The Smyth County Community Foundation has sold its remaining 20% share in the Smyth County Community Hospital to Ballad Health.

Today we introduce a new feature; a round-up of briefs around Southwest and Southside that we haven’t seen reported elsewhere. Businesses can send items for possible inclusion to

Ballad Health buys remaining interest in Smyth County hospital

Ballad Health has bought the 20% interest in the Smyth County Community Hospital that had been owned by the Smyth County Community Foundation. According to a release from Ballad issued Tuesday, the price was $33.7 million. The foundation will use $3 million of that to deal with substance abuse issues via a grant to the newly formed Appalachian Center for Hope.

The foundation was formed in 1998. When Carilion Health system bought half-interest in the hospital in 1999, those funds went to the foundation. In 2005, the foundation bought back Carilion’s half-interest in the hospital and soon after Mountain States Health Alliance acquired a majority interest in the hospital. Ballad was formed in 2018 when Mountain States and Wellmont Health System merged.

In a statement, Dr. David Kiser of the foundation said: “This agreement is the result of months of careful, deliberate discernment about the most effective ways the Foundation can support the long-term viability of the Smyth County Community Hospital, a source of pride for our entire region. Our mission has always been to support efforts that benefit the health of our community, and that mission is not changing. We’ll continue to partner creatively with the hospital to create positive change and diversify the pool of health-focused resources that enter our region.”

The foundation said it would focus on three areas: 1. Care and resources for the aging population; 2. Early intervention solutions to improve health and education for youth; 3., Wholistic substance abuse prevention, care and treatment. It plans to hire an executive director sometime in 2022.

Griffith criticizes infrastructure bill

Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, used a joint hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittees on Energy and Environment on Tuesday to criticize the recently-passed infrastructure bill, saying it won’t do much to help speed construction of the long-delayed Coalfields Expressway. You can see his full remarks here. An excerpt:

Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem

In the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995, the Coalfields Expressway was designated as, quote, “a congressional high priority corridor.”

The Coalfields Expressway in my part of Virginia is not built. It’s not close to being built.

The Coalfields Expressway opens up, as you might guess, the Virginia Coalfields, so we can shift our economy. It’s not built. It opens up Dickenson and Buchanan Counties.

We haven’t kept our promises from the past. And yet I hear all kinds of laudatory comments today about last week’s infrastructure bill. The new money in that bill for highways and bridges coming to all of Virginia is a few billion dollars at best.

The Coalfields Expressway will cost $30 billion plus to complete.

Now we spent lots of money on new promises. Funding rich folks to buy electric cars and all kinds of charging station money. And I checked. The cheapest electric car I could find is $39,999. A battery – to replace a battery that starts to degrade around 65,000 miles, so generally guaranteed up to a hundred – that doesn’t mean it’s at a hundred percent, but to 100,000 miles – a new battery costs between $5,000 and $15,000.

Dickenson County – the Coalfields Expressway – according to an article in today’s online news, the Cardinal News: household income under $30,000.

Mass transit in rural counties is not an option. The folks I represent can’t afford an electric car. It doesn’t matter how wonderful it is. And when used ones come along, they aren’t going to be able to afford those either, cause just a new battery will cost them $5,000 to $15,000.

I know there are a lot of good intentions. Sometimes I think we live in two different worlds. Cause Virginia has – in Northern Virginia has five of the wealthiest counties in the country. The part I represent – the whole area I represent, 29 different jurisdictions, including Blacksburg, Virginia, Montgomery County, which has some wealth, Roanoke area has some wealth – the median household income: about $48,000. A little over $48,000.

Bristol brewer releases beer made from Lee County grains

Two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip is now in the beer business and has released a new brew made from barley grown in Lee County.

In a statement, Waltrip said: “This is a great way to celebrate this year’s harvest of Appalachian Grains, to help write a new chapter for agriculture in southwest Virginia and to contribute to a local economy that is now a second home to me. Virginia’s Southwest has special meaning for me, and with the opening of our Bristol location, to join other leaders in building and buying local is a privilege. We invite you to support our local farmers and businesses by coming to taste our newest beer: 3 Ranges Appalachian Ale.”

The economic development group InvestSWVA has a project to encourage the growth and branding of Appalachian grains, with farmers in Lee, Scott and Washington counties now participating.

Virginia Tech to make “significant” announcement on innovation campus

Virginia Tech will make what it calls a “significant” announcement in Alexandria Wednesday about its “innovation campus” there. Scheduled speakers include Virginia Tech President Tim Sands, Innovation Campus Vice President Lance Collins, Northrop Grumman Corporation chairman, chief executive officer and president CEO Kathy Warden.