GRUNDY, VA – JANUARY 28, 2021 —  Up to 110 new jobs will be coming to the Southern Gap area of Buchanan County, Va., this spring as the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) relocates and expands its customer service call center in Buchanan County and adds new jobs.

Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher noted discussions about relocating and expanding the call center to a larger space began last year as the VEC required additional employees to respond to needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“VEC has been a key partner in our region for many years and Buchanan County and VCEDA were involved in VEC’s initial location to the county around 20 years ago,” Belcher said. “When we became aware of VEC’s need for additional capacity, Buchanan County and VCEDA reached out to VEC to propose the larger facility at Southern Gap and that VEC expand its workforce in the region.

“The end result of those discussions was the decision by the VEC to lease the former SYKES Enterprises building at Southern Gap to house the expanded VEC customer service call center,” Belcher added. “I commend the VEC; Buchanan County; the Buchanan County IDA; and Scotty Wampler, former marketing and tourism director for Buchanan County, for their good work on this project.  SYKES Enterprises also deserves recognition for working with the IDA to make the building available when needed.”

In addition to local funds, the project was supported by a $200,000 grant award from the Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission’s CProp program.

Virginia Delegate Will Morefield, in whose district the VEC call center is located, noted the expansion project is the result of the efforts of all involved in working on it.

“VCEDA and Buchanan County deserve much credit for being proactive in approaching the Virginia Employment Commission to discuss the VEC and its needs which is now resulting in additional jobs in Buchanan County,” Morefield said. “VEC’s commitment to Buchanan County also deserves recognition. The call center has operated in Buchanan County for decades and expanding it speaks volumes about the Virginia Employment Commission’s commitment to working with our region.”

In discussions with VEC and as soon as VEC’s interest was confirmed, Buchanan County’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA) purchased the property from SYKES for the VEC project.  The building had been vacant since the summer of 2019, when SYKES decided to close its call center at Southern Gap.

The VEC move to Southern Gap is anticipated in March. More than 100 employees currently work at the existing VEC call center at the Buchanan Information Park at Slate Creek. With the new employees expected to be hired added to the existing workforce, the VEC’s employment number in Buchanan County is expected to grow to be more than 200.

“We look forward to the move to Southern Gap and growing our workforce to better serve our customers,” said VEC Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess. “We have a great team in Buchanan County and the property at Southern Gap is the perfect fit for our need to expand.  This investment in our long-term partnership with Southwest Virginia will yield benefits for all Virginians for years to come.”

The agreement with the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of General Services is for VEC to lease the building and approximately 11 acres of property at Southern Gap on which the building sits. The initial term of the lease is for 10 years, beginning March 1, 2021.

“The Buchanan County IDA was pleased to work with the Virginia Employment Commission on its expansion here in the county,” said Buchanan County IDA Chairman Jay Rife. “With the SYKES building vacancy, we had been searching for a new tenant to occupy the building. As we became aware of the VEC’s future needs, it became evident to us this would be the ideal location and the ideal project for the building — one which would continue to build on the good relationship we already enjoy with the VEC in the county.”

Buchanan County Board of Supervisors Chairman Drew Keene agreed.

“Buchanan County has had a great relationship with the Virginia Employment Commission through the years through the location of the VEC call center in the Buchanan Information Park,” Keene said. “The additional jobs to be created through the call center expansion to the former Sykes building at Southern Gap are a welcome addition to the county’s overall jobs picture. We look forward to continuing to work with them and with other new and existing employers to further improve employment in the county.”

Scotty Wampler, economic recovery coordinator with the Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission and former marketing and tourism director for Buchanan County, who was involved with the project to expand the VEC presence in Buchanan County to Southern Gap while he worked for the county, noted “the Virginia Employment Commission’s decision to expand its customer service presence in Buchanan County is not only a tremendous shot in the arm for the local economy, it’s also an outstanding vote of confidence for the quality of our workforce in far Southwest Virginia. What’s more, the up to 110 new jobs pledged in this project will create yet another anchor employer at Southern Gap, where so many great initiatives continue to converge for the benefit of our entire region.” 

“Virginia Employment Commission’s expansion here in Buchanan County is a great boost for the local economy,” said new Buchanan County Marketing and Tourism Director Matt Fields. “The 110 new jobs created by this expansion will open up new opportunities for county residents … and furthermore, VEC’s new Southern Gap call center will provide quality, well-paying employment for local families. For that, we couldn’t be more excited.”

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. or