PENNINGTON GAP, VA – FEBRUARY 14, 2022 – Driver education — both classroom and behind the wheel instruction — as well as driver improvement and tutoring for license and learner’s permits are among the multiple services offered by Lee Driving School in Pennington Gap.

Lee Driving School is a recent recipient of a $10,000 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) seed capital matching grant.

The new business is owned by Connie Daugherty, Deborah McCoy and Annette Tomlinson. Daugherty, Tomlinson and McCoy are lifelong educators, having served in multiple capacities. Additionally, each of them are active participants in the community where they grew up and currently reside.

“Lee Driving School is a one-stop business for multiple facets of driving,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “While providing a needed service, the new business projects creating six full-time jobs within five years.”

Daugherty, McCoy and Tomlinson decided to open the new business to offer additional components of driver education after hearing requests for additional services. All three are certified instructors through the state. Lee Driving School officially opened its doors last August.

“There are overwhelming requests for other components of driver education in addition to Driver Improvement classes,” Daugherty said, noting an adjacent county no longer offers the behind the wheel portion in their curriculum; therefore, it is the responsibility of the student to obtain that service. Additionally, services offered by Lee Driving School have provided home schooled students an opportunity that has otherwise been sourced outside the area.

The potential market for customers of the new business is one that remains constant since driving is an important part of today’s mobile society, McCoy said. From first time drivers to those needing Driver Improvement, use of a car for the road skills test and those who need to take advantage of a recertification/manual course for 3X Knowledge/Road Skills Test failures, the need for services is evident, she said.

The market itself, she added, is diverse and includes beginning drivers; adult drivers; juvenile drivers; drivers under court order; drivers under DMV requirement; and volunteers who attend for reduced insurance rates.

“Each group has varied needs based on driving experience,” Tomlinson said. “Many drivers have work schedules with limited time for instruction. Lee Driving School is committed to meeting those diverse needs by flexible scheduling.”

Tomlinson noted the VCEDA funds have been used to assist with paying for the new car the school purchased for behind the wheel driving instruction and necessary equipment.

“Getting the VCEDA seed capital matching grant was big for us,” McCoy said. “It afforded us an opportunity to lead in our field and offer services in our area.”

Daugherty, McCoy and Tomlinson worked with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Mountain Empire Community College (MECC) in the development of their application to VCEDA and received a letter of support from the Lee County Industrial Development Authority.

“With 120 years of combined teaching experience among them, Connie, Deborah and Annette established Lee Driving School in Pennington Gap to better serve Lee County and the surrounding area with state-approved classroom and behind the wheel driver education instruction,” said Becki O’Quinn Purdie, director of the SBDC at MECC. “Lee Driving School has met an immense need in Southwest Virginia for pre-licensing, driver improvement and re-examination training. The SBDC has enjoyed working with Lee Driving School and is excited for their continued growth and success.”

Lee Driving School is located at 41670 West Morgan Avenue in Pennington Gap in the newly renovated Community Center and may be reached through its Facebook page, by calling 276-546-6061, or their website at

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

About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in or plan to operate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton.