Micah McDermott, pictured with his wife, Beverlee, opened Just Melt It in Wise. The business recently received a seed capital matching grant from VCEDA. Photo courtesy of VCEDA.

Here’s a roundup of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to news@cardinalnews.org.

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Wise food truck receives seed grant from VCEDA

Just Melt It, a food truck based in Wise, has received a $10,000 seed capital matching grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority.

“Just Melt It is a food truck with a twist in the way it is approaching its operation as a stationary truck with seating available outdoors on-site, serving both locals and tourists in the Wise County area,” Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA’s executive director/general counsel, said in a news release.

The business expects to create seven full-time jobs within five years, the release said.

Ten percent of the proceeds from the business are planned to go to the Zion Ministries Food Bank to help address hunger issues in the area.

Just Melt It officially opened last June. Owner Micah McDermott said in the release that he plans to enclose the outdoor seating area to allow for the space to be heated. Two roll-up garage doors will seal in the space and offer the ability in the warmer months to raise them. Currently, the space offers seating for 25 to 30 people, but McDermott said he expects the capacity to increase to up to 125-150 as he adds bathroom facilities. Ultimately, he said, he hopes to establish a brick-and-mortar location.

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Eight projects tapped for Opportunity Appalachia investment program

Eight projects in Southwest Virginia and east Tennessee have been selected to participate in a program to bring jobs and investment to the region.

Opportunity Appalachia and its partner, the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, said in a news release that the eight projects propose to create more than 310 jobs and attract $27 million in financing.

Opportunity Appalachia will now work with private investors, banks, community development financial institutions, tax credit investors, opportunity zone investors and federal agencies to connect interested investors with the projects.

The eight projects were selected from the second call for applications in 2022, which focused on Southwest Virginia and east Tennessee.

Through the two application rounds last year, Opportunity Appalachia received 85 applications from those two regions, as well as from western North Carolina, southeast Ohio and West Virginia. A total of 41 projects were selected. In the 2020-21 project round, 17 projects were supported.

Opportunity Appalachia will now provide technical assistance to the newly selected projects to support the development of investment prospectuses, project financing, market research, operations planning, architectural design and investor outreach.

The program is supported by the Appalachian Regional Commission, the U.S. Department of Treasury CDFI Fund, Truist, Goldman Sachs, US Bank and the Dogwood Health Trust. Partners include Appalachian Community Capital, Opportunity Southwest Virginia/UVA Wise, Mountain BizWorks and Main Street America.

Here are the eight projects selected in this round:

Baywood School and property, Galax: A 24,900-square-foot building and adjacent vacant property will be repurposed into affordable housing as well as a community center housing childcare, a wellness center, and business space. The adjacent field could become an outdoor recreation area, including a walking track, a multi-use field, and a picnic shelter. The estimated cost is $1.5 million, with expected creation of 20 jobs.
Proposed child care facility evaluation, Lebanon: A 9,824-square-foot building will undergo renovations to become a child care facility, serving an area struggling to meet the child care demand. Estimated costs are to be determined, with the anticipated creation of at least 15 child care jobs.
Food truck incubator site, Wise: A 13,329-square-foot vacant lot near the campus of the UVA Wise will house infrastructure for food trucks. The project will also partner with UVA Wise to support business development with the food trucks to plan current and future growth. Estimated total costs are $150,000 and anticipated job creation is roughly 10 positions.
Cliffhanger Ranch Adventure Outpost, Coeburn: This project will create an 88-acre outdoor adventure experience that will include cabins, camping and horseback riding. The outpost is located near other state and national parks. Estimated costs total $350,000 with anticipated creation of four jobs upon opening and eight more jobs eventually.
Airport hangar construction, Jonesville: Construction of a 9,600-square-foot aircraft hangar to support aircraft maintenance, increased visitation and, eventually, a flight school program. A planned flight school would address a growing pilot shortage nationally and would train recent high school graduates in an industry with competitive wages that are above average for the area. Estimated total cost is $480,000, with anticipated permanent job creation at eight to 10, with 15 construction jobs.
Highland Inn revitalization, Monterey: This 18-room historic inn built in 1904 will undergo major renovations to return it as an economic engine for the community. The renovated inn will include fine dining and distinctive accommodations for guests. Estimated costs total $3.5 million with anticipated creation of 20 construction and 18 permanent jobs.
Real Good Kitchen food entrepreneurship hub, Knoxville, Tennessee: The hub will expand to 7,200 square feet and upgrade Real Good Kitchen’s current space to include a new storefront and micro-food hall. The space will also undergo a number of green building improvements. The estimated cost is $2 million, with the anticipated creation of 150 jobs and the ability to serve more than 250 businesses over five years.
Zipper Factory, Dunlap, Tennessee: Redevelopment of a historic 64,820-square-foot former zipper manufacturing facility into a range of mixed-use downtown amenities and services. The development follows a number of infrastructure investments including sidewalks, parks, music and farmers market pavilions and public restrooms. The estimated cost is $19.3 million, with the anticipated creation of 40 jobs.

