The Future is Bright in Downtown South Boston

Blog written by: Zachary Whitlow

Zachary Whitlow - BloggerOur guest blogger, Zachary Whitlow (pictured left), is a Community Revitalization Specialist at the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), working closely with the agency’s Virginia Main Street (VMS) program and Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI). He loves helping communities across Virginia unleash the power of small-scale, grassroots revitalization to build a sense of place and ensure economic vitality!

 

Recently, I visited Downtown South Boston! Having worked virtually for the better part of 18 months, it was incredibly refreshing to be on the ground, observing firsthand the uniqueness of one of the communities that I represent through DHCD, as well as witness the enthusiasm of community changemakers, like Tamyra Vest, Executive Director of Destination Downtown South Boston (DDSB), who work tirelessly to ensure South Boston’s future is bright!Zachary Whitlow and Tamyra Vest

When I arrived, I was greeted with a friendly hello and wave from a woman, likely a resident, walking past Town Hall, the chief landmark of the commercial district. I was headed there to meet Tamyra (left) and kick off our district tour. Approaching the building, I took notice of the rounded corner entrance framed by engaged Doric columns and surmounted by a full pediment. The imposing “U”-shaped building epitomizes South Boston’s rapid turn-of-the-century development. Once Tamyra and I had gotten our bearings, we began walking the commercial district!

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For broadband, a regional approach

Halifax County Administrator Scott Simpson, President and CEO of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative and EMPOWER Broadband John C. Lee Jr., SPCD Executive Director Deborah Gosney and Mecklenburg County Administrator Wayne Carter each signing the VATI application.EMPOWER Broadband and the Southside Planning District Commission (SPDC) have submitted a grant application to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) to provide universal fiber-to-the-home broadband coverage, over a 36-month timeline to remaining unserved and underserved areas in the Counties of Brunswick, Halifax, Mecklenburg and the southern portion of Charlotte. 


The grant application includes a projected cost of $61 million to deploy 810 miles of fiber passing 4,007 locations in Halifax County. The county proposes a match of $2.6 million with EMPOWER and others providing $31 million with a matching request to the VATI program at $27 million.

Halifax County administrator Scott Simpson said, “EMPOWER Broadband has been actively deploying fiber-to-the-premises to our county and across the area with increasing intensity. They are delivering on their grant commitments and more of our citizens are receiving their robust broadband service on a weekly basis. If successful, this grant would be a significant development that would allow EMPOWER to extend its proven service even further into our county and region.”

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Following nationwide search, Halifax County resident tapped as executive director of IDA

Photo of Kristy Johnson new IDA Executive DirectorA familiar face in Halifax County is taking on a new leadership position in economic development

Kristy Johnson has been selected as Halifax County Industrial Development Authority’s new executive director.

The IDA announced Friday morning that they had selected Johnson, who has more than 10 years of experience working for the IDA in various roles, as the organization’s new leader.

Johnson will start her new position on Sept. 15, taking over the reins from the organization’s interim executive director Mike Davidson, a retired Campbell County economic development official who stepped in to lead the IDA in November 2020 after the board’s termination of former executive director Brian Brown.

Johnson will be paid an annual salary of $115,000.

“I look forward to the opportunity to serve Halifax County in this capacity,” Johnson said in an announcement on her hiring distributed by the IDA. “I am excited to continue my work with the IDA in this new role and working together to better our community.”

Following the announcement of her new role, Johnson said she plans to focus on “business retention and expansion and recruitment of new industry” as IDA’s executive director.

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New operations manager for Halifax County IDA introduced

Photo of Blair Jeffress new operations managerA new face has joined the team of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority

Blair Jeffress is the organization’s new operations manager. IDA interim executive director Mike Davidson introduced Jeffress to the board at its Friday morning meeting.

“She’s been a very positive asset to our organization so far and we look forward to that continuing,” Davidson said.

