NORTH TAZEWELL, VA – DECEMBER 29, 2021 –  Assisting commercial businesses, homeowners and agricultural businesses in growing their use of solar energy in the region is one of the primary goals of Southwest Virginia Energy Consultants, Inc., a new business located in Tazewell County.

North Tazewell residents Sharon Thomas, John Thomas, Jack Thompson and Doug Hutchinson formed the new business earlier this year and were recently approved for a $6,500 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) seed capital grant.

“As renewable energy projects gain additional traction in Southwest Virginia’s e-region, the timing is right for businesses eyeing ways to enhance that energy usage,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “Southwest Virginia Energy Consultants, Inc., is seeking to do just that and projects to provide three full-time jobs within five years.”

One goal of the new business is to bring a solar panel manufacturer to Virginia. Thomas said additional goals of the business are to pair solar projects with former abandoned mine property in the region in need of reclamation and to work with farmers to consider the development of solar grow houses to produce organic crops, thereby making the growing season year-round.

“We sold our first solar panel job in late November,” Thomas said, adding, “Southwest Virginia Energy Consultants will not only introduce renewables to the area, but will also focus on training and show the benefits, savings and economic growth that can be obtained from renewables. There are so many things that can spin off from this.”

Thomas said the VCEDA funds have been used for administrative purpose, including working capital and to secure office space for the consulting firm which is located at 192 Shire Lane in North Tazewell.

“With the support of the VCEDA Matching Seed Capital program, Southwest Virginia Energy Consultants was able to open its office and the new office was the first business in Tazewell County to introduce solar,” Thomas said. “The matching funds also allowed us to develop an engineering build-out plan. Our first installation, through one of our partners’ distribution companies, was completed earlier this month.  

“Without the VCEDA grant, we would not have been able to move as quickly as we did,” Thomas added. “It has helped us tremendously.”

Thomas worked with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) in the development of the application to VCEDA and received a letter of support from the Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority.

“The Small Business Development Center at Southwest Virginia Community College was happy to provide Sharon with guidance in applying for the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund program,” said Margie Douglass, SBDC program manager at SWCC. “Sharon’s innovative and entrepreneurial spirit has provided many jobs for our region. Sharon has proven that networking and partnerships are key components to success. 

“The Seed Capital Matching Fund program not only provides funds for startup businesses in the VCEDA region but also provides access to vital business resources,” Douglass continued.” By working with the SBDC (a requirement for any applicant), business owners receive guidance from experienced advisors and learn how to utilize available tools to evaluate their business and develop a formal plan of action. As a result, applicants are better prepared to apply for funding and better equipped to make their business a success.”

Southwest Virginia Energy Consultants, Inc., may be reached by calling 276-202-2839.

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. or

About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in or plan to operate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton.