles office on South Church Street. A ceremonial groundbreaking last week has the project off and running toward a late 2023 completion date.

It was a great example of cooler heads prevailing for the public good. After the town Planning Commission objected to some aesthetics of the developer’s plans, he popped off and said some things he shouldn’t have. Fortunately, and likely at the DMV’s instruction, he went back to the drawing board and came back with a new design that everybody could live with. The Planning Commission called a special meeting and gave it a thumbs-up.

Trips to the DMV are painful enough, but at least Isle of Wight residents won’t have to leave the county limits to get there. It’s a small but important step forward in what’s shaping up as an eventful 2023.