LEBANON, VA – MARCH 22, 2024 – Two loans and one grant with the potential to create 107 full-time jobs, in addition to 40 construction-related jobs, were approved for projects in Buchanan, Russell and Wise counties during a meeting of the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) board in Lebanon, Va., Thursday, March 21, 2024.

The loans included those for development of an office building in Buchanan County;  and to assist with the location of a company to existing space in Russell County. The grant is for a workforce development and training program in Wise County.

At Thursday’s meeting, Roger Rife was welcomed as a returning VCEDA board member, representing Buchanan County, replacing Carroll Branham who did not seek re-election.

The loans approved at Thursday’s meeting, the first meeting of 2024, included an up to $2.214 million loan approved for the Buchanan County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to be used to assist with the construction and development of an office building for economic development purposes at the Southern Gap development in Buchanan County.

Approximately 40 construction-related jobs supported by the building’s construction and approximately 32 permanent jobs created from the rental of space within the building once it is constructed are projected.

The county IDA application noted that with available commercial property in Buchanan County currently becoming aged or located in a floodplain, the IDA is interested in developing new marketable office space in the regional office park section of its Southern Gap development. 

An up to $500,000 loan to the Russell County Industrial Development Authority to assist with the location of an as yet unannounced project in that county was also approved. According to the Russell County IDA application for funding, 75 full-time jobs are projected to be created within three years.

Also approved was an up to $186,091 grant from the VCEDA Coalfield Workforce Development and Training Fund to Mountain Empire Community College to be used for workforce development and training, specifically for costs and expenses of equipment, supplies and tuition for a new Fiber Optic Installation training program and a new Heavy Equipment Operator II training program to support the training needs of multiple employers operating in the region.

The board also agreed to:

  • extend the loan disbursement deadline and the due date of the first monthly payment on the up to $1.5 loan approved by VCEDA on December 19, 2013 to the Virginia Coalfield Coalition, Inc. for a cellular wireless project to April 1, 2028; 
  • extend the loan closing deadline on the up to $3.16 million loan approved for the City of Norton IDA on an as yet unannounced project in that locality to a new loan closing deadline of October 17, 2024;
  • extend the grant disbursement deadline by and between VCEDA and the Breaks Interstate Park Commission on an up to $500,000 grant for a new swimming pool at the park, to a new grant disbursement deadline of February 18, 2025;
  • amend and modify the loan agreement dated March 8, 2018 by and between VCEDA and the Lee County Economic Development Authority on an up to $535,000 loan for the England, Inc. project to extend the loan disbursement deadline to March 8, 2025;
  • extend the maturity date of the up to $147,000 loan from VCEDA to the Dickenson County IDA concerning the purchase of real estate in the Red Onion area of Dickenson County to a new maturity date of February 10, 2034;
  • extend the loan disbursement deadline by and between VCEDA and the Scott County Economic Development Authority concerning the development of a new industrial site at the Riverside development, to a new loan disbursement deadline of March 26, 2025, and also to extend the maturity date on the loan for an additional five years to a new loan maturity date of March 26, 2029;
  • ratify and approve a request from the Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens, Inc. to consent to the reduction in the principal amount of the certificate of deposit securing the loan from VCEDA to AASC by $75,000 to the new CD principal amount of $175,000.00, since AASC has repaid more than $75,000 of the $250,000 loan from VCEDA which AASC used for construction on an adult day care facility in Tazewell County; and to
  • modify the $1.5 million loan approved to the Wise County IDA on February 14, 2019 for equipment at the IDA’s industrial facility on Windswept Boulevard in Wise, Va. to extend the maturity date of the loan to February 26, 2034, as well as certain other technical modifications to the loan.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher gave board members an overview of current and recent year-end activity by VCEDA, noting there are currently 16 active projects being worked by staff — with the most activity being in manufacturing and seed capital.

Belcher noted that in 2023, there were 15 new projects announced in the region, which are projected to create 297 full-time and 50 part-time jobs and to create $25.05 million in private investment. Funds were approved in 2023 for projects in all seven counties and the City of Norton in the VCEDA region.

Two  expansion/retention projects announced in the region in 2023, he said, are projected to retain 67 full-time jobs, create nine new full-time jobs and one part-time job, as well as $900,000 in private investment.

“In total, 17 projects, 373 full-time and 51 part-time jobs created or retained for a total of 424 total jobs, were announced in 2023,” Belcher said. “These projects also announced $25.95 million in private investment in the region.” 

During 2023, the VCEDA board approved 41 loans and grants for $13.25 million in new funding, which is projected to help create or retain 516 full-time and 110 part-time jobs and $27.66 million in private investment.

Belcher noted project activity remained stable throughout the year, averaging around 25 active projects. VCEDA recorded 212 inquiries and 43 prospect visits; and completed 33 outreach marketing events across the United States.

Lastly, Belcher noted in 2023, $7 million was raised for the Coalfields Expressway in Virginia, which as a result saw the first section open in November 2023 as a four-lane roadway. Belcher also noted this month it was announced an additional $7 million in federal funds has been obtained to four-lane two additional sections of the Coalfields Expressway in Virginia.  VCEDA provides staff support to the Virginia CFX Authority.

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.