LEBANON, VA – DECEMBER 15, 2023 –  An up to $800,000 loan to assist in developing a meat processing facility in Tazewell County was approved by the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Thursday during the December 14 meeting of the board in Lebanon, Va.

The Tazewell project was one of several new loans and grants approved for projects in Tazewell, Dickenson, Russell and Wise counties at the meeting.

The new plant is expected to significantly aid local farmers in the region. A VCEDA-commissioned Agricultural Strategic Plan for the region which was published in October 2017 and completed by the Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development, identified the need for a USDA-certified meat processing facility in the region.

VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher noted VCEDA staff members are currently working around 25 active projects with the highest levels of those continuing to be in the manufacturing sector.

Activity since the last board meeting, he said, has focused on marketing outreach events, processing of loan and grant applications for the December meeting, closing of loans and grants approved at prior meetings and assisting the Coalfields Expressway Authority.

Belcher noted that during 2023, 31 loans and grants totaling some $11.42 million have been approved by the VCEDA board and are projected to create or retain 416 full-time jobs and 96 part-time jobs, generating

Long-time VCEDA Board Member Carroll Branham, center, was recognized Thursday during a meeting of the VCEDA board for his service to the board representing Buchanan County. Branham, who has been a member of the board since 2007 is stepping down from that post. He is pictured with VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher, left; and VCEDA Board Chairman Larry Mosley, right.

$21.17 million in private investment.

During 2023, to date, there have been nine new projects announced in the region, which are projected to create 282 full-time and 37 part-time jobs and $24.86 million in private investment. Two expansion/retention projects were also announced in the region during the year and are projected to create or retain 67 full-time jobs, create eight new full-time and one part-time job and generate $900,000 in private investment.

In total, he added, 11 projects, creating or retaining 358 full-time and 38 part-time jobs and generating $25.76 million in private investment were announced in 2023. During the year to date, VCEDA has recorded 212 inquiries and 33 prospect visits and completed 33 outreach marketing events across the United States.

Additionally, in 2023, $7 million was raised for the Coalfields Expressway, which saw the first section open in November 2023.

The annual statistics will be updated after December 31 to reflect the entire year and those will be reflected and reported in the upcoming 2023 VCEDA Annual Report.

In other business, the board recognized long-time VCEDA board member Carroll Branham, of Buchanan County, who is stepping down from the board. A certificate expressing appreciation for his service through the years to Buchanan County, the region and as member of the VCEDA Board representing Buchanan County since 2007 was presented.

In other action, the  board examined the current criteria for businesses eligible to apply for seed capital funding and agreed to add construction-related trades to the list of eligible business categories for the program when the new round of grant applications opens in spring 2024.

Six new $10,000 seed capital grants were approved at the meeting Thursday, including those for Breath of Dawn, LLC; Carl Scott Leather Company, LLC; Bona-Fide Barbecue, LLC; The Well on Main LLC; Good ol Boys Processing, LLC; and Appa Bagworks LLC.

Earlier in the day, the board held a luncheon honoring previous seed capital grant recipients creating the most jobs since the program’s inception in 2017. Since 2017, 178 new small businesses have been approved through the program, with locations in all seven Southwest Virginia VCEDA counties and the city of Norton.

In other action, an up to a $700,000 grant to be used to assist with site development and access road construction related to the Phase 1 development of the Wise County Industrial Development Authority’s Elam Farm property was approved. The property is adjacent to the Lonesome Pine Regional Business and Technology Park in Wise County.

An up to a $79,971.33 grant from the VCEDA Civil Penalties Fund to be used to develop infrastructure and improvements at the Breaks Interstate Park was also approved. The funds will be used for repainting, repairs and improvements to the park’s existing potable water tank; for Phase II improvements to the Chafin Lodge including fire suppression upgrades; and toward the purchase of additional furniture and improvements to the gift shop.

The board also:

  • approved an up to a $187,500 grant and consented to a facilities lease for Project Bluebird, which is pending announcement;
  • approved a modification requested by the Russell County Industrial Development Authority on a loan approved in 2020 for the St. Paul industrial building to extend the loan terms and modify the payment structure to a rents and proceeds transmittal similar to a VCEDA shell building loan;
  • approved a request from the Southwest Virginia Community College Educational Foundation, Inc. to extend the grant disbursement deadline on a $244,126 VCEDA grant awarded in November 2021 to be used for workforce development and training in support of renewable and alternative energy to a new grant disbursement deadline of November 19, 2025; and
  • agreed to extend the deadline in a November 2021 agreement between VCEDA and EarthLink, LLC to a new grant disbursement deadline of November 18, 2024; and
  • elected the following officers for VCEDA for 2024: J. P. Richardson, chairman; Larry Mosley, vice chairman; Esther Bolling, treasurer, and Andy Hrovatic, secretary.

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.