LEBANON, VA – APRIL 28, 2023 —  Loans and grants totaling more than $900,000, including those for site development, broadband, workforce development and tourism-related projects projected to create additional employment and access to high-speed Internet in Southwest Virginia’s e-Region were approved Thursday during a meeting of the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority board in Lebanon. Five of the projects approved are related to tourism initiatives through the VCEDA Tourism Capital Improvement Matching Fund and the VCEDA Civil Penalties Fund.

The board also agreed to earmark an additional up to $500,000 from the VCEDA Coalfield Workforce Development and Training Fund for the VCEDA Renewable Energy Fund, subject to the existing guidelines and to adjust the application deadlines on the VCEDA Renewable Energy Fund to a rolling basis.

VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher updated board members on activity since the last meeting, noting activity has focused on attendance at marketing outreach events, production of the annual report, processing of loan and grant applications for the April board meeting and assisting the Virginia Coalfields Expressway Authority.

Belcher noted that currently VCEDA staff members are working with 35 active projects, with the highest levels currently in the manufacturing and small business sectors. Staff members are also in the process of reviewing seed capital applications which will be considered by the board in June.

The board also named VCEDA Board Member Andy Hrovatic the new secretary of the board, replacing Josh Ball, who recently stepped down and welcomed Sonny Ciampanella as a new member of the board, representing CNX Resources, replacing Ball.

At Thursday’s meeting, tourism-related grants approved were as follows:

  • An up to $50,000 grant to be used to help finance the construction of the Southern Gap Amphitheater in Buchanan County was approved. The application projects eight full-time jobs and 81 part-time jobs will be created within the first year. The application also estimates 95 full-time equivalent jobs throughout the region will be created and 50 construction jobs during the construction phase of the project.
  • An up to $50,000 grant was approved to be used to finance the construction of an amphitheater and the installation of e-bike charging station(s) for the Honaker Community Park and Recreation Area along the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail in the Town of Honaker.
  • An up to $50,000 grant was approved for the Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority (HOA) to be used to assist with the marketing of tourism-related businesses and assets located within the VCEDA region. HOA was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1993 to “promote, expand and develop the tourism industries of this coal-producing region as a whole.” HOA covers the same eight localities as VCEDA. The application projects the addition of one full-time employee and one part-time employee within four years.
  • An up to $50,000 grant was approved for the Theatre Guild of Buchanan County to be used to finance facility renovations and improvements at the Community Arts Mainstage facility in Buchanan County. The application projects two full-time and three to four part-time jobs within five years.
  • An up to $168,155.12 grant from the VCEDA Civil Penalties Fund was approved for the Breaks Interstate Park to be used to develop infrastructure and improvements at the park, including renovations and new furniture at the park’s restaurant/conference buildings, improved park entrance lighting, swimming pool construction, an HVAC unit for the Visitor Center and more.

Additional projects approved by the board Thursday were as follows:

  • An up to $217,000 grant from the VCEDA Dickenson County Account was approved to be used to finance site development and engineering fees to assist with the Dickenson County Industrial Development Authority’s Chip Mill Site Redevelopment Project in the Red Onion area of Dickenson County. In 2021, VCEDA approved an up to $1.175 million loan to the IDA to be used to finance the purchase of the former Mountain Forest Products chip mill site containing about 433 acres of real estate in Dickenson and Wise counties. The IDA would like to repurpose the abandoned chip mill site to provide a build-ready pad of approximately 23.5 acres to market the site to potential developers for future job creation and economic growth.
  • An up to $169,152 grant was approved to the Dickenson County IDA to be used to finance the provision of low earth orbit space-based broadband, including costs and expenses of hardware, wiring and two-year subscriptions for each household served for the purpose of expanding education and telehealth access in Dickenson County for unserved and/or underserved children in the county. The initial up to $124,800 will come from the VCEDA Education and Telehealth Access Fund and the remaining up to $44,352 will from the VCEDA Dickenson County Account.
  • An up to $30,000 grant was approved to the Dickenson County IDA from the VCEDA Dickenson County Account to be used to finance additional site development related to the construction of a permanent entrance and installation of roller compacted stone, at the IDA’s “Green Lot” located in Clintwood. The lot currently lacks an entrance and cannot be reached from Main Street. The IDA plans to work in conjunction with the Town of Clintwood to provide a space at the lot for a local farmers market and food trucks, while a more permanent solution for the long-term development of the Green Lot is explored.

In other business, the board agreed to reappoint VCEDA Marketing Coordinator Susan Copeland as VCEDA’s representative on the board of the Mountain Empire Regional Business Incubator for a four-year term beginning July 1, 2023 and expiring June 30, 2027.

A grant of up to $117,150 from the VCEDA Coalfield Workforce Development and Training Fund (Renewable Energy Fund allocation) was approved for the Mountain Empire Community College Foundation to be used for workforce development and training for the continued development and implementation of the Southwest Virginia Solar Workforce Accelerator.

The board also approved a request from the Wise County Industrial Development Authority to consent to the IDA’s lease-purchase of the office building and site located at 5957 Windswept Boulevard in Wise for a project not yet announced.

Several grant disbursement and loan extension deadlines were also approved Thursday by the board as follows:

  • The grant disbursement deadline in an agreement between VCEDA and the Dickenson County IDA concerning Haysi and Clintwood sites development was extended to a new grant disbursement deadline of June 1, 2025.
  • An extension of the loan closing deadline was approved on the up to $10 million loan conditionally approved by VCEDA on August 17, 2017 for Project Jonah. The new loan closing deadline is now June 30, 2024, with all other terms and conditions remaining the same.
  • The grant agreement disbursement deadline in the May 7, 2018 agreement by and between VCEDA and the Buchanan County Industrial Development Authority on an up to $2 million grant from the VCEDA Buchanan County Account for the Southern Gap Transportation and Logistics Center was extended to a new grant disbursement deadline of May 7, 2025.

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.