Lebanon, VA (October 2, 2017) – The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) recently achieved a milestone, having approved more than 300 projects and almost $204 million in funding in the 29 years since its creation in 1988. The unique regional economic development organization has also helped bring more than 20,000 jobs to the coalfield region.
Since its first project in December 1988 approving funding to the Dickenson County Industrial Development Authority to build a building first used by Donnkenny, Inc., and now occupied by Superior Fabrication, VCEDA has approved funding totaling $203,904,681 for 303 projects throughout the Virginia counties of Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise, and the City of Norton.
Recent projects include helping locate a new manufacturing plant for 50 jobs in Russell County, new information technology operations for 500 jobs in Wise County and 300 jobs in Scott County, new projects for health care jobs in Buchanan and Tazewell counties, and the creation of a new seed capital matching grant program to help entrepreneurs and small businesses in the region.
Notable projects through the years include the location of information technology giants Northrop Grumman and CGI, funding toward the development of broadband and 4G wireless in the region, and VCEDA’s funding assistance in the development of the Spearhead Trails and other tourism destinations.
New target industries for the region of unmanned systems, cybersecurity and agriculture have been added in recent years by VCEDA to existing targets of information technology, advanced manufacturing, energy and emerging technologies. The results of a Virginia Tech study commissioned by VCEDA to identify economic development opportunities in agriculture will be presented at a regional Agriculture Summit Oct. 25 at Southwest Virginia Community College.
Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA’s executive director and general counsel, is quick to point out VCEDA has many partners in the region and an active board of directors committed to seeing the region succeed.
“The work we have done at VCEDA and the successes we have experienced through the years could not have been accomplished without the assistance, input and involvement of our local coalfield county and city governments, industrial development authorities, legislators, educational institutions, businesses and many others and their own individual commitments to making the region an attractive place to live and do business,” Belcher said. “The support of the coal and natural gas industries, which help fund VCEDA, has been instrumental.”
A 2015 economic impact study conducted by Chmura Economics & Analytics in Richmond examined the impact VCEDA has had on the region. In total, the study found that as of 2014, VCEDA had helped to attract or was involved in the expansion of existing projects which created some 20,093 jobs.
“Those jobs, mostly outside the coal industry, helped to diversify the regional economy. VCEDA has attracted a wide range of jobs – especially in high-tech industries,” the Chmura study found.
The study estimated the total annual economic impact (direct, indirect and induced) of VCEDA-attracted businesses in Southwest Virginia at $5.3 billion, supporting 32,606 jobs in 2014. The direct impact those same businesses were estimated to have, the study found, was annual gross revenue of $3.8 billion and employment of 20,093 in 2014.
“VCEDA has made considerable contributions in reducing the unemployment in Southwest Virginia,” the study found. “Based on data for the first eight months of 2014, the unemployment rate in the region was 8.1% – 2.9 percentage points higher than the state average of 5.2%. Without jobs attracted to the region by VCEDA, the region’s unemployment rate would be much higher – at 22.1% in 2014.”
The study went on to conclude, “Without jobs attracted to the region by VCEDA the number of unemployed workers in the VCEDA region would be much higher.”
“The Chmura study, as well several previous studies including one by Virginia Tech, validated the role that VCEDA has played in helping to enhance the region’s economy,” Belcher said. “To our knowledge, VCEDA is the only organization of its type, which was created with the support of the coal industry and funded by taxes paid by the coal (and later natural gas) industry, to help a region diversify its economy from things other than coal.”
He continued, “that is why VCEDA’s board of directors, which is a public/private mix including representation from the coal and natural gas industries, as well as elected and appointed public officials, is such a remarkable model, because you have both the businesses who are paying the taxes to fund the program at the same table as the public officials, which has worked very well over the years.
“While there is still much to be done,” Belcher added, “we appreciate the efforts of our many partners in the region, without whom we could not have achieved this milestone and the many companies we have worked with over the years who have created employment opportunities in our region. We look forward to continuing to work with those businesses who are here now and to those who will come in the future. In the end, our mission at VCEDA is to help to create jobs for the residents in our region.”
About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and 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 Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education and emerging technologies. 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.