This chart measures political anxiety. Democrats are blue, Republicans are red. The higher the line, the less anxious people are. Courtesy of Roanoke College.

Here’s a round-up of business (and sometimes other) news from around Southwest and Southside. Send items for possible inclusion to

Divide between Democrats and Republicans regarding mask wearing, vaccination plans and general political anxiety   

The latest Roanoke College Poll found Virginians divided by party on vaccinations, masks and their general levels of anxiety. Democrats are more likely to be vaccinated and wear masks and less likely to worry about politics. Republicans are just the opposite.

Vaccinations: Democrats report full or partial vaccination at 90% with just 3% not planning to get a shot; for Republicans, those numbers are 67% and 24%. Regarding booster shots, 81% of Democrats have or plan to get an additional dose of vaccine with only 18% not planning to do so. Republicans have a lower rate of booster dose interest (67%) and increased rate of reporting no plans to receive an additional shot (37%.) 

Masks: By party, almost half (45%) of Democrats wear masks while visiting family and friends, while about one-sixth (17%) of Republicans do so. 

That political party divide on mask wearing exists across all scenarios presented to the respondents, such as grocery stores (90% Democrats likely compared to 52% of Republicans), at work (88% compared to 54%), dining inside (76% compared to 35%), and hair salons/barbershops (79% compared to 43%.)   

Political anxiety: Since the middle of 2016, IPOR has tracked political anxiety in the Commonwealth and last reported on results in March. In this November poll, more than three-fourths (79%) of Virginians report trusting the federal government to do what is right only some of the time or never. A larger majority than in March (60%) thinks that ordinary citizens can do a lot to influence the federal government, and more than half (58%) thinks their side is losing more than winning in politics today, while 29% think they are winning more than losing.   

Just shy of half (49%) believe that the country’s best years are ahead of it, while nearly the same (45%) believe its best years have passed; this is the lowest level for “best years are ahead” since IPOR began asking this question. Two-thirds (66%) of respondents say that things in the country are on the wrong track, up 8 percentage points since September. Overall, a large majority of Virginians (84%) continues to see the nation divided regarding the important issues facing the country.    

A plurality of respondents (47%) is dissatisfied with how the federal government is (or isn’t) working. Another 20% are angry, but 26% are satisfied and 3% are enthusiastic. In the aggregate, each of these measures has remained relatively stable over time, but the responses of subgroups have varied, particularly those of Democrats and Republicans, depending upon which party is in power,

Six of these questions regarding political anxiety are used to construct our Political Anxiety Index and data since late 2017 appears in the graph above. Higher numerical values represent less anxiety, with an index maximum value of 300 and minimum possible value of -300.   

While political anxiety overall (gray line) has not changed much over the last four years, a large gap between Democrats and Republicans exists. Unlike the huge flip in anxiety by party in November 2020, the results of the gubernatorial election in November 2021 did not result in a large change in anxiety for either party; Democrat index value moved from 46.9 to 40.2 which the Republican index value increased from -179.4 to -176.3 (see gray region in the chart above). 

“Political anxiety has been, and continues to be, tied closely to the party in the White House,” said David Taylor, director The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College. “We saw the largest flip and resulting gap in the Political Anxiety Index following the 2020 presidential election; given the polarization in the country between the election itself and inauguration, such a divide was not a surprise. The index itself is tailored towards anxiety regarding politics at the federal level so while we would not expect to see a huge shift as a result of Youngkin’s victory, the relatively small change in index reflects that Virginians see little connection between statewide politics and the federal government.” 

A copy of the questionnaire, topline, and crosstabs may be found here.  

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VCEDA approves seed capital grant for short-term rental place in Dickenson County

Lilly Thacker. Courtesy of VCEDA.

The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority recently approved a $6,500 seed capital matching grant for Lilly’s Pad LLC, a short-term rental option in Haysi in Dickenson County.

“Lilly’s Pad LLC is another tourism-related business which seeks to capitalize on its location near the Spearhead Trails system that the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund has assisted,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher in a statement. “The business projects one full-time and two part-time jobs within five years as it grows.”

The business is owned by Lilly Thacker worked with the Small Business Development Center at Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) in the development of her application to VCEDA and received a letter of support from the Dickenson County Industrial Development Authority.

“As the southwest region of Virginia continues to be highlighted as a prime area for tourists to visit, it is important that small business owners are able to offer the amenities needed to support the growing tourism industry,” said SWCC SBDC Business Advisor Misty Bandy.

About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in or plan to operate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton.

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The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research. Photo by Dwayne Yancey

Danville institute to hold open house

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) will hold “Wreaths for a Cause” this holiday season and invites the public to attend the Open House where they may participate in a silent auction of wreaths. Tickets are $10 each with proceeds going to the United Way of Danville & Pittsylvania County. Funds from the wreaths will benefit the charity each participating organization designated. 

The Open House will be held in IALR’s atrium on Dec. 14 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar will be provided. Austin Scher of the Danville Otterbots (and chair of the United Way of Danville & Pittsylvania County campaign) will serve as master of ceremonies, and Rita Smith of River City Auction will serve as wreath auctioneer. A 7:15 p.m. drawing will award a gift card package from local businesses (currently valued at $250); individuals must be present to win. Open House tickets may be purchased online at or at any of the following locations:  United Way of Danville & Pittsylvania County, 308 Craghead St. #104, Danville; IALR, 150 Slayton Ave., Danville; Commonwealth Home Health Care, 479 Piney Forest Road, Danville; and Haymore Garden Center, 2720 Franklin Turnpike, Danville. 

As in years past with the tree program, area businesses and organizations have created and displayed wreaths in IALR’s atrium in honor of their selected charities to raise funds in the form of votes, or donations. The public may visit IALR’s atrium through Dec. 14 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. to vote for wreaths with a donation and to enjoy the festive display. Each charity retains those funds, and the wreath/charity that collects the most money prior to the Open House will receive a bonus of $500. At the Open House, a random drawing of all wreaths will award another $500 to a participating charity.

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Salem auto technician in running for national award

A Salem automotive technician is competing this week in a public vote for the national Grand Prize in TechForce’s 3rd annual Techs Rock Awards. Drew Harless of Berglund Ford is already named as 2021 Rookie of the Year Category Winner. The Awards celebrate technicians who mentor and inspire the next generation of techs, bring excellence to their workplaces and communities, and demonstrate passion and commitment to the profession.

A release from TechForce says: “Drew Harless was hired as an apprentice tech while still in high school and has been working in the shop full time since graduation. An Eagle Scout and SkillsUSA State Champion, Drew decided that college wasn’t for him once he discovered his love of cars in high school. “Every day I go to work with my mindset on learning something new… I want to show that you don’t need to go to college to be successful.”

The voting is open through 5 p.m. EST today here.

TechForce Foundation is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) with the mission to champion all students to and through their technical education and into careers as professional transportation technicians.

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Virginia sports betting hits $2 billion

Virginia’s sports betting market hit the $2 billion mark for the year in October, according to data released this week by the Virginia Lottery.  The made Virginia the quickest state in U.S. history to reach $2 billion in lifetime wagers, according to PlayVirginia, which tracks Virginia’s sports betting market. New Jersey hit that mark in 10 months; Virginia hit in slightly under 10 months.

Since launching in January 2021, Virginia has produced $2.4 billion in wagering, $206.0 million in gross gaming revenue, yielding $90.8 million in taxable revenue and $14.4 million in state taxes, according to the figures.