SWVA Well-Represented at SEDC

SWVA was well represented in Williamsburg at the annual conference of the Southern Economic Development Council (SEDC) held earlier this month. The group was joined at the VCEDA booth by Jason El Koubi, president and CEO of VEDP, after he presented the session, “Accelerating Economic Development in the #AmericanSouth: A look at the Commonwealth of Virginia.” Pointing out we’re Number 1 in the photo are John Kilgore, Scott County; Fred Ramey, Norton; Natalie Chapman. Wise County; Susan Copeland, VCEDA; Brian Falin, Wise County; Jason El Koubi, VEDP; Dana Cronkhite, Dickenson County; Richard Johnson, Lee County; and Charlotte Mullins, VCEDA.

Also speaking at the event was Caren Merrick, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade, who also visited the VCEDA booth.

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Long-time Economic Development Leader Jay Rife, center, was honored for his decades of service during a meeting of the VCEDA board Thursday upon the occasion of his upcoming retirement. Pictured with Rife are VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher, left; and VCEDA Vice Chairman J.P. Richardson, right.

Wise Site Development Loan, Resolution Honoring Long-Time Economic Development Leader Jay Rife Approved by VCEDA Board

An up to $300,000 loan to the Wise County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to finance site development and a resolution recognizing Jay Rife, of Buchanan County, upon the occasion of his upcoming retirement, were among the items approved during a meeting of the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) in Lebanon, Va., August 17, 2023.

The loan to the Wise County IDA will be used to assist with the Phase 2 development of the IDA’s Elam Farm property which is adjacent to the Lonesome Pine Regional Business and Technology Park.  In 2013, VCEDA previously assisted with an up to $834,250 loan to the IDA to help acquire the Elam property for future economic development. The VCEDA board’s action on Thursday also saw the maturity date on the up to $834,250 loan extended for10 years to July 23, 2033.

The resolution adopted by the board honoring Jay Rife recognized his dedication to economic development in Buchanan County and the coalfield region; his service as a member and past chairman of the VCEDA Board; and his current service as the first and only chairman to date of the Virginia Coalfields Expressway Authority board.

Read more about the VCEDA Meeting.

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VCEDA Exhibits at Appalachian Council for Innovation Event

VCEDA Marketing Ambassador Diane Thomas represented VCEDA at the Appalachian Council for Innovation’s annual awards banquet and gala. The theme for the event, held in August, was “Education: Investing in Tomorrow, Today.” Several business leaders, and influencers in the region spoke at the event, discussing challenges and opportunities present in the region regarding education and preparing an up and coming workforce for an ever evolving and technologically advancing work environment.

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VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher, second from right, presents a ceremonial check for $25,000 to Russell County IDA Executive Director Ernie McFaddin, second from left, representing funding for the Laurel Bed Lake Road feasibility study. Also on hand for the presentation were Steve Breeding, left, a member of the Russell County board of supervisors; and Lonzo Lester, right, Russell County administrator.

$25,000 VCEDA Grant Closed for Laurel Bed Lake Road Study

An up to $25,000 grant to be used to conduct a feasibility study examining the development of a road from Laurel Bed Lake between Lebanon and Rosedale was recently closed between the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) and the Russell County Industrial Development Authority (IDA).

According to the application, Laurel Bed Lake is the “most pristine in the state” and the 20,000 acres surrounding it are said to have “true wilderness features and diverse flora and fauna.”

“VCEDA is pleased to support the Russell County IDA request for funding for this study which will look at the benefits of such a road and the projected cost for it in detail. The IDA application projects the impact to tourism in the county if the road is developed will be significant.”

Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel

Read more about Laurel Bed Lake Road Study.

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Marketing Tours Conducted in Southwest Virginia’s e-Region

As part of its efforts to best market Southwest Virginia’s e-Region at the various trade shows and marketing events attended by VCEDA staff and its marketing ambassadors, tours of each of the counties with their economic developers are underway to update the availability of various properties within each locale and to allow staff to see firsthand the properties and various amenities of each community through the eyes of the economic developers in those counties.