Jeffress began her new role with the Halifax County IDA on July 1. The role of operations manager is a new position for the IDA. While her role is new, the Halifax County landscape is well known to Jeffress, who is a Scottsburg native and resident.

“Our search led us to our own backyard,” Davidson commented in a news release on Jeffress’ hire, adding, “Blair cares deeply for her community and the development of the economy.”

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Halifax IDA taking applications to assist tourism based businesses

In a partnership with the County of Halifax, the Halifax IDA is pleased to announce it is accepting applications for assistance to tourism sector businesses in Halifax County. Tourism based businesses have been some of the hardest impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown measures implemented to combat the virus.

To encourage businesses to continue their operations and help mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic, the County, through the Halifax IDA, has established a system to award monetary grants to assist tourism-based businesses with costs incurred during the pandemic. These grants are intended to provide immediate financial relief for expenses already incurred by the businesses and are funded through an allocation of the Coronavirus Relief Funds provided through the Federal CARES Act. The Board of Supervisors has allocated $200,000 for the program.

For the purpose of this grant, tourism based businesses are defined as retail, hospitality, entertainment, employment and administrative services, or operating within a travel-related sector.

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‘AN EXCITING DAY’ Governor celebrates large-scale hemp processing facility in South Boston — the first one of its kind in the state — starting operations

gpl1A large-scale hemp processing and cannabinoid (CBD) oil extraction facility, Golden Piedmont Labs, has begun production in Halifax County, playing a key role in Virginia’s No. 1 industry: agriculture. The processing plant is the first of its kind in Virginia.

“This is an exciting day for Halifax County and an exciting day for Virginia,” said Gov. Ralph Northam as he looked out on the crowd of investors, stakeholders, state, county and local leaders gathered at Golden Piedmont Labs’ grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday morning. The facility is housed in the former Blue Ridge Beverage Company building, at 2525 Houghton Ave. in South Boston.

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$70M Rebuild VA grant fund expands

Gov. Ralph Northam announced last week that Rebuild VA, the $70 million economic recovery fund launched in August, is expanding its eligibility criteria to allow more small businesses to apply.

Businesses that received funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and supply chain partners of businesses whose normal operations were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are now eligible to receive grants of up to $10,000.

Businesses that have received federal funds must certify that they will only use the Rebuild VA grant for recurring expenses and that the grant will not be used to cover the same expenses as the other CARES Act funds.

Rebuild VA, which is administered by the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, successfully launched on Aug. 10. SBSD and its program partners, the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, made the decision to expand eligibility criteria after analysis of eligible and ineligible applications received within the first 30 days of the launch.

“When we initially launched Rebuild VA, we focused on reaching the small businesses and nonprofit organizations most in need,” Northam said. “I am deeply grateful for the work of our state agencies to swiftly adjust the parameters of this program so we can assist more Virginia businesses as they weather this health crisis and build back stronger.”

Eligible businesses and nonprofits must demonstrate that their normal operations were limited by Governor Northam’s Executive Orders 53 or 55, or that they were directly impacted by the closure of such businesses.

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Partners launch job skill training efforts

gener8tor, SOVA Innovation Hub and Microsoft recently announced an effort to launch gener8tor Upskilling, a free training program to help Southern Virginia residents get critical digital skills for in-demand jobs. The program will kick off its first, virtual class on Oct. 19.

gener8tor Upskilling Southern Virginia will be open to all Southern Virginia residents seeking to develop new skills or enhance existing skills in Customer Service or Sales.

This five-week, cohort-based program will include

w Self-paced virtual curriculum from Microsoft and LinkedIn to learn skills for in-demand customer service or sales roles, and earn certifications and badges;

w One-on-one concierge support from the gener8tor team on the skills content, plus coaching on interview skills and resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letter writing;

w Virtual access to a network of peers who can support each other and form a community; and

w Opportunities to interview with companies ready to hire candidates with these skills.

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