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

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Danville Pittsylvania chamber to hold workfoce summit May 25

The Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce is hosting a workforce summit on May 25 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research. This year’s summit is focused on strategies to recruit, retain, develop and engage talent in the region.

“The job market is more competitive than ever, and your business success relies on having  the right people with the right skills,” said Katie Beach, owner of Katie Beach Consulting and one of the facilitators of the summit, in a statement. “Recruiting and retaining the right talent has  always been challenging, combine that with changing demographics and economic conditions and the challenge is bigger now.” 

The summit will focus on how to make companies stand out from the competition and  connect with the best talent. The program will provide opportunities to assess a participant’s  current strategies for recruiting and retaining talent to meet today’s needs and prepare for tomorrow’s opportunities. Participants will leave with a toolkit to evaluate their current  needs and future talent strategies. 

Through interactive discussions and case exercises, participants will learn and practice ways to: 

● Assess your organization’s combination of talent and experience and how they align with your business goals 

● Understand the stages in the employee continuum 

● Apply new knowledge through interactive case studies 

● Connect with resources to build your internal and external talent pipeline

Beach will facilitate the program along with Charity Boyette, co-founder and COO of Tractus  Strategic Partners, and Kimberly Carlson, co-founder and CEO of Tractus Strategic Partners. 

The event is sponsored by the Danville Office of Economic Development, the Pittsylvania County Economic Development Department and American National Bank. 

The summit is available to chamber members and nonmembers. To register, visit the chamber’s website at If you have questions about the summit, call the chamber office at 434-836-6990. 

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P&H recognizes three instructors

Patrick & Henry Community College has recognized three instructors for the significant impact they have had on their students. The awards presented this week were the Teaching Faculty Member of the Year Award, the Distinguished Faculty Member of the Year Award and the Faculty Award for Professional Excellence. The recipients are nominated by their colleagues or students.  Winners are recognized during end of the year celebrations and presented with cash prizes.

This year, the award winners are:

Teaching Faculty Member of the Year: LaDonna Varner, English instructor

Distinguished Faculty Member of the Year: Jason Worley, biology professor

Faculty Award for Professional Excellence: Randy Smith, welding instructor

Varner, who won the college’s highest award for instruction, was recognized for her ability to spread positivity and foster student engagement. One nomination for Varner expressed that she “relentlessly strives to encourage and foster leaders of our very own community.” Varner teaches traditional and dual enrollment courses while also guiding the development for new and expanding programs, working as the dual enrollment liaison and serving as a faculty advisor for Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society. She was also selected to teach a first-of-its-kind class that blends dual enrollment and traditional students as well as online and in-person learning.

Worley was recognized for not only contributing to the field through his research and publications, but also for the way he has mentored his students involving them in the his research and publication work. Through his research and mentorship, not only has P&HCC been part of the discovery and documentation of four species never before reported in the area, but his students became co-authors in the professional publications for this research. Through his mentorship, these students have gone to gain more and more noteworthy research and publication opportunities.

One nomination said that Worley “sparks student interest in science and creates a thirst for learning.”

Smith was recognized for his unwavering dedication to his students’ success while balancing the considerable work required to prepare for the new welding facility that will be opening soon. He also frequently works with employers to connect his students with potential career opportunities. A nomination stated Smith “exudes a student-first attitude. He is very dedicated to affirming and showcasing student talent. […] He is a bridge builder from academic training to a student’s real world employment.”

The Teaching Faculty Member of the Year and Distinguished Faculty Member of the Year Awards presented by the P&HCC Foundation and are made possible by an anonymous donation. The Faculty Award for Professional Excellence is part of the Faculty Reward and Recognition Policy that was created and enacted by campus leadership and faculty

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The Sweetbriar development. Courtesy of People Incorporated.

Construction starts on affordable housing development in Abingdon

Construction has started on Sweetbriar II, the second phase of People Incorporated’s Sweetbriar affordable housing development in Abingdon, which is set to complete in early 2023.

Once complete, Sweetbriar II will consist of 22 three-bedroom, two-bathroom duplex units that will complement the existing Sweetbriar development and surrounding neighborhood. Five of the units will offer permanent supportive housing services for households with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to a release from People Incorporated.

Funding for the $7.2 million project is provided by a mixture of private and public financing sources, including $600,000 from the Virginia Housing Trust Fund and $517,000 from Housing Innovations in Energy Efficiency Funding, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

Sweetbriar II will be one of the agency’s most energy efficient housing developments to date, lowering the cost of utilities for residents and improving their quality of life.

People Incorporated currently owns and manages 31 affordable housing properties in Virginia and Tennessee, all of which provide housing to low-income, very low-income, or extremely low-income families and individuals.

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Blasting to begin at Lovers Leap road project May 23

As part of the ongoing project to widen U.S. 58 over Lovers Leap Mountain in Patrick County, blasting is tentatively scheduled to begin the week of May 23. The first blasting will impact traffic in the vicinity of Dehart Botanical Gardens, approximately 1.7 miles east of the Lovers Leap Mountain overlook and Fred Clifton Park.

For blasting that is close to U.S. 58, traffic in both directions may be blocked for approximately 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Drivers and residents along the U.S. 58 corridor should expect loud noise and allow extra travel time. Electronic message boards will be used to inform drivers of scheduled blasting that will impact traffic.

Intermittent blasting will be scheduled between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays and will begin in spring 2022 and continue at various locations on the project through summer 2025. Approximately 11 million cubic yards of material must be moved as part of the $300 million road widening project.

Detours and long-term closures are not planned as part of the U.S. 58 Lovers Leap widening project. However, in the event that debris or rock moves into the roadway as part of a blast and a detour is needed, the Virginia Department of Transportation reminds drivers that the fluorescent pink posted detour signs are for incidents or emergencies.

The project on Lovers Leap Mountain will improve safety on U.S. 58 by expanding the road from two lanes to four lanes starting 0.3 mile east of Virginia 610 (Cloudbreak Road) and extending to 0.7 mile north of Stuart. Construction is estimated to be completed in late spring 2026.