A new Solar Workforce Accelerator program being funded by an up to $225,000 grant recently approved by VCEDA through its Renewable Energy Fund was announced recently. On hand for the ceremonial check presentation were, from left, Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel; Dr. Tommy Wright, Southwest Virginia Community College president; Susan Lowe, SWCC vice president of institutional advancement and executive director of SWCC’s educational foundation; and Dr. Kris Westover, Mountain Empire Community College president.

Here’s a round-up of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to news@cardinalnews.org.

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VCEDA awards $225,000 grant for solar workforce training

The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority has awarded a $225,000 grant for a  Solar Workforce Accelerator program.

The funds will be used to establish a joint solar education program being developed by Southwest Virginia Community College and Mountain Empire Community College.

The VCEDA funds will be used for workforce development and training, course materials, tuition, books and the purchase of equipment. Through the program, students will be trained and placed in paid internships. A statement from VCEDA said this could ultimately create up to 84 full-time jobs in the solar energy field.

Together, SWCC and MECC cover all of the counties and one city served by VCEDA, with SWCC primarily serving Buchanan, Tazewell and Russell counties and portions of Dickenson County and MECC primarily serving the city of Norton and Lee, Scott and Wise counties and portions of Dickenson County. The two community colleges joined forces to establish the Southwest Virginia Solar Workforce Accelerator.

“VCEDA is pleased to assist in helping to fund the development of the Solar Workforce Accelerator,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher in a statement. “Energy has always been a key industry in our region and this project will position our workforce in the area to be ready as solar energy grows in the future. It marks another project the newly created VCEDA Renewable Energy Fund has helped to grow in the e-Region.”

According to the joint application, the objective of the Solar Accelerator is to create a solar workforce training pipeline in the VCEDA service region by establishing a dual-track solar credentialing and internship program for SWCC and MECC students and local workers. 

It is estimated that in the course of three years, at least six cohorts of eight to 15 students (three cohorts per community college) will complete a seven-day course that will include OSHA certification and solar installation SHINE credentialing.  These and other existing and recently graduated community college students and local workers will be placed in paid internships with local and regional solar companies completing Appalachian Solar Finance Fund approved solar installations in the VCEDA footprint. 

The Appalachian Solar Finance Fund is a regional effort led by Appalachian Voices.

Based on a completed market analysis, according to the application, it is estimated VCEDA’s funds will help to directly support 19 commercial and institutional solar projects in Southwest Virginia, create 84 new jobs, attract $2.4 million in private investment and generate $1.6 million in energy cost savings.  VCEDA’s funding will be leveraged by $1.5 million in Appalachian Regional Commission POWER funding and additional funds approved for the Appalachian Solar Finance Fund.

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COVID testing set in Pittsylvania on Saturday

The Virginia Department of Health’s Pittsylvania-Danville Health District will offer free COVID-19 testing from 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 15 at Riceville/Java EMS Station at 1604 Riceville Road in Java.

Tests are available on a first-come, first-served basis at no cost. No insurance is required and no appointment or advanced registration is needed. Walk-ups are accepted.

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is a proven test for detecting active infection. PCR may also reveal fragments even after the virus appears to be gone. The test is performed by using a swab to collect a respiratory specimen with results expected to be available approximately three days following the test.

 “The goal of providing these free testing opportunities to the citizens of our community is to help prevent further spread of the virus and to assist in keeping our healthcare systems from being overwhelmed,” Scott Spillmann, director of Pittsylvania-Danville and Southside Health Districts, said in a statement. “Our hospital emergency rooms and rescue squads need to be reserved for medical emergencies, so if you’re seeking a COVID test and it is not an emergency, please utilize our community testing events or arrange for testing at one of our retail pharmacy partners.”

Testing is available to all ages. However, a parent or guardian must accompany anyone under 18 years old.  

To protect yourself and healthcare workers, wear a cloth face covering or mask. Keep at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and other people at all times. Be sure to tell the testing providers if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, deep cough or shortness of breath, or believe that you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

VDH recommends that the following people be tested for COVID-19:

·       Those with symptoms or signs of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status.

·       Those who have come in close contact with someone known or suspected to have COVID-19.

o   Fully vaccinated people should be tested three to five days following a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, even if you don’t have symptoms.

o   People who are not fully vaccinated should be tested immediately after an exposure, and again five to seven days following exposure if the first test is negative.

·       Those who participate in activities that are higher risk for COVID-19 exposure (e.g. travel, attending large events where social distancing is not possible, or being in crowded indoor settings).

·       Those who have been referred for COVID-19 testing by their healthcare provider or the health department.

·       Those who plan to travel or who have recently returned from travel with some exceptions for fully vaccinated people.

·       Those who are not fully vaccinated and who plan to visit people at high risk of developing severe COVID-19.

For more information about this event, call 434-713-5199 or 434-766-9800. For questions about COVID-19 testing or a list of testing locations, visit the VDH website or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682), Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For those still needing a COVID-19 vaccine, visit or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1). English- and Spanish-speaking operators are available. Translation services also are available in more than 100 languages.

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Steven Davis being sworn in as Commonwealth’s Attorney of Wise County. Courtesy of Wise County.

Davis sworn in as Wise County/Norton prosecutor

Stephen Davis was sworn in as commonwealth’s attorney of Wise County and Norton on Wednesday. He succeeds Chuck Slemp, who designed to become deputy attorney general under Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares.

Davis is a 2003 graduate of Clintwood High School and has lived in Wise County since 2012.  In 2009, Davis graduated from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise with a double major in history and Spanish foreign studies.  He then attended the Appalachian School of Law where he graduated cum laude in 2012. Upon passing the Virginia State Bar examination, he worked for the Virginia Magistrate System for three years before joining the Wise County and city of Norton commonwealth’s attorney’s office in January 2016. 

He is seeking the Republican nomination for the special election to fill the remainder of Slemp’s term.

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The new logo for the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation.

Alleghany Highlands unveils new logo, marketing assets

The Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation has announced that it has “developed new marketing assets to better represent the region for economic development activity.”

The new resources include a refreshed mission, vision and values, a new logo, website, a fresh photography library and a more active branded social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

“The AHEDC has truly come a long way since November 2020 when we began working on a new business plan,” said Krystal Onaitis, AHEDC chair and Covington city manager. “These professional marketing assets have laid the foundation, and now we are about action. We are collaborating closely with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership to ensure our region is considered for new business attraction and expansion.”

The organization worked with Hunton Andrews Kurth and Timmons Group on the
business plan and JLV Communications and Whittington Consulting on the marketing elements.

The new website is at https://www.ahedc.com/
Social media channels include: https://www.facebook.com/AlleghanyHighlandsEconomicDevelopmentCorp

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