VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher, right, and members of the VCEDA staff were in attendance at two events with the governor, left, in May. Belcher had an opportunity to speak with the governor about VCEDA and its role in economic development in the region while the governor was in Richlands.

Governor Announces ‘Accelerate Southwest Virginia’

Gov. Glenn Youngkin and First Lady Suzanne Youngkin were in Southwest Virginia in May as the governor spoke at the Southwest Virginia Economic Forum in Wise and again as he spoke during a roundtable discussion on a regional water project in Richlands. At both locations, he spoke about his Accelerate Southwest Virginia initiative and the need “to run at the speed of business and not at the speed of government.” VCEDA was pleased to be in attendance at both events.

Read more about Accelerate Southwest Virginia.

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Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick (left, in blue jacket) and members of her staff were in Southwest Virginia in May to meet with business and education leaders and to talk about economic development initiatives. 

Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Visits in Region

Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick and members of her staff began their visit at Southwest Virginia Community College and toured the welding lab at the Tazewell County Career and Technical Center. They also did a driving tour of the Bluestone Technology Park in Bluefield, VA, before returning to Sen. Travis Hackworth’s office in Richlands for a roundtable discussion on economic development and tourism.

VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher and Abigail Wescott, with VEDP, were among those in attendance. A tour of Consolidated Steel followed. In Buchanan County, the secretary received an update from Buchanan County Economic Development officials, meeting at Southern Gap Outdoor Adventure. They also toured Paul’s Fans and ended the evening with dinner at Paul’s Fans before going on an elk viewing tour to see Virginia’s elk herd. The secretary also toured other Southwest Virginia counties while in the region.

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Virginia Business Magazine Ad Highlights VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Grant Program

VCEDA placed an ad in the June issue of Virginia Business Magazine, featuring information about its Seed Capital Matching Grant program which through 2023 has provided 184 entrepreneurs with seed capital funding to assist them in growing their new businesses. Highlighted in the ad is Brad Deel, of Clintwood, a drone photographer and videographer, who was among the first recipients of a seed capital matching grant from the VCEDA program. He’s gone on to grow his business which has been predominantly focused in the unique sports photography arena, to work with Netflix at the series premiere of the TV show Quarterback. He’s also been featured by ESPN Bleacher Report and SportsCenter. He has continued to expand his business, offering mentorship programs and now travels all around the country teaching photography clinics.

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$50,000 Grant for Sunset Holler Inc. Amphitheater Project Announced

An up to $50,000 grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Tourism Capital Improvement Matching Fund to Sunset Holler, Inc. to be used to help finance the construction of the Southern Gap Amphitheater in Buchanan County, VA, was closed recently.

Sunset Holler, Inc. is a Virginia non-stock corporation formed on December 3, 2018.  Initially, plans were to construct a larger venue on property deeded to Sunset Holler from the Buchanan County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), but the project has since been scaled to a 2,000-seat venue. The project now involves a land swap between Sunset Holler, Inc., the Buchanan County Industrial Development Authority and Southern Gap Outdoor Adventure, Inc. and will see the amphitheater constructed on property adjacent to Southern Gap Outdoor Adventure, a year-round campground located at Southern Gap.

Read more about the Sunset Holler project.

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VCEDA Board members J.P. Richardson and Barbara Altizer, who are also with the MCPA are pictured at the VCEDA booth display at the MCPA conference.

VCEDA Sponsors, Exhibits at MCPA Conference 

VCEDA was a sponsor and exhibitor at the Metallurgical Coal Producers Association (MCPA) 44th annual conference in Roanoke, WV, in May. Speakers included Glenn Davis, secretary of the Virginia Department of Energy; and Harold Ward, WV DEP Cabinet Secretary. Insights and perspectives from the MCPA, as well as industry leaders, including those from Coronado Global, Alpha Metallurgical Resources, Blackhawk Mining, Metinvest-United Coal, RAMACO Resources, Norfolk Southern Corp., CSX Corp., Xcoal Resources, Virginia Energy, Troutman Pepper and more offered insights on the Met Coal industry during the two-day conference. 

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VCEDA was represented at the SWVA Economic Forum by Marketta Horton, Jonathan Belcher, Charlotte Mullins and Cathy St. Clair.

9th Annual Southwest Virginia Economic Forum Held

VCEDA was a sponsor and exhibitor at the 9th annual Southwest Virginia Economic Forum in Wise in May. The state of the region from an economic development perspective was one of the topics of discussion as Chris Chmura, founder and chief executive officer of Chmura Economics & Analytic, provided statistics illustrating both the strengths and challenges of the region.

Donna P. Henry, chancellor of the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, welcomed attendees to the event. Dickenson County Economic Development Director Dana Cronkhite and John Wilson talked about the Wildwood Recovery Center under construction. Cronkhite recognized VCEDA’s role in helping to fund some $4 million of the $7.8 million project.

A Southwest Virginia legislative panel comprised of Sen. Travis Hackworth and Dels. Terry Kilgore and Israel O’Quinn discussed housing needs, childcare and early education needs.

