TOBACCO REGION REVITALIZATION COMMISSION MEETS IN RICHMOND
APPROVED PROJECTS WILL HELP ATTRACT NEW BUSINESSES AND GENERATE ECONOMIC GROWTH IN THE AGRICULTURE AND TOURISM SECTORS.
Richmond, VA – The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission met on Thursday, January 5th, in Richmond to approve projects that will generate economic growth in the agriculture and tourism sectors as well as help attract new businesses to Southern and Southwest Virginia. The Commission approved 29 funding requests in addition to various extensions and other business including welcoming Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade and new Tobacco Commission Acting Executive Director, James E. Campos.
Tobacco Commission Chairman, Senator Frank Ruff said, “I’d like to welcome our Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade and new Tobacco Commission Acting Executive Director, James E. Campos, to the Commission. James brings a wealth of experience to the position and I look forward to working with him as we continue to do all that we can to be a catalyst for growth and opportunity in Southern and Southwest Virginia.
The Commission has always taken a broad view of economic development and you can see that reflected in the projects we approved at this meeting. From helping our local farmers and producers remain competitive, supporting our tourism economy, developing sites for future businesses and more, I’m proud of the work we have done here.”
Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade and Tobacco Commission Acting Executive Director, James E. Campos said, “I am excited to get started here at the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission. The Commission does important work and after attending the meetings over the last few days it is clear that it is a critical asset for the communities of Southern and Southwest Virginia as they seek to grow and diversify their economies. I am proud to be a part of this team and look forward to getting to work to help ensure a bright future for our rural communities.”
Talent Attraction Program Update: The Commission’s Education Committee is currently evaluating the Talent Attraction Program (TAP) to ensure it is best meeting the needs of the communities the Commission serves in Southern and Southwest Virginia. While payments and renewals will continue for those currently in the program we encourage those interested in future rounds of the program to check our website for additional information as it becomes available. Our TAP information page can be found HERE.
The Commission approved a $10 million Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund (TROF) incentive grant for a confidential project. These funds will only be awarded if the project comes to fruition.
The Commission reviewed and discussed feedback from partners on upcoming revisions to its strategic plan. At the Committee’s direction staff will revise the draft to incorporate that feedback and additional info provided by members at the meeting with the goal of approval of a final strategic plan at the upcoming spring meeting.
The following projects were approved for funding by the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (Please see the meeting packet on our website for full project descriptions, staff comments, grant requirements and other business including project extensions and modifications):
Southern Virginia Program
4107, Brunswick County IDA
Brunswick County Produce Project – $500,000 Grant
This project is a public-private partnership between Brunswick County’s IDA and Southside Virginia Vegetable Packing, LLC (SVVP) to construct a produce processing facility at the I-85 Business Park in Alberta, VA. The SVVP is comprised of and owned equally by eight local farms participating in organic produce production, aggregation, and distribution. Demand for their products has led to multiple expansions of their farming operations over the past five years. To accommodate the need for further expansion in production, a large-scale produce processing facility is required. This project will grow to support 60 jobs from an estimated 20 farms across Southern Virginia and the surrounding area by year five of operations. A 45,000 sq. ft. building will include climate-controlled intake areas with forced air-cooling system, industrial ice making equipment, two processing lines, and ample cold storage and loading docks to facilitate final distribution of produce.
4119, Mecklenburg County
Southside Virginia Beef Producers Increase Efficiency and Their Bottom Line Through Use of Certifiable Livestock Scales – $7,500 Grant
This project will support 50% of equipment purchases, and certification costs, for mobile legal for trade scales to benefit cattle farmers in Mecklenburg, Brunswick and Charlotte Counties. Beef Cattle producers have the opportunity to capture added value by marketing their feeder cattle in uniform lots by weight and sex (truck load of 48,000-50,000 pounds) while minimizing costs for transportation and subsequent shrink. The purchased scales to be utilized from a base location in Mecklenburg County will support producers marketing their feeder cattle in cooperation with other producers, as well as efforts to market finished cattle for direct sales.
4114, Prince Edward County
Project Clementine – $75,000 Grant
Project Clementine will help expand meat processing by creating a new value-added facility that will source from producers of cattle and small ruminants in the Southern Virginia region. There is currently a shortage of meat processing facilities in Southern Virginia. Operations will center on 1) fee processing of beef, lamb, and goats for local Southside Virginia producers and 2) processing and manufacturing of wholesale and retail cuts for local restaurants, hotels, and grocers as well as retail consumers especially seeking Halal meats. Project Clementine will consist of a 32’X 92′ square foot steel building constructed on a 2.5-acre parcel in the Prince Edward County Business Parle Site.
4118, Virginia Cattleman’s Association
Inventory Advance Incentive and Cattle Processing Initiative Fund – $330,000 Grant
This project will support expansion of the finished cattle market in Virginia to provide cattlemen with the opportunity to sell their cattle and/or beef locally for a higher return. USDA statistics show a decrease to 36.8% in 2021, for US cattle producer’s share of retail value of beef; down from 51.5% in 2015. An inventory advance purchase incentive fund will be established, providing for an increase in the number of Virginia cattle finished by offering incentive for the advance purchase of cattle processed for USDA certified beef sale.
4121, Brunswick County IDA
Sledge and Barkley – $437,000 Grant
The Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority (BCIDA) is requesting 50% of the $874,000 costs for essential repairs and stabilization of the lower floor of the Sledge and Barkley building in downtown Lawrenceville. The BCIDA plans to develop the 23,000 square foot building for mixed-use. The top two floors and an adjacent 7,000 square foot storage space will be converted to ~ 24 apartments. The lower level on N. Main Street and the basement will be used for business development and provides equivalent of three commercial spaces. A Market and Feasibility Study funded by a DHCD Industrial Revitalization Fund will determine the best use for the lower level. The TRRC funding request is for an initial $150,000 to cover immediate structural stabilization and water mitigation to prevent deterioration on the lower level. The remaining $287,000 from TRRC will be combined with funding from the DHCD IRF program to provide the necessary funding for the required renovations and buildout of the 1st floor and basement areas of the building.
4126, Patrick County EDA
Cockram Mill/Freehouse Brewery – $30,000 Grant
This project will help revitalize a blighted site along US Highway 58 between the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Primland Resort, a scenic tourist thoroughfare. Cockram Mill, a former brick construction grist mill located on the Dan River less than one mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway in Meadows of Dan is undergoing rehabilitation to transform the mill building into a brewery, tap room, restaurant, and event space. The property is located on state highway 58 and also includes two smaller buildings with concept drawing showing these as a craft shop and antique shop. Patrick County has limited gathering places and currently does not have an establishment such as what is planned for the revitalized mill complex. Freehouse Brewery will need to purchase brewing equipment, hot water heaters and cold storage equipment to commence brewery operations which is a substantial capital investment.
4105, SOVA Innovation Hub Corporation
SOVA Innovation Campus Construction – $400,000 Grant
TRRC Grant #3749 was previously funded at $85,300 to support architectural and engineering design for the SOVA Innovation Labs building. The current funding request will be used for hard construction costs for the building, which is anticipated to be completed by 9/1/2024. The facility is projected to more readily enable entrepreneurship, small business development and talent retention in a region that is experiencing population decline and a poverty level of 17%. The proposal was accompanied by letters of support from Southside PDC, Brunswick County, Charlotte County, CodeVA, Danville Science Center, Halifax County, Longwood University, Lunenburg County, Mecklenburg County, the Town of South Boston, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, and the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance.
4122, City of Emporia
Extensions of Water and Sewer to Norwood Property – Recommended to Commission’s CBL program for $1,680,000 Loan
The project will provide the water and sewer line extensions connecting the existing water and sewer lines under US Route 58 and to the southern boundary of the Norwood site. The City of Emporia purchased the 38-acre Norwood Estate Property in 2016, with the objective to develop an industrial park strategically located with direct access to US Route 58. The location provides access to a four-lane divided highway and is in close proximity to Interstate 95.
4124, Halifax County
Virginia International Raceway Water Supply Interconnection – $546,029 Grant
This project will support 50% of the $1,092,058 million estimated costs for final design, permitting, easements and inspections for the water supply system to connect the Virginia International Raceway in southern Halifax County. The long term sustainability of a significant regional asset is a priority of Halifax County and the entire Southside region. Without public water, VIR cannot host events or continue to invest back into its growth. The wells serving the existing public water system at VIR are no longer reliable and at a high risk of being insufficient. The proposed Phase 1 VIR Water Interconnection would connect Pittsylvania County’s Ringgold water system to the VIR water system. The Pittsylvania County Service Authority would convey water supplied from the City of Danville to the VIR water system which is owned and operated by the Halifax County Service Authority.
4104, Mecklenburg County
Virginia’s Growth Alliance Site Development Project – $602,210 Grant
Commission funds are requested on behalf of five localities who participate in the regional economic alliance, Virginia’s Growth Alliance, to increase the marketability of five smaller and three larger industrial sites to expand diversity of sites being marketed in the region. Engineering due-diligence and final reports/studies will be completed at eight industrial sites with one or more in Brunswick, Charlotte, Lunenburg, and Greensville Counties, and the City of Emporia. This request is based on research undertaken through VEDP’s Virginia Business Ready Sites Program and the assessment completed for identifying sites with the most developability potential in conjunction with priorities of VGA localities. VEDP’s research considered the strengths and weaknesses of each site and how it pertained to the labor shed and developability criteria established for targeted sectors. This project enables participating localities to address the existing deficit in shovel ready sites allowing them to better market the region for attracting targeted industries, The entire scope of work will include the characterization of one site, which is currently uncharacterized, and bring it to a Tier 3, It will also raise the tier level of four sites and provide final design work to allow three sites to advance their tier level.
4123, Patrick County EDA
Rich Creek Corporate Park Shell Building – $95,850 Grant
This project will support the renovation of a recently vacated building in the Rich Creek Corporate Park to prepare it for a future business or light industrial tenant. The 20,000 SF building was constructed in 2006, sits on a 3.5 acre graded site and was previously used as office space for a call center. The renovation will include removal of non-load bearing walls, drop ceilings and the installation of a sprinkler system. Attracting a tenant to the shell building located at the business park entrance will help market the larger 70 acres at this industrial site that are available for development.
4111, Sussex County
Megasite – Master Planning, Conceptual Engineering, & Water Line Extension – $250,000 Grant
This project will enhance the shovel-readiness of the Sussex Megasite, a strategic economic development area for Southern Virginia. This request is a component of a broader application the County submitted to the VA Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) for a VA Business Ready Sites Program site development grant. Overall, the County is requesting over $3 million in funding from VEDP, the Tobacco Commission, and USEDA to assist with a more robust master planning and conceptual engineering design study and construction of a waterline for the Sussex Megasite. This includes identifying the highest and best uses for manufacturing and distribution in this strategic area of Sussex County – particularly those without significant water demands. The study would include both of the County-owned properties, the Sussex Megasite and Route 602 Industrial Park given their close proximity (less than 1,500′ feet apart), as well as due diligence and pursuit of adjacent properties (700+ acres) to expand the Megasite.
4112, Brunswick County
Herman Road Lake Gaston Day Use Park – Kayak and Canoe Launch – $230,400 Grant
This project will contribute $230,400 towards the $1,298,200 estimate from Timmons ($140K engineering services, and $1,158,200 construction cost estimate) for Phase 1 park construction which
includes a kayak and canoe launch access, a fishing/ observation pier, parking for 8-12 vehicles, picnic area and pavilion as well as the access road to the facility.
Lake Gaston is a major tourist attraction for the Southern Virginia region, and public access to Lake Gaston is very limited as much of the shoreline is privately owned. Brunswick County acquired roughly 14 acres of waterfront property on Lake Gaston with the intent to develop and maintain a free and safe public outdoor recreation day-use facility. The county’s goal is to provide the community and tourists with free and safe access to the waters of Lake Gaston for an expansion of outdoor recreational opportunities.
4108, Cumberland County
Operation Connect-The-Dots – Grant – $218,000
The Cumberland Courthouse/Bear Creek Lake State Park Connector Trail Project is currently a local trail that connects Cumberland Courthouse Village to Bear Creek Lake State Park Trail. This 0.7-mile trail is a 6-foot-wide grass trail built in 2004 and is maintained by Cumberland County (mowed 2-4 times a month depending on season and weather). Due to the current condition, the grassed walking path is not easily accessible for visitors and is prone to erosion. The goal of this project is to provide major improvements to the current trail by paving the 6-foot-wide trail in asphalt to enhance the walkability and accessibility for all users. If funded, these much needed improvements will link the visitor to the nearby Cumberland State Forest which connects to Bear Creek Lake State Park as well as Cumberland Courthouse Historic District. This project will allow for state park and state forest visitors from around the country to access Cumberland Courthouse encouraging them to spend more money supporting the local tourism economy.
4113, National D-Day Memorial Foundation LTD
National D-Day Memorial Motor Pool Museum and Courtyard – $350,000 Grant
This project will support the construction of an indoor museum space (specifically for the excavation, grading and site preparation work for the museum Motor Pool building and adjacent courtyard to the Motor Pool.) The 1940s inspired Motor Pool building will serve as the Memorial’s first truly indoor museum space featuring armored and transport vehicles and the stories of the Allied armies that battled an entrenched foe to liberate Europe. Additionally, a rare amphibious tank recovered from Omaha Beach in Normandy has been committed to the Foundation once display and curation space is complete. The proposed Motor Pool addition will highlight these unique artifacts and in turn broaden visitation to the Commonwealth while also increasing visitor expenditures in lodging, food, recreation, and other sectors of the regional economy. The Motor Pool will improve visitor experiences to the monument, increase national and international tourism figures to the site (and the Commonwealth), and transform the Memorial into a true year round destination.
4106, Town of Blackstone
Operation Swedish Chef – $581,000 Grant
This project will support the final portion of the $3,781,000 total project costs for rehabilitation and renovations to the Harris Memorial Armory Center. The building will be used as a multi-purpose facility including training programs for hospitality students and an event center. The job training would consist of hospitality training to support the tourism business sector for the new lodging that has opened and that is planned for the area to serve the recently opened Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) facility at Fort Pickett. Part of the building would be used by Virginia State University for job training programs to provide skilled workers for support industries needed for the FASTC facility at Fort Pickett – namely hospitality (four new hotels are planned for the area to service users of FASTC). The other parts of the building would be used as rental space for banquets and receptions. Students in the job training programs would work at these events as part of their hospitality training, to gain experience working in the hospitality industry.
4099, West Piedmont Planning District Commission
Southern Virginia Regional Branding and Marketing Plan – $50,000 Grant
Commission funds will contribute 50% of the $100,000 consultant services for the development of a Southern Virginia regional branding and marketing plan. This initiative is modeled after the Friends of Southwest Virginia which has successfully branded their region as a distinct cultural area and destination, and expanded microenterprise, tourism and business development opportunities throughout the region. This project, led by the three southern Virginia Planning District Commissions: the Commonwealth Regional Council, Southside PDC, and West Piedmont PDC; will establish a regional brand, inventory the region’s tourism assets, establish key anchor attractions that link the region together, and develop a promotion and marketing plan to implement the regional brand.
Southwest Virginia Program
4098, Abingdon Feeder Cattle Association
Improving Genetics, Health, and Management of Small Ruminants in SWVA – $299,880 Grant
Commission funds will be used to continue a program to provide cost share for small ruminant producers in the entire SW region to assist with genetic improvements to herds as well as equipment and facility needs required for effective herd management. Support for the first round of this program was approved in May 2022. Improving the genetic quality and health of flocks and herds is important because small ruminants are susceptible to parasites, diseases, and predators. Purchasing genetically superior breeding stock will result in less animal losses, reduced production costs, increased productivity, and generally healthier flocks.
4128, Carroll County
Vacuum Cooler Value Added Project – $96,000 Grant
This project will assist Virginia Produce Company, a private enterprise located in Carroll County, with costs associated with the purchase of vacuum coolers and related equipment. Commission funds will reimburse 25% of the total cost for the coolers which are significantly more efficient compared to conventional cooling equipment. The equipment will allow a longer shelf life for produce resulting in $620,162 of increased revenue for TRRC region producers.
4109, Blue Ridge Crossroads EDA
Wildwood Commerce Park Site 1 Due Diligence and Design Services – $188,750 Grant
This project will support 50% of due diligence and design costs for Site 1 of the Wildwood Commerce Park. Site 1 is the final available property at Wildwood. Wildwood’s attractive location, adjacent to I-77 and only 13 miles from the I-77/ I-81 interchange, has made it one of SWVA’s most attractive industrial parks. Due diligence is required before construction can proceed. Because an application for construction has already been submitted to VEDP’s Virginia Business Ready Site Program, completion of due diligence is critical to the competitiveness of that application, Site 1 is the final available property in the park and requires substantial site development work before it can be marketed to prospects.
4127, Washington County
Oak Park, Lot 8 Railway Extension – up to $500,000 Grant
This project will support 50% of the cost to design and construct a 1,300 foot rail spur to serve Lot 8 at Oak Park. The lack of rail access has been noted by several prospects as a reason for not selecting the site. The 70 acre pad is rated as Tier 2 under VEDP’s Ready Sites Program.
4120, LENOWISCO Planning District Commission
LENOWISCO Invest SWVA 3.0 (RMI) – $400,000 Grant
This project will support a third round of the InvestSWVA regional marketing initiative. The grant will fund the initiative for two additional years (July 1, 2023- June 30, 2025). This phase of the project will focus on accelerating lead generation and project development work in the region. Several projects are currently in the pipeline undergoing due diligence and require additional time for resolution. Commission funds will be used to support contractual services with Coalfield Strategies.
4100, The Barter Foundation, Inc.
Barter Theatre Regional Marketing Campaign – $105,000 Grant
Commission funds will be used to provide two additional years of contractual support for implementation of the Theatre’s regional marketing campaign. Funding will be used to retain the services of Anat Gerstein Inc., the public relations firm selected by Barter in March, 2022. TRRC currently supports the first phase of this project under #3925 ($70,000) approved in January 2022. During the second phase the campaign will utilize the knowledge gained over the past several months to continue to develop and implement the campaign. Digital and print earned media placements will be generated for targeted markets around the nation.
4103, Birthplace of Country Music
Birthplace of Country Music Museum Expansion – $500,000 Grant
This project will support construction costs associated with the expansion of the BCM Museum (BCMM). In 2015 BCM completed the purchase of the building adjacent to the Museum. This building, now referred to as the Annex, will allow BCMM to greatly increase the size of the overall property to 41,000 SF. The new space will allow for the expansion and improvement of the areas used to house both core and special exhibits as well as creating an area to stage and house special exhibits when not on display. Archival space, a recording and radio production area, activity space, education space, and additional offices are among the other areas that will be created or improved as a result of the expansion.
