WISE, VA – February 24, 2023 – With physical fitness continuing to be a priority for many and industry trends projecting that to remain far into the future, the timing was right for Jamie and Brandi Cox to open Absolute Fitness in Wise County. The 24/7 gym, located on 309 Church Street in Wise, recently celebrated its first anniversary and in that time has seen its membership grow to some 561 members.

Absolute Fitness was a recent recipient of a $10,000 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Seed Capital Matching Grant.

“Absolute Fitness presented a solid business plan for growth that was detailed and illustrated how the 24/7 gym would serve the fitness needs of the Wise County area,” said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel. “Their business plan projected two full-time and two part-time employees, but it has already exceeded that projection with one full-time, three part-time and six contract employees now in place.”

From specialized classes like those in Jujitsu to kick boxing, to private fitness programs, the gym offers a little something for everyone through both individual and family memberships with discounts in place for veterans, first responders and school and hospital workers. Absolute Fitness also works with insurance programs, including Renew Active and Silver Sneakers. Personal trainers are also available for hire. The gym is managed by Laura Belcher.

Members are given key fobs to be able to access the gym around the clock whenever it is most convenient for them. Traditional gym equipment including treadmills and bikes, weights and more, are among the types of fitness equipment available. The gym is divided into four quadrants, including areas for cardio, free weights, circuit and classroom space.

Listening to the needs of members is key, according to Cox.

“Since opening day, we have continued to expand the gym by using nearly all net income to purchase the equipment our members request and need,” he said. “We run our business by listening and observing our members. If we see long waits on equipment, we’ll purchase duplicates; if we see a shortcoming with equipment related to a particular muscle group or workout, we’ll purchase the necessary gear. The goal is to make our gym the most efficient and versatile fitness club in Wise County.”

“The VCEDA grant has been a huge help,” Cox said. “We now have more than 500 members and we listen to what they say and poll them as we look at buying new equipment. We’ve used the grant for new equipment. We’re very grateful for the grant.

“By having a 24/7 gym that accommodates all levels of proficiency and strength, we’ve created an area for athletes looking for an edge, seniors looking to stay active and social and anyone looking to become more fit, strong and healthy,” Cox said. “The central location of Absolute Fitness is conveniently located so that residents of the Town of Wise and surrounding areas don’t have to travel out of the area. Motivating oneself to go to the gym to work out can be difficult, especially for the beginner, but it’s made easier by having a convenient and well-maintained gym right in our backyard.”

Jamie and Brandi Cox worked with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Mountain Empire Community College (MECC) in developing the application to VCEDA and received a letter of support from the Wise County Industrial Development Authority.

“Mountain Empire Community College’s SBDC appreciated working with Jamie and Brandi on the VCEDA Seed Capital Fund application,” said Becki O’Quinn-Purdie, SBDC director at MECC. “Absolute Fitness offers the community a great fitness facility with equipment and activities for everyone.  The VCEDA Seed Capital Fund will provide Absolute Fitness the ability to add more equipment to the facility. The SBDC continues to observe Absolute Fitness’s success and growth as they create a community minded fitness center.”

“With fitness and personal health continuing to be of importance, the owners saw a great opportunity to fill a need with their facility in the town of Wise,” said Brian Falin, Wise County Industrial Development Authority executive director. “They have created a state-of-the-art facility that offers the best equipment available and are continuing to grow their business by adding new programs and personal training. The Wise County IDA was proud to provide support for this application and is excited to see Absolute Fitness continue to grow and expand.”

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.

About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses, within qualifying business categories, 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.