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

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Parkway visitation is up

Visitation to the Blue Ridge Parkway was up 21% in 2021 over 2020, according to the National Park Service.

The parkway had 15.9 million visitors last year, the service said in a release. That made it the most-visited park in the National Park Service. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was second with 14.1 million and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area was third with 13.7 million

In 2021, there was a 12.4% increase in camping use on the parkway over 2019, which was the most recent high occupancy year. Specifically, tent camping is up 9.9% and RV use up 16.28% over 2019. Since 2014, camping use on the parkway is up 56.8%.

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VCEDA awards grant to data analytics firm in Richlands

Jordan Bales of Arsenal Development.

The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority has awarded a $10,000 seed capital matching grant to Arsenal Development LLC, a new technology consulting service specializing in data analytics and software development in Richlands.

The company is owned by Jordan Bales.

“It is exciting to see this new technology start-up in our region which seeks to meet the data analytics and software development needs of small to mid-size businesses in our region and beyond,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher in a statement. “The new business, which fits in well with our Southwest Virginia’s e-Region strategy to develop entrepreneurship and technology jobs, projects creating four full-time jobs and six part-time jobs within five years.”

“Our current project is the first intellectual property we are developing for ourselves,” Bales said. “The IP is a software as a service project, commonly referred to as an SaaS. Our market research has shown us that, much like small businesses, small real estate investors are an underserved market. Our goal is to help these smaller investors keep track of their property rehabs by streamlining expense tracking along with contractor communications.”

The VCEDA grant, Bales said had helped him related to working capital costs , equipment and plans to hire his first intern this summer.

Bales worked with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) in the development of his application to VCEDA and received a letter of support from the Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority.

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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Contract awarded for work at Troutville rest stop; it will be closed this summer

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has awarded a $4.89 million contract to Branch Civil Inc. of Roanoke to extend the ramps in and out of the Troutville Rest Area located on southbound Interstate 81 near mile marker 158 in Botetourt County.

Work is expected to begin in spring 2022 and be completed in early fall.

The existing ramps at this rest area are very short, according to a release from VDOT. Extending them will improve safety by providing motorists more space to accelerate or decelerate. The off ramp into the rest area will be extended approximately 500 feet and the ramp onto southbound I-81 will be extended approximately 2,100 feet. The project also includes expanding the truck parking area at the facility by about 10-13 spaces.

Visitors to the rest area may see some preliminary work, such as drainage improvements, as early as this spring. However, the major construction will begin after Memorial Day, and the rest area facility, ramps and parking lot will be closed to the public from late May until early September.

This project is a part of the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program that was approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in 2018 and funded by the Virginia General Assembly in 2019.

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Robert Stalder Named as Chief Information Officer at Emory & Henry College 

Robert Stadler

Emory & Henry College recently hired Robert Stalder as its Chief Information Officer. Stalder brings more than 25 years of experience to the College serving various for-profit and non-profit organizations in leadership capacities of information technology, project management and engineering.

He most recently served as the Coahoma Community College’s Chief Information Officer since 2017 and prior was at the University of Memphis serving as Director of Enterprise Applications for five years.

In his new role he will be directing Information Technology (IT) and Information Security (IS) operations.

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Roanoke Cultural Endowment gets grant for arts marketing

The City of Roanoke has awarded the Roanoke Cultural Endowment a grant of $30,000 through the American Rescue Plan Act for an arts marekting program.

The funding will be used to produce six episodes of BUZZ, a Roanoke-based public television show that features nonprofit organizations receiving pro bono marketing resources. These episodes will highlight arts and cultural organizations in the Roanoke Valley.

The initial episodes will showcase Roanoke Arts Pop! hosted by the Taubman Museum of Art on March 4-6, 2022. This event spotlights 25+ arts and cultural organizations bringing joy and vibrancy to Virginia’s Blue Ridge region. The goal is for Roanoke Arts Pop! to grow into an anchor annual event.

The first episode airs Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. on Blue Ridge PBS. It previews Roanoke Arts Pop! and will focus on attracting visitors to attend. The second episode will cover the actual event promoting participating organizations as well as future years of Roanoke Arts Pop!

The remaining episodes in this project series are still taking shape and will likely focus on collective efforts such as Arts in Healthcare, Arts in Education, Long Term Endowment strategies and need, the Year of the Artist, and the overall identity of Roanoke Arts and Culture, according to a release from the Roanoke Cultural Endowment.

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Junior Achievement seeks volunteers

Junior Achievement of Southwest Virginia is looking for volunteers at Westside Elementary in Roanoke, Eastern Montgomery Elementary in Montgomery County and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia.

If you have any questions about the classes, timing,or dates, please email