The E3 Sparks Plug team from the Burton Center for Arts & Technology in Roanoke County, led by motorsports instructor Chris Overfelt, captured their fourth national championship. From left: Chris Overfelt (teacher), Gavin Overstreet (Cave Spring), Nathaniel Semones (Hidden Valley), Jacob Bell (William Byrd), Landon Wheeler (Hidden Valley), Jack Lenderking (Hidden Valley), Landyn Leonard (Cave Spring). Courtesy of Roanoke County schools.

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

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Burton Center engine building team wins fourth national championship

Two engine buildings teams from the Burton Center for Arts and Technology in Roanoke County competed in the annual Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Building Challenge national competition in Indianapolis Dec. 9-11. 

The E3 Sparks Plug team (above), led by motorsports instructor Chris Overfelt, captured their fourth national championship with a final average time time of 20:51.  Each member of the team also won a $10,000 scholarship.  The team previously captured the national championship in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

The NASCAR Tech team, led by automotive instructor Steve Hoback, placed 17th in the nation.

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The formal check presentation. Courtesy of P&H Community College

P&H Community College presents Henry County Schools Career Academy with $5,000

From a pledge to raise awareness made last October, Patrick & Henry Community College was selected as one of four institutions in the nation to present a $5,000 check to a construction craft training program of their choice.

The pledge drawing was part of the Careers in Construction Month (CICM)  campaign. During the month of October, nearly 170 different organizations from all across the nation made a pledge aimed to increase public awareness of career paths in construction and inspire the next generation of craft professionals. As part of CICM, the pledging organizations were entered into a drawing to win one of four $5,000 scholarships that the winners would be able to present to a secondary construction craft training program of their choice.

When Patrick & Henry Community College was selected as one of the four scholarship winners, P&HCC chose to nominate the Henry County Schools Career Academy as the recipient.

“Patrick & Henry Community College was proud to nominate Henry County Schools Career Academy because it is committed to taking career and technical education to the next level The Career Academy’s objective is to make education applied, practical and aligned with industry needs,” Rhonda Hodges P&HCC’s vice president of workforce, economic and community development said in a statement.

Career Academy is Henry County Public Schools’ CTE center located in Figsboro. The academy prepares high school juniors and seniors for careers in industrial maintenance, cybersecurity, cosmetology and animal science upon high school graduation. Students from Bassett and Magna Vista high schools attend the half-day program throughout the school year in addition to classes at their base high schools.

“Henry County Public Schools is honored to partner with Patrick & Henry Community College to support the learning goals of students pursuing certifications in technical fields as we equip learners in our community for a successful future,” said Sandy Strayer, HCPS superintendent.

The pledge, the scholarship, and the national push for awareness around construction careers is being spearheaded by the National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER) and Build Your Future (BYF). For the last nine years these two organizations have heralded the Careers in Construction Month each October bringing together industry professionals, training programs, and government entities to raise awareness.

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Sites in Alleghany, Amherst, Botetourt, Nottoway and Pulaski added to Virginia Landmarks Register.

Virginia has added 13 sites to the Virginia Landmarks Register. Five of them are in Southwest or Southside. Here’s what the Department of Historic Resources says about them:

  • The properties that house Southside Virginia’s oldest radio station in continuous operation — WSVS in Crewe in Nottoway County.

The roughly 11-acre property originally served as the transmission center of three off-site broadcast stations of the WSVS radio program, which first hit the airwaves on April 6, 1947.

The present WSVS building, constructed in 1953 of parged concrete block, is attached to the original 1947 AM transmitter building. Also located on the property are the 1949 tower and FM transmitter building along with other historically contributing structures. Deejay and musician Jody Rainwater, who had played with Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt’s Foggy Mountain Boys and worked at WSVS for nearly 20 years starting in 1952. He contributed to the station’s success through his promotion of bluegrass music and popular musicians who performed in the studio.

  • The Green Pastures Recreation Area, later known as Longdale Day Use Area, in Alleghany County. It opened around 1939 as the first and only U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service recreation site for African Americans within Virginia and, likely, the only one of its kind nationwide during the era of racial segregation. It was certainly one of very few outdoor recreational areas open to African Americans in the central Appalachian region.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) initially constructed Green Pastures between 1938 and 1940 for the USDA Forest Service, laying it out within the George Washington National Forest. CCC laborers built a small lake with a sandy beach, a bathhouse, picnic shelter, toilets, playing fields, hiking trails, and improved walking paths and parking areas. The facility was meant to complement the six Virginia state parks opened in 1936 including nearby Douthat State Park, also built by the CCC. Though not legally mandated, the state parks were effectively whites-only.

