VCEDA presents the ceremonial check for the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Grant to Roberts Mill Suites LLC. In photo, from left, John Kilgore, executive director of the Scott County Economic Development Authority; Vickie Roberts, owner of Roberts Mills Suites LLC; Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel; and Tim Blankenbecler, director of the Small Business Development Center at Mountain Empire Community College.

GATE CITY, Va. – Roberts Mill Suites LLC is a new business in downtown Gate City that will offer much needed rental lodging for out-of-town guests or tourists, say the owners of this small business that recently was approved for up to a $15,000 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Seed Capital Matching Grant.

Created by Vickie and Allan “Cotton” Roberts, the new Scott County business was approved for the matching grant under a new VCEDA program. The dollar-for-dollar matching grants in the Seed Capital program are designed for businesses three years and under with less than 10 full-time employees. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications submitted to VCEDA for consideration. The Roberts worked with Tim Blankenbecler, director of the Small Business Development Center at Mountain Empire Community College.

“We like to take a look at what’s needed and try to fill that need in our community,” said Vickie Roberts. She said they felt there was a need for rental lodging in Gate City for when family from out of town comes to visit or for tourists whose numbers are starting to increase with all the outdoor recreation opportunities in Southwest Virginia.

“We talked to the local B&B that’s here in Gate City, and they told us they stay booked May through December and other times during the year like during the races at Bristol Motor Speedway or for performances at The Carter Fold,” she said.

They plan to open the first rental apartment at Roberts Mill Suites soon, a one-bedroom studio. Walls are being created, kitchens and bathrooms are getting installed, and there will eventually be three apartments in the building the Roberts purchased on West Jackson Street in Gate City. All will be listed with the online Airbnb booking service for rental lodging.

Allan “Cotton” and Vickie Roberts receive the ceremonial check for the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Grant for their new business, Roberts Mill Suites LLC.

The couple is installing modern conveniences in the apartments, including keyless entries and wireless communication, and striving at the same time to preserve some of the history of the region and the building itself. In addition to the studio apartment, there will be a two-bedroom apartment with rustic décor and a large apartment that is being created in the space once occupied by the radio station WGAT, which ceased operation this summer.

Actually, says Cotton Roberts, the building sits in front of the location of a turbine grist mill built by a George Roberts, no relation, in the 1700s. The mill is no longer there, but it seemed like a fitting name for their newest business, he said. The Roberts also operate two other businesses along Jackson Street, The Family Bakery, and a gift shop, Roberts and Jones, which is located adjacent to the Roberts Mill Suites building. The Roberts Mill building houses the Airbnb apartments on the upper floor and will have retail space for rent at street level.

“VCEDA is pleased to be able to assist this new small business located in Scott County,” said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA’s executive director/general counsel. “VCEDA was established to help enhance the economy of this region, and one way that we are doing that is by supporting entrepreneurship and the creation of small businesses in our area,” said Belcher.

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and 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 Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education and emerging technologies. 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