The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission has approved funding for 16 projects across Southwest and Southside. The grants were approved at the commission’s meeting in Bristol on Thursday. The largest is $800,000 to help expand rail service at the future Blue Star medical glove manufacturing site in Wythe County; the smallest is $2,500 for a sheep wool baler in Grayson County. (Background on the Wythe County project, which has been called the largest manufacturing announcement ever in Southwest Virginia: “Nearly 2,500 jobs announced in Wythe County.”)
Here’s a list of the grants as described by the commission:
#3966, Abingdon Feeder Cattle Association
Improving Genetics, Health, and Management of Small Ruminants in SWVA – $215,000 Grant
Interest in small ruminant production and marketing is increasing in SWVA as additional producers show interest in livestock enterprises. In SWVA counties sheep and goats adapt well to the mountainous and hilly terrain and are one of the fastest growing agricultural segments. This project will support the many small ruminant producers in SWVA by providing and implementing a cost-share program to improve the genetic quality, health, and overall management of producers’ flocks and herds. This project is intended to help build the knowledge and confidence of small ruminant producers and provide them with a thorough understanding of these areas. The project is a collaboration of Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech Southwest Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Small Farm Outreach Program at the Virginia State University, Abingdon Feeder Cattle Association, Virginia Sheep Producers Association, Coalfield Sheep Association, and the New River Valley Sheep and Goat Club.
#3970, Grayson County
Sheep Wool Baler – $2,500 Grant
This project will provide a new wool baler in Grayson County which will allow producers in the region to maintain profitability. Grayson County serves as a collection point for producers to bring wool to be packed and shipped to a buyer. The baler that is currently being utilized is 40 years old, in extreme disrepair and has surpassed its useful life.
#3968, Floyd County EDA
Planning Expansion of the Floyd Innovation Center – $20,000 Grant
This project will assist Floyd County in planning an expansion to the Floyd Innovation Center. The Floyd Innovation Center, built in 2014, serves as the focal point of entrepreneurship, innovation and business development in the County. It is completely full of growing businesses and an expansion is needed in order to continue small business development and job creation. Thirty-six people are employed at the the Innovation Center with the average full time wage being over $68,000 per year which is more than double the local average of $32,032. Three of the 4 businesses at the Innovation Center are growing and need more space and there are no other options for production, office or flex space in the County or Town currently. So far 10 businesses have “graduated” from the Innovation Center.
#3971, Historic Pocahontas Inc.
Engineering Study of Pocahontas Fuel Building and Dr. Ballard Building – $50,000 Grant
This project will assist the Town of Pocahontas with an engineering study that will provide the opportunity to seek funding to restore the buildings. With the success of Adventure Tourism in the area many business owners have/are inquiring to open a business in the town. Unfortunately, no viable buildings remain. Restoring these buildings would provide a much-needed venue to welcome new businesses, thereby increasing revenue for the town, and boosts Pocahontas as not only a tourist destination but a place to be.
#3974, Russell County IDA
ACME Building Renovations – Referred to VRA for $189,000 Loan
This project will provide matching funds for funds received from VCEDA to complete renovations of the old ACME building located in Lebanon VA for the benefit of Bates Family Farm. This will allow Bates Family Farm to expand the business from $1.4 million in 2021 to $2.5 million in 2022.
#3972, Joint IDA of Wythe County
Extension of Rail in Progress Park – $800,000 Grant
This project will expand rail lines to serve the Blue Star NBR site in Progress Park. Lot 24 in the park was recently selected for the largest manufacturing project announced in Southwest Virginia in over a generation. In fact, it’s the second largest manufacturing project announced in all of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the largest creation of manufacturing jobs in 30+ years. Blue Star NBR will be doing the initial construction of a nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) manufacturing facility. Soon thereafter, it is estimated that six glove manufacturing facilities will follow, with those built by Blue Star Manufacturing. This manufacturing campus will be dedicated to re-shoring personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturing in a vertically-integrated model. The significant job creation (2400+ over 5 years) and capital investment ($714 million+ over the same period) amount to game changing levels for our whole region, far beyond our county borders.
#3973, Mount Rogers Development Partnership
Mount Rogers Regional Partnership: Talent & Industry Attraction Program – $300,000 Grant
This project will focus on the expansion of education and training opportunities that lead directly to occupations in the primary target industries of manufacturing; while healthcare is not a target industry, but a key component to the overall economic health, this project will also lead to opportunities in the healthcare sector. Mount Rogers Regional Partnership (formerly Virginia’s Industrial Advancement Alliance) is the Regional Economic Development Organization (REDO) responsible for business retention and expansion, marketing, business attraction, special projects such as site and infrastructure development, and now talent solutions. This is a project that will provide resources to continue business and capital investment attraction while also retaining and attracting talent within the region.
#3967, Town of Big Stone Gap
Regional Outdoor Recreation: Connecting Appalachia, Big Stone Gap, Norton, and Scott County – $300,000 Grant
Development of the Big Cherry Reservoir as both a day-use and overnight-use destination will connect and further enhance the established regional outdoor recreation destinations of the nearby Flag Rock Recreation Area, High Knob Recreation Area, High Knob Observation Tower, Devil’s Bathtub, and throughout the vast Jefferson National Forrest. The Big Cherry Reservoir is a 250 acre lake owned by the Town of Big Stone Gap. In addition to expanding the day-use of trail networks and connectivity for the trails, this project will expand the overnight lodging options of Yurts, Safari Tents, and primitive campsites at each of the destinations. The TRRC funding would construct 18 of the signature campsites at three locations.