The keynote address was delivered by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who announced the launch of his Accelerate Southwest Virginia initiative and its aim to unlock what he called “unbridled opportunity” in the region.

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VCEDA Marketing Ambassadors Diane Thomas and Charlotte Mullins manned the VCEDA booth at the Small Business Symposium, providing information on a variety of its incentive programs and highlighting its Seed Capital Matching Grant program which is specifically designed to promote entrepreneurial growth in identified business sectors.

VCEDA Takes Part in Small Business Symposium

VCEDA was one of the exhibitors in May at the Small Business Symposium held at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, VA. The event, organized by the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, in partnership with the Virginia Small Business Development Centers and the Southwest Virginia Community College APEX program, was designed to highlight the variety of resources available in the region for entrepreneurs. A variety of workshops were also offered at the event, including those on government contracting, marketing, grants and more.

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Representing Southwest Virginia’s e-Region at the Data Center World Conference, were, from left, John Kilgore, Scott County; Natalie Chapman, Wise County; and Susan Copeland, VCEDA marketing coordinator.

Data Center World Conference Held in D.C.

VCEDA and a team of local economic developers represented the VCEDA region at the Data Center World conference April 15-18 in Washington DC, hosting an exhibit booth and meeting in pre-set appointments with companies who were interested in learning about the region’s offerings for data center location. The exhibitors at the largest data center conference ranged the full spectrum of solution providers driving the data center and digital infrastructure industry forward. Prime topic noted by many of the companies is power and a number of power solutions using hydrogen and natural gas, for example, utilized as “bridge power,” temporary or permanent solutions.

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Susan Copeland, VCEDA marketing coordinator, represented VCEDA at Xponential 2024, where she talked with visitors about the region’s “Kitty Hawk moment” in 2015 as the site of the first FAA-approved drone delivery in the U.S., as well as the opportunities in Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and applications for unmanned technology in mining, oil and gas, precision agriculture, mapping and mine reclamation.

Xponential 2024 Held in California

VCEDA was represented in the Virginia Pavilion at Xponential 2024, the Technology Event for Autonomy show, held in the San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA , April 23-25. The Virginia Unmanned Systems Center of the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC) was a sponsor of the show and hosted the Virginia Pavilion.

VCEDA was one of four regional organizations in Virginia represented on the economic development pillar of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP).

Other pillars represented Virginia Tech, the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, Wing, Dominion Energy, DroneUp and other Virginia companies and organizations.

The XPO Hall featured innovators from every link in the autonomy supply chain.

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On hand for the MECC ceremonial check presentation were, from left, MECC President, Dr. Kristen Westover; MECC Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Dr. Amy Greear; and VCEDA Executive Director/General Cousel Jonathan Belcher.

MECC Fiber Optic Installation, Heavy Equipment Operator Programs to Benefit from VCEDA Grant

A new fiber optic installation program and a new heavy equipment operator II program to be offered at Mountain Empire Community College will benefit from an up to $186,091.29 grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA).

The funds, which come from VCEDA’s Coalfield Workforce Development and Training Fund will be used for workforce development and training costs and expenses of equipment, supplies and tuition for the two programs.

Read more about the MECC Grant.

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VEDP Holds International Trade Event

VCEDA Marketing Ambassador Diane Thomas attended the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s International Trade event hosted by Mike Downey, international trade manager for Southwest Virginia, on April 17, 2024 in Abingdon, VA. The event focus was “Exporting:  Get it Delivered, Understand Foreign Exchange and Getting Paid.” Speakers included John Strayhorn, Global Insurance Services, LLC; Wes Seeger,  GPS Capital Markets; Don Derwent and Greg Miller, Expeditors International of Washington, Inc.; and Kristen Greene, Virginia Maritime Association/Port of Virginia. PBE Group, a company in Southwest Virginia’s e-Region also participated in the event.

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VCEDA Marketing Coordinator Susan Copeland, left, is pictured with Nichole Hair, executive director of the Mount Rogers Region Partnership at the Site Selctors Guild annual conference. Also representing SWVA were Onward New River Valley and the Roanoke Regional Partnership.

Site Selectors Guild Hosts Annual Conference

Energy, becoming the #1 consideration in site selection, taking the lead spot from workforce, was a theme expressed in early April during the Site Selectors Guild annual conference held in Nashville, TN. VCEDA Marketing Coordinator Susan Copeland represented the region and joined 60 site selectors and more than 500 economic developers around the globe for the guild events, interacting and developing relationships with guild members and attending breakout sessions on topics such as global best practices, leveraging a second-place finish, navigating energy changes, talent attraction and retention and site readiness and beyond. The guild also introduced a forthcoming site readiness program. Guild member Didi Caldwell introduced the launch of Redi Sites.

VCEDA is a guild partner and attended a special event with songwriters performing hits they have written for leading country music artists. Southwest Virginia was well represented at this international event. 

VCEDA also attended a dinner with select site selectors hosted by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

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