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

* * *

Study says parkway visitors spend $1.3 billion

A new National Park Service report shows that in 2021, 15.9 million park visitors spent an estimated $1.3 billion in local gateway regions while visiting Blue Ridge Parkway, according to a release from the parkway. That spending supported 17,900 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to local economies of $1.7 billion. 

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists at the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. The report shows $20.5 billion of direct spending by more than 297 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 322,600 jobs nationally; 269,900 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $42.5 billion.  

As for the economics of visitor spending, the lodging sector had the highest direct effects, with $7 billion in economic output nationally. The restaurants sector was had the second greatest effects, with $4.2 billion in economic output nationally.  

Report authors also produce an interactive tool that enables users to explore visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage:   

* * *

The former Acme building in Russell County. Courtesy of VCEDA.

VCEDA loan will allow Russell County to renovate building for new firm

Loan documents closing on an up to a $200,000 loan from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) to the Russell County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) were recently finalized. The funds will be used to finance additional renovations and improvements at the former Acme building in Lebanon for its new tenant which will bring with it up to 35 full-time jobs within five years, according to a release from VCEDA.

“The IDA has been working with Bates Family Farm, LLC, which is expanding its operations and is interested in use of the building to develop a manufacturing/processing plant,” said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel in a statement. “We are pleased to assist the IDA with the funding needed to meet the new tenant’s upfit needs for the building.”

Bates Family Farm first re-located to Russell County in 2019 and not only raises goats, but is also a manufacturer of goat milk lotions and soaps.

In June of 2021, the VCEDA board approved an up to $500,000 loan request from the IDA to assist with the purchase and renovation of the former Acme building. The building, which is approximately 41,602 square feet, was constructed around 1980. The site is approximately 2.19 acres. The property has public water and sewer and natural gas is nearby. 

The IDA has continued to work with the Bates Family Farm, LLC to expand into the building. Once upfits to the property are completed, the business will occupy the entire building and begin processing its

products from that location.

The loan from VCEDA to the IDA will provide the funds needed to complete the renovations and improvements to the property.

* * *

Keep Virginia Beautiful gives grant to Roanoke group

Habitat for Humanity – Roanoke Valley will receive $1,000 for their Community Beautification project as one of thirty grants awarded throughout Virginia in June as part of Keep Virginia Beautiful’s 12th Annual “Green Grants” Program. 

Every year, government, non-profit, civic, and service organizations in Virginia are invited to apply for grants ranging from $500 to $1,000 that will help address an environmental concern in their community.  Grants must focus on one of the following priorities:   Litter Prevention, Recycling, Cigarette Litter Prevention, or Community Beautification.

Habitat – Roanoke’s Community Beautification project will involve local residents (adults and children) working together to clean the area that was formerly a dump site according to a release from Keep Virginia Beautiful.  They will enhance the area by painting a mural of sunflowers on a 100-foot wall.  

Funds from the Green Grant will be used to purchase supplies for the planned improvements to the new gathering space including tarps, rollers, paint, paint brushes, a stipend for the artist, two permanent trash bins with designed wraps, yard signs, and some seating.  

* * *

Harvest Youth Board funds reading program

The Harvest Foundation Youth Board has funded a $5,000 grant to QuickStart Tennis of Central Virginia to bring the Racquets for Reading program to Martinsville and Henry County Public Schools.

Racquets for Reading, created in November 2020, prepares young children to read at or above grade level by third grade. QuickStart Tennis created the project after COVID-19 forced them to divert from their primary focus of teaching tennis and healthy living and explore new ways to reach kids during the pandemic, according to a release from the Harvest Foundation.

As part of the program, teachers receive funding to purchase books from Scholastic to support their students’ needs. Classrooms receive giveaways to foster the love of reading, including mini reading rubber duckies, “I Love Reading” pins, and fruit-scented bookmarks and stickers.

The first round of giveaways is planned to arrive this September.

For more information about QuickStart Tennis, its programs or how to donate, visit To find out more about the Harvest Youth Board, visit