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

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Virginia Department of Energy issues RFP for residential solar in Wise County

The Virginia Department of Energy has issued a request for proposal for companies interested in financing and installing solar on low to moderate income housing in Wise County.

Companies interested should submit their financing proposals through eVA. Maximizing federal, state and local renewable energy incentives, as well as leveraging private investments, is encouraged for those interested. This RFP includes $460,000 in federal funds from Virginia Energy for the residential solar. That includes actual installations on single family, owner-occupied homes and homeowner education. Proposals will be accepted through Aug. 2.

Wise County was selected in part due to their Gold designation from SolSmart, which means the locality is “solar ready.” The county also holds more than 3,000 low- to middle-income homes that could be considered for this solar program. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s data, that many homes have a solar capacity of 23 megawatts.

Details of how to be a part of the program will be announced after a proposal is chosen. 

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National forests announce wood innovation grants

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests announce the award of two Wood Innovations Grants. Under a national USDA program that stimulates and expands wood products and wood energy markets, grant funding supports mass timber, renewable wood energy, and technological development for fuel reduction and sustainable forests, according to a release from the Forest Service.

Virginia Tech was awarded $228,700 for a multistate effort to produce structural grade hardwood lumber. Working with partners and collaborators, researchers are assisting the hardwood industry in creating new markets and increasing the utilization of low-value hardwood from public and private forestlands.

The Virginia Department of Forestry was awarded $250,000 to expand new markets for biochar through collaboration and project demonstrations. Biochar is a stable carbon product produced from biomass sources like wood chips and plant residues. National Forest vegetation management projects aimed at improving forest health leave behind low-quality hardwood biomass which could be turned into biochar, making use of an under-utilized forest product.

More information on these projects and the program can be found on the Forest Service Wood Innovations Program webpage.

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Blue Ridge Literacy receives grant

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation recently awarded Blue Ridge Literacy an $8,000 grant to support adult English literacy.  This local grant is part of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s recent award of $10.5 million donation to support summer, family, and adult literacy programs, representing the organization’s largest one-day grant donation in its 28-year history.

According to Blue Ridge Literacy’s Executive Director, Ahoo Salem, funds from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation will support programming for more than 250 foreign-born adults who participate in BRL’s leveled English for Speakers of Other Languages class programs and one-on-one tutoring services. Blue Ridge Literacy offers in-person and online ESOL classes at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels as well as context-specific English and health literacy and English and digital literacy classes.

With a focus on functional literacy skills, BRL’s ESOL class programs provide adult learners with the reading, writing, and English communication skills they need to interact and operate in everyday settings and to make long-term plans so they can improve living conditions for themselves and their families, according to a release from the group.

See this background story on Blue Ridge Literacy: “Learning how to write love letters (or deal with the DMV“).

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Roanoke County makes Healthiest Communities ranking

Roanoke County has been recognized as No. 133 in the country by U.S. News & World Report in its 2022 Healthiest Communities ranking. 

The county was ranked out of the top 500 urban, high-performing communities nationwide with an overall score of 75 across the study’s criteria. Roanoke County ranked 24 points higher than communities across Virginia and 14 points higher than national averages. 

Healthiest Communities is an interactive platform developed by U.S. News & World Report, in  collaboration with CVS Health. Accompanied by news, analysis and in-depth reporting, the  platform features rankings drawn from an examination of nearly 3,000 counties on 89 health  and health-related metrics in 10 categories. 

Roanoke County’s rankings include better than average scores in the categories of population  health, equity, education, economy and infrastructure.  

In 2021, Roanoke County was ranked No. 196 out of the top 500 urban, high-performing  communities.  

Learn more about the rankings at communities/virginia/roanoke-county.  

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Road in Roanoke County will be closed

Beginning July 5, a section of Virginia 760 (Diuguids Lane) in Roanoke County will be closed as part of a road project to replace the bridge over the Roanoke River. Traffic will be detoured for approximately 45 days.

The bridge is located at the Salem city limits near Virginia 760’s intersection with Virginia 639 (West Riverside Drive). Drivers on Diuguids Lane will need to detour around the closure onto Mill Lane or West Riverside Drive.

Signs and message boards will be posted prior to the closure. In addition, signs will be in place to alert drivers to the detour route.

The road closure and detour were rescheduled from earlier this year due to a delay with fabricating the pre-stressed concrete beams needed to construct the new bridge.

The bridge replacement project will be completed this fall.