For more information about Opportunity Appalachia, visit appalachiancommunitycapitalcdfi.org/oa-program/opportunity-appalachia-2022-2024/

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Appalachian Power warns of rising water levels on New and Roanoke rivers

Appalachian Power this week warned recreational users downstream of Claytor and Leesville dams that water levels on the New and Roanoke rivers could rise rapidly starting Feb. 3 and continue to fluctuate throughout the weekend.

The National Weather Service is calling for cold temperatures and PJM, the independent regional transmission organization that manages the electric grid in 13 states, has notified Appalachian Power it may need to increase power generation at its hydroelectric plants to maintain the reliability of the regional electric grid if called upon to do so, according to a news release from the utility.

Below Claytor Dam, water levels could increase up to 2 feet in a matter of minutes. Water levels below Leesville Dam could increase as much as 8 feet over a seven-hour period. Those considering recreating on the rivers should monitor AEP’s website for additional information and follow the utility’s Smith Mountain and Claytor Facebook pages for updates.

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Opera Roanoke presents ‘Glory Denied,’ based on true-life story of Vietnam POW

Opera Roanoke will present the American opera “Glory Denied” on Feb. 24 and 26 at the Jefferson Center. 

The opera chronicles the life of Col. Jim Thompson, America’s longest-held prisoner from the Vietnam War. Thompson was held captive in the jungles of southeast Asia for nine years, spending five of those years in solitary confinement. His only source of strength was letters sent to him by his wife, Alyce, prior to his capture.

This opera explores family dynamics during a turbulent time in our nation’s history through the lens of only two characters: Jim and Alyce Thompson, portrayed by two sopranos, a tenor and a baritone.

Prior to both performances, Opera Roanoke will host a veteran’s fair in the Jefferson Center atrium to bring awareness of veteran support groups.

Two additional events will lead up to the mainstage performances of “Glory Denied.” At 10 a.m. Feb. 11, Opera Roanoke will partner with the Grandin Theater for a showing of the Vietnam War-era movie “Platoon.” Free coffee and doughnuts will be provided beginning at 9:15 a.m., and a short lecture on the film and stage adaptations of the war will begin at 9:30 a.m. At 7 p.m. Feb. 16, Opera Roanoke will partner with Hoot and Holler, Roanoke’s only live storytelling event, to share stories of local veterans and their families, with music from the opera. Partial proceeds from this event will benefit Healing Strides, an equine-assisted therapy program in Boones Mill.

All veterans are eligible for free tickets to the “Glory Denied” performances through Opera Roanoke’s Free Community Ticket Program. Reservations can be made in advance by emailing boxoffice@operaroanoke.org or calling 540-982-2742.

Feb. 11: “Platoon” at Grandin Theater. Pre-film lecture 9:30 a.m., film 10 a.m. Free.

Feb: 16: “Voices of Veterans” at Grandin Theater. 7 p.m. Tickets $20.

Feb. 24 and 26: “Glory Denied” at Jefferson Center. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24, 2:30 p.m. Feb. 26. Tickets start at $20.