LEBANON, VA – NOVEMBER 19, 2021 — The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority has continued to drive success in job creation and private investment in the region, despite the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher told members of the VCEDA board of directors during Thursday’s meeting of the board.

In addition to hearing the interim report from Belcher at the meeting, board members also approved the first funding from its newly created renewable energy fund; okayed $158,000 in funding for 16 new seed capital matching grant projects; and approved funding for three other projects.

In delivering his interim report to the board, Belcher noted 2021 has been an active year for the authority and the region thus far with 57 new and expansion/retention projects announced projecting 985 full time jobs and 131 part time jobs involving $203,718,591 in private investment. An additional project which is pending announcement, Belcher said, will increase the total job creation number to more than 1,000 full-time jobs and increase the private investment number to more than $210 million.

Since 2007, VCEDA has reported business announcements involving 209 new projects and 70 expansions creating 9,539 full-time jobs and 1,719 part-time jobs and involving $749.6 million in private investment.

In 2021, Belcher noted, VCEDA has approved the highest quantity of loans and grants in its history, totaling $6.15 million for 64 projects. Belcher noted projects had been approved in all eight localities in the VCEDA region – Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell, Tazewell, Lee, Scott and Wise counties and the city of Norton — during the year.

He also noted there were 64 prospect visits in 2021, including in-person and virtual and 203 inquiries year-to-date. The majority of those were generated through VCEDA efforts, although some came through the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and through allies of VCEDA. VCEDA and its staff have also participated in 18 marketing events, either virtually, or in-person, thus far in 2021.

VCEDA severance tax receipts from coal and natural gas, which is the primary funding utilized by the authority for projects, have declined to levels of around 25 years ago, Belcher said. Buchanan remains as the top producer, followed by Dickenson County and then by Tazewell County.

In other business, the board approved funding for several new projects, including, as follows:

  • up to a $244,126 grant for the Southwest Virginia Community College Educational Foundation from the VCEDA Coalfield Workforce Development and Training Fund (Renewable Energy Fund allocation) to be used for workforce development and training in support of renewable and alternative energy programs;
  • up to a $225,000 grant from the VCEDA Coalfield Workforce Development and Training Fund (Renewable Energy Fund allocation) to be used for workforce development and training for the development and implementation of the Southwest Virginia Solar Workforce Accelerator at Mountain Empire Community College and Southwest Virginia Community College;
  • up to a $100,000 grant from the VCEDA Coalfield Workforce Development and Training Fund to be used for workforce development and training to assist with the location of EarthLink, LLC to the Wise/Norton area of the VCEDA region. On September 14, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam announced that EarthLink, a leading high-speed internet service provider, will invest $5.4 million to establish a major customer support center in Norton, which will create 285 new jobs. The board also approved a request from the Wise County Industrial Development Authority to consent to the IDA’s leasing of a portion of the former Sykes Enterprises building which VCEDA previously helped to fund, which will be leased to EarthLink as a temporary facility while a permanent facility is constructed in Norton;
  • up to a $50,000 grant from the VCEDA Coalfield Workforce Development and Training Fund to the Napolean Hill Foundation to be used for workforce development and training to assist with the development of an online interactive course in entrepreneurial skills for high school students in the VCEDA region. The Napoleon Hill Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit corporation formed in 1962 and currently located on the campus of the University of Virginia’s College at Wise; and
  • up to a $60,000 loan from the VCEDA Dickenson County account to be used to finance additional site development at the Dickenson County IDA’s approximately one acre lot in the Town of Clintwood, including the installation of a stormwater detention system.

The board also agreed to convert a $112,000 loan awarded previously to the Buchanan County Industrial Development Authority to grant status, based upon the project having achieved the performance metrics for loan forgiveness required in the loan approval. The funds were used to help finance the installation and extension of high-speed broadband in the Conaway area of Buchanan County.

Seed capital matching grants were approved for 16 new businesses projecting the creation of 52 full-time jobs and 65 part-time jobs and private investment of $733,512.

Grants approved included those for $10,000 each for Southern Charm Decor LLC and The Weeping Willow Café & Tap House Inc., Russell County; Appalachian Adventures & Outfitters, Inc., Arsenal Development LLC, LECOWATIPA LLC d/b/a Route 19 Hot Dog Shop, Ole No. 3 Restaurant & Bar, LLC and Snuckle Butter, LLC, Tazewell County; American Muscle Detailing, LLC, Dickenson County; Appa Valley LLC d/b/a SoVa Gardens and Lee Driving School, Lee County; The Coffee Station LLC, Engine 343 Wood Fired Brick Oven Pizza LLC, 404 Café and Creamery, LLC, Huff Daddy BBQ LLC and Big Stone’s Gap Golf, Miniature Golf Course, LLC, Wise County; and $8,000 for Hand in Hand, PLLC in Buchanan County, which requested and was approved for that amount.

In other business, the board also heard an update on the medical manufacturing feasibility study for which VCEDA previously approved an up to $170,000 grant to the Dickenson County IDA. The study, being conducted in partnership with the IDA by Medentum Innovations, Inc., focuses on fostering economic diversification into new sectors surrounding medical devices and information technology (IT).

Lastly, the board elected officers for 2022, with the current officers of Larry Mosley, chairman; Josh Ball, vice chairman; Esther Bolling, treasurer; and Jim Baldwin, secretary, being re-elected to serve in those positions for 2022.

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. www.vceda.us or www.e-Region.org.