VCEDA’s marketing ambassadors are about mid-way through the tours, having visited Buchanan, Tazewell and Wise counties, with tours scheduled or being scheduled in Dickenson, Russell, Lee and Scott counties.

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Town of Honaker Mayor Jodi Eaton, center, and Town Council Member Scott McGlothlin, left, accept a ceremonial check for $50,000 representing the tourism matching grant funds approved by VCEDA for the town’s e-bike charging station and Honaker Community Park improvements.

$50,000 VCEDA Grant to Assist Honaker Projects

A $50,000 grant to be used to install a new e-bike charging station and the construction of an amphitheater in the Town of Honaker Community Park and Recreation area was closed recently between the town and the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA).

The grant, from the VCEDA Tourism Capital Improvement Matching Fund, will help to fund the projects which are located in the park situated along the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail in the Town of Honaker.

“The Town of Honaker, with assistance from the 501c3 non-profit group Friends of Honaker, Inc., is in the process of developing the Honaker Community Park and Recreation Area which according to the application will provide Honaker with its first community park or recreation area. With this project, the town sees an opportunity to offer outdoor recreation to the community and surrounding communities, as well as promote the town and area to tourists.”

Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel

Read more about the Town of Honaker Tourism Grant.

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VCEDA Works with AnswerNet to Promote Availability of Remote Data Service Jobs in e-Region

A Pennsylvania-based company specializing in providing a variety of services to optimize call center and answering services is hiring in Southwest Virginia’s e-Region to fill remote positions. AnswerNet, which operates more than 20 contact centers in the United States and Canada, is a full-service provider of inbound, outbound and automated contact center services.

The company also has specialty divisions in business process outsourcing, nonprofit, appointment setting and education and can be used as a primary call center or a backup service for business call centers or telephone answering services. AnswerNet works with many different industries, including HVAC, insurance, government, medical, real estate and small business markets.

A virtual job fair to fill the open positions was held August 9. 

“As part of its outreach marketing efforts to attract jobs to Southwest Virginia’s e-Region, the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) identified and has been working with AnswerNet to help them fill the job classifications they are looking for with employees who reside in the region and who can work for them remotely .VCEDA has had a decades long strategy to develop information technology (IT) jobs in the region which is also an excellent location from which to fill remote IT positions because of the broadband and training programs already in place.”

Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel

Read more about AnswerNet Jobs.

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SEMICON West Conference Attended by VCEDA Representatives

VCEDA Marketing Ambassadors Charlotte Mullins and Diane Thomas recently attended the SEMICON West conference in San Francisco, Calif. The event focused on key challenges affecting the global microelectronics industry, including supply chain disruptions, climate change and talent shortages. At the conference, experts shared their insights on the chip industry’s progress toward $1 trillion in annual revenue and CEOs shared strategies and perspectives on the U.S. microelectronics industry’s position on international sustainability, climate agreements and legislation. Featured topics also included those on workforce development focused on creating a diverse and inclusive industry, building a career in microelectronics and cultivating an inclusive talent pipeline.

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VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher, right, presents a ceremonial check for $700,000 to Buchanan County Industrial Development Authority Executive Director Matt Fields, center, representing a VCEDA loan to assist the IDA with the Heart Stone Lodge Assisted Living Facility. Behind them and to the left is the site for the new project. Also on hand for the check presentation were Jim Wayne Childress, chairman of the assisted living project capital campaign for the Coalfields Health Foundation, Inc., left; and back, Kirk Story, COO/CFO Coalfields Health Foundation, Inc., left;  and Scott Pittman, chief executive officer of the Coalfields Health Foundation, Inc.

VCEDA Closes Loan to Buchanan County IDA for Heart Stone Assisted Living Facility Project

An up to a $700,000 forgivable loan from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) to the Buchanan County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to be used to finance building construction in the development of an assisted living facility at Southern Gap in Buchanan County, Va., was closed recently.

