LEBANON, VA – SEPTEMBER 15, 2022 – Two loans and two grants were approved Thursday during a meeting of the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) board in Lebanon. So far this year, the VCEDA board has approved 28 loans and grants for $8.7 million in new funding projected to help create 203 full-time and 94 part-time jobs and more than $3.9 million in private investment.

Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel, noted there have been 23 new projects and expansion/retention projects announced so far this year in the region, which are projected to create 512 full-time and 104 part-time jobs and 29 loans and grants closed in 2022 for a projected 468 full-time and 61 part-time jobs.

Project activity, he said, continues to be high, with 58 active projects currently being pursued. Additionally, he said, so far this year, VCEDA has completed 17 outreach marketing events across the United States.

At Thursday’s meeting, an up to a $400,000 loan to the Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority to be used to finance building construction, renovations and improvements at the former Raven Elementary

Joe Gillespie, center, was presented with a certificate of recognition honoring him upon his retirement from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. The recognition came during Thursday’s meeting of the VCEDA board in Lebanon. He is pictured with Jonathan Belcher, left, VCEDA executive director/general counsel; and Larry Mosley, right, VCEDA chairman.

School and site was approved. The funds will be used to assist with the location of a pending job-creating project which will be announced soon.

In other business, the board approved an up to $350,000 loan to be used to finance site development, building demolition, building construction and improvements for the continued development of the Russell County IDA’s Russell Place property.

With the assistance of a previous $900,000 loan from VCEDA, the Russell County IDA purchased and partially renovated the Russell Place, which was a vacant industrial building and approximately 12.6-acre site in downtown Lebanon. As part of the renovations, demolition work on some older sections of the building which were in poor condition, began.  With the need for additional industrial buildings in the region, the IDA decided it would be best to plan to construct a new industrial shell building on the concrete pad where the part of the property being demolished was formerly located.  However, prior to the IDA seeking funding for a new shell building, additional work needs to be done to prepare the property.

The VCEDA board also approved an up to $232,500 grant from the VCEDA Education and Telehealth Access Fund to be used to finance the provision of low earth orbit space-based broadband to unserved and/or underserved children living in an additional 94 residences in Wise County. The grant will be used for the purpose of expanding education and telehealth access in Wise County.

VCEDA was appropriated $500,000 in the Virginia state budget for FY2023 and $500,000.00 in FY2024 “for initiatives intended to expand education and telehealth access.”  Previously, in FY2022, VCEDA also received $500,000 for that purpose.  At the April 15, 2021 VCEDA board meeting, the VCEDA Board adopted formal policies for the administration of the funds being received from the state, by forming the VCEDA Education and Telehealth Access Fund. 

According to the Wise County IDA’s application, the completion of the project will result in a grand total of 438 students receiving the Starlink Internet service in Wise County.  Wise County has also committed to provide $155,000 in leveraged funding toward the project, according to the application.

The application indicated potential benefits of the project are many, including enhanced educational opportunities, health treatment expansion including improved telemedicine and enhanced workforce education and remote worker (telework) opportunities. 

Also approved was an up to $80,000 grant from the VCEDA Civil Penalties Fund to be used to develop infrastructure and improvements at the Breaks Interstate Park, specifically the replacement of the roof and gutters at the park’s Visitor Center and costs associated therewith. The roof was last replaced more than 30 years ago and is beginning to leak due to normal deterioration of the shingles.

The board also heard a presentation from the Virginia Tech Center for Economic and Community Engagement which has been assisting VCEDA in the development of a new targeted industry strategic analysis for the region. Specifically, the report identifies advanced manufacturing, electronic information technology, energy related enterprises and creative tourism as target sectors.

It was noted the last time VCEDA had a similar analysis done was by the consulting firm of Sanford Holshouser in 2014. The new report helps to identify and verify the industry types which, based on Virginia Tech’s analysis, VCEDA should target for the region’s economic development. It is also used to help develop and refine the targeted industries in VCEDA’s own business development plan. The report was presented by Virginia Tech to the county local economic development directors at VCEDA’s July 8 local economic developers meeting.

At Thursday’s meeting, the board also:

  • agreed to forgive the outstanding balance of the $6 million loan approved by VCEDA to the Buchanan County Industrial Development Authority in 2016 concerning the Appalachian School of Law and to release VCEDA’s lien on the school’s law library to enable the Buchanan County Industrial Development Authority to continue its discussions with ASL on the property. The decision to forgive the outstanding balance was based upon ASL having met the criteria of having at least 145 students enrolled, remaining accredited by the American Bar Association and remaining in operation as a law school in Buchanan County in the initial six years of the 10-year loan term.
  • approved a request from the Dickenson County IDA to extend the grant disbursement deadline concerning an up to $1.2 million grant approved by VCEDA to the IDA in 2020 for Red Onion site development and infrastructure, to a new grant disbursement deadline of September 23, 2023.
  • congratulated VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher on his selection to the Virginia Power 500 list, a listing by Virginia Business magazine of the 500 most powerful, influential leaders in business, government, politics and education in the state. Belcher was one of nine Southwest Virginia residents named to the prestigious list.
  • approved a Certificate of Recognition in honor of Joe Gillespie upon his retirement from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

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.