Editor’s note: This is the second in a series profiling the four Republican candidates in the May 6 primary for the open seat on the Highland County Board of Commissioners.
Dave Gingerich believes that changing the culture of how and what students learn is the key to attracting industry, fighting drug abuse and keeping young people in Highland County.
Gingerich said in a recent interview that he has already taken the first steps to implement his plan to develop classes in the skill areas that local manufacturers need.
Gingerich, 58, moved to the Lynchburg area in 1986. He farms 100 acres there, and also owns and operates the Premier Stockman Feed Drive Thru on U.S. 62, just north of Hillsboro.
He was raised in the Carlisle area where his grandfather had a farm, and graduated from Carlisle High School. He attended Sinclair Community College.
He worked and trained people as machinists for 20 years at Dayton Progress, which he said was the largest independent machine shop in the world when he worked there, and he believes he still has connections that could bring similar jobs here.
Gingerich said he has already approached corporations to generate sponsorships to bring equipment into the schools that will help students became trained in the various machinist trades that local manufacturers are craving. Four corporate sponsors are already on board, he said.
He said the stigma attached to attending vocational schools keeps many students from going that route.
“You’re asking them to walk away from their peers and go to a strange environment,” said Gingerich. “This way, they can stay home.”
Gingerich said that not all students are suited for, or interested in, pursuing four-year bachelor’s degrees. Skilled machinists can make $50,000 to $60,000 a year, he said.
Gingerich said his initial goal is to get “20 kids in each school to take these courses,” with three to five corporate sponsors participating in each school district.
Then, when it comes to local and area companies looking for skilled labor, “We make the workforce for them.” New businesses will want to locate to Highland County because they will know that a trained workforce is in place here, and existing businesses won’t have to recruit from outside, said Gingerich.
“I want to be an aggressive advocate for this county, and that’s why I’m running,” said Gingerich. “You need somebody out there who thinks outside the box.”
Gingerich said that a better economy and more jobs help solve problems like fighting drug abuse and providing more funding to the sheriff’s office.
Calling the meth and heroin problems “unreal,” Gingerich said, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground. We need to put wealth in their hands.”
He said, “We’re going to have to bring business and revenue into the county. My plan will do that. You bring kids who are never going to go to college, and this gives them a career. They can buy the car and the house that they want. This will keep them from having to go to Turning Point,” the reentry program for ex-offenders.
Keeping young people from turning to drugs requires that society “change their minds and gives them something productive,” said Gingerich. “It changes the dynamics of everything. There’s just a need, and I feel like I’ve been chosen to do this.”
Gingerich said he has been attending networking events sponsored by Dayton area business consortiums, and wants to involve Sinclair Community College in his proposed program.
Gingerich and his wife, Vicky, an RN/BSN, have been married for 39 years and are the parents of a son. They have one grandchild.
“I feel positive” about the campaign, he said. “Everyone I tell my plan to, it’s like a light switch goes on. They understand there’s hope.”