The Heart Stone Lodge project, being spearheaded by the Coalfields Health Foundation (CHF), will develop a 53-suite/61-bed assisted living facility and is expected to create 17 full-time and 23 part-time jobs within five years of its opening. Its overall direct, indirect and induced economic impact is projected to infuse $1.1 to $1.7 million in new payroll and $2.5 to $5.3 million in total contribution to GDP, according to CHF officials.

The land at Southern Gap on which the project will be located was recently transferred by the Buchanan County IDA to Buchanan General Hospital, which in turn leased a portion of it to CHF for the Heart Stone project. 

“An assisted living facility is part of the senior living/long term care industry and bridges the gap between care at-home and nursing homes. The IDA identified a need for an assisted living facility following a preliminary feasibility study in 2015 and formed a task force to move the project along. VCEDA is pleased to play a part in helping to bring this needed service and the jobs it will create to Buchanan County.”

Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel

Read more about Heart Stone Lodge.

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VCEDA Represented at DAC

VCEDA marketing ambassadors Diane Thomas and Charlotte Mullins were in attendance at the Design Automation Conference (DAC) in San Francisco, Calif., in July. For 60 years, DAC has been the premier destination for the entire ecosystem devoted to the design and automation of electronic circuits and systems. DAC offers education, training, exhibits and networking opportunities for a worldwide community of chip and system designers, researchers, academics, executives and electronic design tool vendors to engage and reconnect. While there, they were able to visit with several companies to discuss the benefits of a location in Southwest Virginia’s e-Region.


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Starlink Satellite System Expanding

VCEDA has worked with its member counties and the Appalachian Council for Innovation related to expanding access to Internet through the Starlink satellite system. Several grants have been provided by VCEDA to implement and expand service. Thanks to Jack Kennedy for sharing this photo of some of the satellites being moved to Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral for a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch which occurred on Friday, July 14. The flight rate is now every 96 hours.




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SVAM Expo Coming

VCEDA will be sponsoring and exhibiting at the Southwest Virginia Manufacturers Expo at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center August 31. The event, presented by the Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing, Inc., provides manufacturers in the region with an opportunity to network with others and to learn about a variety of resources in the region to support manufacturing. See the flyer below for details!




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David Belanger and Laura Hunt stand in front of the first yurt erected at Stoney Ridge Farm and Retreat, LLC. The new business, owned by Belanger and Hunt, is located in Tazewell County and is a recent recipient of a VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Grant.

Seed Capital Grant Approved for Stoney Ridge Farm and Retreat, LLC

Visitors to the region looking for a “glamping” experience need look no further than Tazewell County as Laura Hunt and David Belanger open Stoney Ridge Farm and Retreat, LLC and its first yurt camping this fall. Additionally, the business is a working farm and will provide opportunities for guests to learn about farming and farm animals and to explore its 200 acres of pasture and mountain trails.

Stoney Ridge Farm and Retreat, LLC was a recent recipient of a $10,000 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Seed Capital Matching Grant.

“VCEDA was pleased to assist Stoney Ridge Farm and Retreat, LLC with a seed capital grant. As our region continues to attract tourists from across the country, the Stoney Ridge project provides another creative tourism option with some unique amenities and creates jobs at the same time. The business projects up to two full-time and eight part-time employees within five years as it continues to grow.”

Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel

Read more about Stoney Ridge Farm and Retreat, LLC.

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Tony Owens’ new business, Air Repair, Inc., was a recent recipient of a VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Grant. The business provides a number of HVAC-related services, as well as the custom manufacture of ductwork.

Air Repair, Inc. Approved for Seed Capital Grant

The custom manufacture of ductwork and the added ability to serve both residential and commercial HVAC needs is something Tony Owens, of Air Repair, Inc., offers as a service in the four-county area of Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell counties.

Air Repair, Inc. was a recent recipient of a $10,000 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Seed Capital Matching Grant.

“VCEDA was pleased to assist Air Repair, Inc. with a seed capital grant. While the business provides a number of HVAC-related services, the custom manufacture of ductwork is what made this application stand out in the seed capital review process. Air Repair, Inc., projects six full-time employees within three years.”

Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel

Read more about Air Repair, Inc.

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