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

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Liberty begins construction on art museum

Construction begins this week on the newly renamed Liberty University Art Museum.

The Barbara A. Engstrom Gallery will take up one-third of the space. It will contain 30 of Engstrom’s own paintings in addition to glass and sculpted figures and photography collected from her travels to 99 countries. Engstrom also wrote a book, “Faith to See,” that was displayed in the Louvre in Paris and will now be available in Liberty’s museum.

Engstrom passed away in December. She and her husband, Frederick, began their contributions to Liberty in 2013 when they supported scholarships for some of the first students in the Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Engstrom later started scholarships for five art students at Liberty.

She had originally planned to donate her art to a gallery closer to her home in the Philadelphia area, Liberty said, but the museum declined to display it in the way she wanted: “with reminders of the art being evidence of the glory of God.”

In addition to providing funds for the museum expansion and gifting the collection, the Engstroms also set up new scholarships for arts students who are asked to create new pieces for God’s glory and display them around the university or in Lynchburg.

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VCEDA announces economic development projects

Several projects anticipated to create more than 100 new full-time and part-time jobs in Southwest Virginia’s e-Region were approved Thursday during a meeting of the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority’s board of directors.

The board welcomed two new members: Scotty Wampler, the new executive director of the Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission, and Andy Hrovatic, representing the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors.

Jim Baldwin, who announced his retirement from the CPPDC earlier this month, but who will stay on as CEO of that organization through June, was recognized with a resolution honoring his long-time service on the VCEDA board and to the region. In addition to serving as a member of the board, Baldwin also served as its secretary. J.P. Richardson was named the new secretary of the board during Thursday’s meeting.

A resolution honoring the life and work of Wise County Industrial Development Authority Executive Director Carl Snodgrass, who died earlier this month, was also adopted by the board. Snodgrass, it was noted in the resolution, was instrumental in the economic development and economic diversification of Wise County, having worked on hundreds of projects throughout his career which led to the creation of thousands of jobs for the citizens of Wise County and the coalfield region of Virginia.

In other action at Thursday’s meeting, the board approved:

  • up to $4 million as a loan to the Dickenson County IDA to assist with the development of an inpatient substance abuse rehabilitation facility at Red Onion in Dickenson County;
  • up to $601,600 as a grant to the Breaks Interstate Park to be used to develop infrastructure and improvements at the park, including lodging renovations and additional funding for the Potter’s Flats Swinging Bridge project;
  • up to $500,000 as a grant to the Breaks Interstate Park to be used to help finance the construction of a new swimming pool at the park;
  • up to $200,000 as a loan to the Russell County Industrial Development Authority to be used to finance additional renovations and improvements at the former Acme building and site in Lebanon. Previously the VCEDA board approved an up to $500,000 loan for the IDA to assist with the purchase and renovation of the building. The IDA is currently working with a potential tenant for the building;
  • up to $1.2 million as a loan to the Wise County IDA to be used to finance the purchase of an approximately 10,000 square foot office building in the Lonesome Pine Regional Business and Technology Park in Wise for future tenant recruitment;
  • an earmark of up to $170,000 to the Dickenson County IDA to be used to help finance Phase II of a medical device manufacturing feasibility study, subject to a forgivable loan application from the IDA based upon performance conditions for consideration and approval by the VCEDA board at the next VCEDA board meeting. In November 2020, the VCEDA board approved a $170,000 grant for Phase I of the study; and
  • an earmark of up to $200,000 as a grant to the Dickenson County Industrial Development Authority to be used to assist with the development of a splash pad recreational area at Clintwood. The matter will be considered further at the VCEDA board’s April meeting as the board looks at amendments to policy language in order to allow counties to request  transfers of a limited amount of funds from their VCEDA county accounts to the VCEDA Tourism Capital Improvement Matching Fund to fund specific projects meeting the guidelines for the Tourism Capital Improvement Matching Fund. Previously, the VCEDA board approved a $50,000 grant for the splash pad project from the Tourism Capital Improvement Matching Fund, however as the Dickenson County IDA began receiving proposals on the project, the costs came in higher than anticipated, resulting in the request this week for additional funding.

In other business, the board agreed to forgive a $500,000 loan to the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority and to convert it into a grant. The funds were used for the development of trails in Dickenson County, including the Ridgeview Trail system at Haysi. SRRA drew down $350,936.93 of the original loan amount and requested the amount be converted into a grant after the demonstrated success of the trails. 

The board also agreed to extend the disbursement deadlines on three existing loans including a loan of up to $535,000 to the Lee County Economic Development Authority for the England Furniture project at Dryden, a loan of up to $150,000 to Tazewell Cinema & Entertainment LLC for the Tazewell Cinema project, and a loan of up to $300,000 to the Dickenson County IDA for the acquisition and development of a site in Clintwood.

A disbursement deadline for an up to $433,000 grant to the Breaks Interstate Park for the Potter’s Flats Swinging Bridge and various other infrastructure improvements was also extended.

Lastly, the board agreed to allow the Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority to lease the Bluestone shell building for a pending project. In 2017, VCEDA approved a loan of up to $2,739,700 to the IDA for the construction of the shell building. 

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Macy to be Ferrum’s graduation speaker

Ferrum College has announced that journalist and bestselling author Beth Macy will be the keynote speaker for its 106th commencement ceremony on April 23.

Beth Macy

Macy is the author of the critically acclaimed and New York Times-bestselling books “Factory Man,” “Truevine” and “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America.” Macy served as executive producer and writer on the acclaimed Hulu limited television series, “Dopesick,” which was based on her book and starred Michael Keaton, who won a Golden Globe for his performance as Samuel Finnix.

A longtime reporter who specializes in outsiders and underdogs, Macy has won more than a dozen national journalism awards, including a Lukas Prize for “Factory Man,” multiple shortlist and best-book-of-the-year honors for “Truevine,” and a Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard University for her newspaper writing.

A frequent speaker, teacher, and essayist, Macy has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Oprah Magazine and Parade.

Her upcoming book, “Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice, and the Future of America’s Drug Crisis” (August 2022), focuses on solutions to the opioid crisis and the heroic efforts of frontline workers applying harm reduction practices on the streets of America. 

Macy was a reporter for The Roanoke Times from 1989 to 2014. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and her master’s degree in creative writing from Hollins University.

Ferrum College’s commencement ceremony honoring the class of 2022 will be held at 10 a.m. April 23 in Adams Stadium on campus. For more information, click here.

(Disclosure: Macy is also a member of Cardinal’s journalism advisory committee.)