4101, Town of Haysi
Haysi Trails Center – $650,206 Grant
Commission funds will be used to complete construction of the Haysi Trails Center in Downtown Haysi. The project, involving the renovation of the former Haysi Theater, was fully funded through grants from ARC and VCEDA however additional floodproofing is now required for the second floor. The Trails Center will serve visitors to the Town of Haysi which is located directly along or adjacent to six major outdoor recreational destinations. The Haysi Trails Center is identified in the Town of Haysi’s Downton Revitalization Economic Restructuring and Master Plan developed in 2010. The multiphase revitalization project centers on Haysi’s location along or adjacent to six major outdoor recreational hotspots including Breaks Interstate Park which welcomes 300k visitors each year. The trailhead of Spearhead Trails’ “Ridgeview Trail” is located in Haysi. World class rapids attract hundreds of whitewater rafters to the Town each October. Haysi also attracts numerous cyclists. The Trail Center will provide a multi-use venue to serve visitors to the Town which is lacking in tourism support businesses and infrastructure. In addition to its role as a visitors center, the facility will house a space for a café as well as space to allow artisans to sell their products.
4116, Song of the Mountains
Song of the Mountains Revitalization – $120,000 Grant
Commission funds will be used to assist with booking fees for popular bands. Song of the Mountains, and Lincoln Theater, will book large draw acts to entice patrons to return to live performances at the Theater. The amount requested was reduced due to Staff’s concerns about the availability of eligible matching funds. The original budget allocated 100% of the booking costs to the TRRC grant. The revised budget limits the Commission’s support to 50% of each booking fee. The remainder will be provided by SOTM through sponsorships. This project is similar to the Barter project in that it supports the recovery of one of SWVA’s most popular performance venues. Live performance venues suffered tremendously during the pandemic shut downs. These venues were unable to host events, and earn needed revenues, for an extended period of time. Song of the Mountains is not alone in its quest to reestablish itself as a viable draw for regional tourists. Many potential patrons remain cautious of the risks associated with attending events while others may have moved on to new options. Helping SOTM with booking fees will provide the opportunity for the Theater to entice visitors back to Marion.
3975, Sunset Holler, Inc.
Southern Gap Amphitheater Project: Construction Documents & Construction – $500,000 Grant
This project will assist in the development of a commercial-grade amphitheater at Southern Gap in Buchanan County, Virginia. The amphitheater will host a variety of events including live music performances, film screenings, sports events, etc. with a maximum capacity of 4,000 attendees. Commission funds will be used for the purchase of a Stageline SL320 stage ($450,000) and for amphitheater construction ($50,000). Projects considered under the Tourism strategy of this program’s RFP must document the ability to attract visitors from national and international markets. The business plan provided for this project indicates that the unique geographical location of the amphitheater will serve as a draw for music tourists. Project updates provided since the project was tabled in May document numerous campsites in close proximity to Southern Gap which could provide lodging options to these visitors who may also take advantage of other opportunities, in particular the outdoor recreation amenities, in the region. Sunset Holler plans to work with other regional tourist organizations and venues to collaborate on cross marketing opportunities.
4110, Blue Ridge Public Television, Inc.
PBS Appalachia Virginia – $400,000 Grant
This project will support the establishment of a fully digital public television station, PBS Appalachia Virginia, to serve the 14 counties and three cities of the SWVA TRRC service area. The station, announced in July, 2022 will be fully region based and will highlight positive stories from the footprint. This content will support other regional branding initiatives to market tourism and business development efforts. Commission funds are requested for a variety of operating expenses over a two year start up period. The station plans to launch on June 10, 2023.
4097, Virginia Coalfield Coalition
Virginia Coalfields Cell Coverage Assessment Planning Grant – $40,000 Grant
Commission funds will be used to support a planning project to identify the remaining wireless needs in the Coalfields region (Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Norton, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise Counties). It is estimated that 40% of this region lacks wireless service. TRRC will support $40,000 of the estimated $140,000 total project cost. The applicant will select a provider through a competitive bid process.