Albemarle Board of Supervisors candidate James C. Norwood bills himself as a fiscal conservative with economic development and small business management experience.
Norwood also has personal experience navigating the Great Recession.
The Scottsville District candidate filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in December 2009.
The case was resolved in May 2010 when the court discharged much of Norwood’s debt after he completed a course in financial management.
Norwood said his financial woes started after he and his wife, Joan, sold his business, Norwood Shoes, to his son.
“Our son bought the business from us, got caught by the recession and Joan and I stood behind all of the liabilities,” Norwood said. “What happened to us happened to many, many business owners.”
Soon after his son was approved for a line of credit, Norwood said, the banking crisis hit, and the credit was cancelled. With the credit gone, Norwood and his wife were forced to pump their own savings into the ailing business. The business closed in 2009, taking most of Norwood’s retirement with it.
“Whatever savings we had we basically put into the business to try and save the business for the kids,” he said.
Norwood said the experience better prepared him to lead the county.
“It has basically added to the experience I have in business. I’ve been in business a long time and never had an experience like this before,” he said. “I feel that there are many people out there in the same boat, and I think I can help, and I think I have helped some.”
Norwood founded Norwood Shoes in Charlottesville in 1997, after a long career as president and vice president of several other shoe companies. Eventually, the business grew to four stores, including one location at the intersection of Rio Road and U.S. 29 North, a location, Norwood said, that saw sales decline as traffic on 29 increased.
Norwood, who supports the 6.2-mile Western Bypass of U.S. 29, said he has first-hand experience with traffic floundering a business. Traffic, he said, was part of the reason the family business went under.
“We had four stores, and we had a store on 29, and because of the traffic our store continued to suffer. For the last four years it was open, it had declining sales,” he said. “That’s not the whole factor but it’s a contributing factor.”
According to court records, Norwood carried a total debt just over $2.4 million and carried assets worth $704,533. Among those assets was a property in Deltaville, a community on the Chesapeake Bay, and a Hatteras Yacht.
Of the debt, more than $1.4 million was associated with Norwood’s company, Norwood Management LLC, and included nearly $650,000 in inventory purchases from New Balance shoes.
Norwood’s campaign message mainly concerns bringing more business and jobs to the Scottsville District. Throughout his campaign, Norwood has championed smaller government as the solution to unemployment in the county.
“I think that the less government, the better off we are. One of the problems we may have now is too many restrictions and those restrictions prohibit the private sector from hiring new jobs,” he told The Daily Progress for a previous story.
Despite the stigma declaring bankruptcy can carry, Norwood said his situation was a product of an economic downturn and his desire to help his son’s business.
“My wife, Joan, and I stood behind all the liabilities and it was just part of standing behind our kids,” Norwood said.