Funding Also Approved to Expand Starlink Broadband Services in Dickenson, Wise Counties

 LEBANON, VA – OCTOBER 20, 2023 – An up to $2.5 million grant to finance the development of a 20-acre industrial site at Southern Gap in Buchanan County was approved during a meeting of the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Board in Lebanon, Va., Thursday.

Additional funding to expand Starlink broadband services in Dickenson and Wise counties was also approved by the board.

VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher gave a brief overview of activity since the board’s last meeting, noting activity has predominantly focused on attending marketing outreach events, processing of loan and grant applications for the October meeting and following-up on some large business development projects which have not yet been announced.

Belcher noted staff members are currently working around 25 active projects with the highest levels of those being in the manufacturing sector.

“It’s as hot right now as we have seen in quite some time,” Belcher said referring to the manufacturing interest. “It bodes well for the region in the future.”

He added there have been 193 inquiries in the current fiscal year with 33 prospect visits having occurred to date.

Attendees at Thursday’s VCEDA meeting listen to an update on VCEDA activities since the board’s last meeting. It was noted staff members are currently working around 25 active projects with the highest levels of those being in the manufacturing sector.

Some of the highlights since the August board meeting, Belcher said, included the Ronald Blue Trust ribbon cutting in Wise County; the Ronald Mark Associates ribbon cutting in Tazewell County; and the CNX Resources groundbreaking, in the Town of Richlands in Tazewell County.

Belcher also noted work has begun on VCEDA’s foreign direct investment (FDI) marketing campaign with U.S. Market Entry Strategies which promotes the VCEDA region in Europe. The campaign will run through September 2024. Two meetings with the project representatives in Europe have been held to date.

The primary goal of the FDI initiative is to identify European companies which may be interested in expanding to the United States and to get them to consider the VCEDA region for their U.S. operations. Additionally, the initiative is aimed at connecting businesses in the VCEDA region with potential opportunities in Europe as those opportunities might arise.

In other business, funding of up to $694,645.65 was approved for the Breaks Interstate Park for infrastructure improvements and expansions at the park.

An up to $200,000 grant for workforce development and training was approved for Mountain Empire Community College Foundation which will be utilized to benefit students residing in the VCEDA region.

Starlink grants approved at Thursday’s meeting included:

  • up to $161,250 to the Wise County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to benefit senior citizen and telehealth needs in Wise County working with the Mountain Empire Older Citizens group;
  • up to $150,000 to the Wise County IDA to benefit telehealth patients in Wise County;
  • up to $150,000 to the Dickenson County IDA to benefit telehealth patients in Dickenson County;
  • up to $21,000 to the Wise County IDA to benefit mobile telehealth units in Wise County operated by the LENOWISCO Health District; and
  • up to $21,000 to the Dickenson County IDA to benefit mobile telehealth units in Dickenson County operated by the Cumberland Plateau Health District.

Lastly, the board agreed to extend a grant closing deadline on the up to $50,000 grant approved to Sunset Holler, Inc., in April for the Southern Gap Amphitheater project to a new grant closing deadline of March 29, 2024; and to extend the grant disbursement deadline requested by the Economic Development Authority of Scott County for the VFP, Inc. expansion to September 22, 2024.

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