An NAACP-led campaign resulted in a meeting between federal and state land management agencies—the USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, Virginia State Parks and the Virginia Department of Forestry — during which the Forest Service agreed to host an African American recreation area. In 1950, Green Pastures was officially integrated, and in 1964 the named changed to Longdale. During the 1940s and 1950s the park saw construction of the Downy Branch water management resources, including two small dams, a reservoir, and a chlorination station. In all, the 133-acre property contains a mix of 21 historically contributing buildings, sites, and structures.

  • Calfee Training School in Pulaski County was constructed in 1939, with federal funding from the Public Works Administration, to provide an elementary school for the Town of Pulaski’s Black students. Significantly, construction of the school was spurred by African American teachers and parents who filed petitions demanding improved teacher salaries and educational facilities. During the initial planning, the local Black community lobbied to expand the proposed building’s plans. That resulted in the addition of an auditorium wing to the building, but the loss of access to secondary education for Black students in the county and the removal of the school’s principal. Consequently, the county’s African American students seeking a secondary education had to attend the Christiansburg Institute in neighboring Montgomery County. The one-story, Colonial Revival-style Calfee Training School closed in 1966 when Pulaski County desegregated its school system, and reopened in 1968 as an integrated Pulaski Primary School for kindergarten students.
  • The Scott Zion Baptist Church and Cemetery in Amherst County. Located about 6 miles northwest of Lynchburg, the Scott Zion community emerged after the Civil War and was composed of African Americans and some Native American people who migrated away from agrarian communities along the James River. Seeking better jobs and higher pay in Lynchburg, the people settled in Scott Zion and the surrounding area. Since 1872, the Scott Zion Baptist Church property has functioned as the community’s place of worship, education, and social center. The first known burial in the sprawling Scott Zion cemetery occurred around 1890. In 1942, the congregation erected the current church building and in the late 1960s the frame structure’s original stucco exterior finish was covered in a brick veneer.
  • The Greenfield Kitchen and Quarters in Botetourt County. These are two log buildings that formerly stood at the center of the historical Greenfield property, an extensive plantation in Botetourt County established in the mid-1700s by Colonel William Preston. In the 1990s, Botetourt County turned to developing the Greenfield property into an industrial park — a complex known today as Botetourt Center at Greenfield. The kitchen and quarters originally stood behind Greenfield’s plantation house, which burned in 1959. By 2016, the county’s development plans required the relocation within the Greenfield industrial park property of the circa-1845 log kitchen and circa-1864 log slave quarters, after both had endured decades of vacancy and neglect. While the relocations removed the kitchen and quarters from their historic setting, the buildings were moved fully intact, without disturbing their historic fabric or their important affiliation with Greenfield’s African American history. The kitchen and quarters are the only survivors of the many dependencies and agricultural buildings that once stood at Greenfield.

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Ron Fricker

Tech names Ron Fricker as vice provost for faculty affairs

Ron Fricker, interim dean of the College of Science and professor of statistics, has been named vice provost for faculty affairs at Virginia Tech, according to a release from Virginia Tech. Fricker will immediately begin transitioning into his new role and will officially assume leadership of Faculty Affairs upon the hiring of a new dean for the College of Science. 

Fricker has been at Virginia Tech for more than six years, during which time he served as head of the Department of Statistics before moving into an administrative role as senior associate dean in the College of Science and, most recently, interim dean of the college.

Prior to arriving at Virginia Tech in 2015, Fricker was a faculty member in the Operations Research Department of the Naval Postgraduate School and, before that, a senior statistician at the RAND Corporation, and the associate director of the RAND National Security Research Division. His research focuses on performance of various statistical models for use in disease surveillance, and statistical process control methodologies in general. Fricker co-authored a book published at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, “Monitoring the Health of Populations by Tracking Disease Outbreaks: Saving Humanity from the Next Plague,” which led to national and international appearances in media such as Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, among many others.

During the pandemic, Fricker applied his disease surveillance expertise with Laura Hungerford, head of the Department of Population Health Sciences, to co-lead a multidisciplinary team of Virginia Tech faculty, students, and analysts who have spent the past 18 months building models to help the university understand how COVID-19 could impact the campus.