#3969, Friends of Southwest Virginia
Southwest Virginia Regional Marketing Campaign – $140,000 Grant
This project seeks to leverage funds from the Commission, the federal POWER initiative, and other state and local resources to take the next step in the marketing of the Southwest Virginia region. This project will enhance the current marketing efforts of Friends of Southwest Virginia by incorporating the creation of new professional video and photography assets of the region and increasing the scope of the marketing campaign to reach new target markets. The goal of this project is to increase visitation to the entire Southwest Virginia region, while also increasing the direct visitor expenditures in lodging, food and beverage, retail, recreation, and transportation sectors of the local economy.
#3960, Patrick County Economic Development Authority
Patrick County Business Development Center – $500,000 Grant
The Patrick County Economic Development Authority proposes to redevelop approximately 16,000 SF of blighted commercial property in the Town of Stuart, Virginia for the purpose and use as a Business Development Center. Connecting local ideas, supporting new and existing business growth, and closing the communication gap to regional resources are important goals that this space will help to meet. Creation of support services and space for ecosystem building are considered essential to the success of modern economic development efforts and have been identified as priorities to regional investment. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for flexible, innovative, and highly networked facilities in rural areas. Utilization of existing MBC fiber is important to this project as the need for high speed internet must be addressed.
#3956, Brunswick County
Stonewall Site Development Project – $27,000 Grant
This project will assist with Due Diligence activities for the Stonewall property located on Governor Harrison Parkway in Brunswick County, Virginia. Completion of the Due Diligence activities by Timmons Group will include a Tier 4 Certification for the Stonewall property which will make the site highly marketable by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. The industrial site is located approximately 10.3 miles west of 1-95 and 8.5 from the Town of Lawrenceville. The site consists of two parcels totaling 387.6 acres of land owned by the County and is connected to electricity, natural gas, water, sewer, and broadband. Currently, the site is zoned Agricultural, but the site is in the process of being rezoned Industrial.
#3957, Franklin County
Tier Improvements of Dogwood Site at Summit View Business Park – $1,500,000 Grant
This project will create a build ready site by completing the grading of the 55+/-acre building pad for a 1 million square foot facility and associated parking, loading, and trailer spaces. The project would also include needed erosion and controls, storm sewer piping, and required best management practices. The full 118-acre site would be available that can be developed in the future for additional support building(s), trailer storage, and flex space.
#3961, Prince Edward County
Water Tank – Prince Edward Heartland Innovation Technology Park – $530,100 Grant
This project will assist with the development of A&E designs for a water storage tank and booster pump station in the Heartland Innovation Technology Park, located in Prince Edward County just outside of Farmville. To develop the site as a marketable data center site, and upgrade it to a Tier IV designation by VEDP. A number of projects are needed, including extending public water and sewer into the Park, constructing a water tower at the site (for fire flow and to help the Park meet daily water demands), extending natural gas service into the Park, and providing electric service into the Park. The PEIDA has been awarded funds through the VEDP Virginia Business Ready Sites Program for A&E designs of water and sewer lines to tie in the HIT Park to the Town of Farmville’s public water and sewer systems.
#3962, Town of Rocky Mount
Cox Site Master Plan – Franklin County – Rocky Mount Industrial Park – $44,940 Grant
This project will raise the level of readiness for the Cox Site, part of the Franklin County – Rocky Mount Industrial Park. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) currently designates the Park as Tier 2 under the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program (VBRSP). The report lays out next steps, including a list of specific engineering and surveying reports, that would increase the tier level of the site. If the reports are completed, and no issues are found in the reports, the site would improve to Tier 4 level of readiness.
#3964, Virginia’s Heartland Regional Industrial Facilities Authority
VHRIFA Business Readiness – Virginia’s Heartland Regional Industrial Park – $112,400 Grant
This project will prepare site design plans for the development of sites in the Virginia’s Heartland Regional Industrial Park for the purpose of marketing the Park. The improvements are needed to bring the Park up to a Tier IV designation by VEDP, which would make the Park marketable to business prospects.
#3963, Town of Stuart
The Star Theatre Economic and Market Feasibility Study – $7,500 Grant
This project will assist the Town of Stuart in hiring a consultant to perform an Economic and Market Feasibility Study for the purchase and operation of a music venue/theatre/community space in a newly designated historic district. These efforts will coincide with a larger downtown revitalization plan being executed by Patrick County Economic Development and the West Piedmont Planning District Commission. The Star Theatre is a 4,725 SF building located at 318 Patrick Avenue in Stuart, VA. It dates back to at least 1947, and like many small rural downtowns, the place has seen numerous businesses come and go. The most recent renovations were completed in 2007 and it has been largely underutilized since that time.
The tobacco commission was established by the General Assembly in 1999 with some of the proceeds from the master settlement against tobacco companies. The commisson’s goal is to help build a new economy in former tobacco-growing communities across Southwest and Southside. To date, the Commission has awarded over 2000 grants and loans totaling more than $1.1 billion.