EMPOWER breaks ground on $154M project

EMPOWERWith several ceremonial shovels full of Southside Virginia soil last Thursday,  EMPOWER Broadband, Inc. commemorated a significant stride forward in leveling the playing field between rural and urban communities by launching a significant expansion of their fiber network. 
EMPOWER employees were joined by state Sen. Frank Ruff and Delegate Tommy Wright, along with other state, regional and local leaders, for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction on a $154 million initiative to bring high-speed internet to 14,634 unserved and underserved locations in Halifax, Mecklenburg and the southern portions of Charlotte and Brunswick counties. 

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Hitachi Energy to Expand in Virginia, Creating 165 New Jobs in Halifax County

Global technology leader to invest $37 million to increase production of larger power transformer

Governor Glenn Youngkin today announced that Hitachi Energy, a global technology leader that is advancing a sustainable energy future for all, will invest $37 million to expand its operation in Halifax County. The company will add 26,000 square feet to its facility for a new production line for the manufacture of larger transformers specifically to support the utility and renewable energy markets, which will create 165 new jobs.

“Hitachi Energy’s ambitious expansion in Halifax County represents a strong commitment and tremendous vote of confidence in the Commonwealth of Virginia as a great place to do business,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “Hitachi Energy has been an important, long-standing employer in Southern Virginia for nearly 50 years, and we are thrilled the company will create additional good-paying jobs in the community.”

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IperionX Selects Virginia for first U.S. 100% Recycled Titanium Metal Powder Facility

RICHMOND, VA — Governor Glenn Youngkin today announced that IperionX Limited (“IperionX”) (NASDAQ: IPX), a U.S. critical minerals company, plans to make a capital investment totaling $82.1 million to establish Virginia’s first titanium demonstration facility in Halifax County. The company’s project will develop over two phases, with phase one consisting of a $12.5 million investment in building construction and production-related machinery and tools, and a further $69.6 million investment anticipated under a Phase 2 expansion within three years of the initial development.

The company will initially occupy the 50,000-square-foot Halifax Shell Building in the Southern Virginia Technology Park and plans to expand the facility to 100,000 square feet in the coming years. IperionX intends to source 100% renewable energy to produce 100% recycled titanium to supply advanced industries including automotive, defense, aerospace, electric vehicles, and 3D printing. IperionX plans to develop the titanium demonstration facility as a showcase for the intersection of titanium powder production with additive manufacturing and other powder metallurgy applications. Virginia successfully competed with North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia for the project, which will create 108 new jobs over the three-year Phase 1 and Phase 2 development period.

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How a community in Southern Virginia is helping locals develop digital skills

“Most people don’t think of ‘South Boston, Virginia,’ when it comes to technology, but it’s there,” says Darryl Kent.

Kent is a native of South Boston, Va., population 7,500, in the southern part of the state. It’s just after noon, and he’s on his lunch break, talking on video chat about his responsibilities working for an outdoor furniture company based there. The shelves behind him are lined with PC towers awaiting maintenance; he’ll run diagnostics on them to get them back into service.

Amid the flashing lights, the whir of the machines and the fans cooling them, Kent will open his laptop to check the cameras and the doors of the facility. He’ll then call up a list of new hires and departures and get to work updating their access privileges in the company’s system.

“If it involves technology,” Kent says, “I have my hands on it.”

Manufacturing is a big industry in South Boston, where it’s a 50-mile drive to the nearest big city. But luxury outdoor furniture brands in remote areas need information technology (IT) expertise to function in today’s increasingly digital economy.

Kent says he had known his entire life that he wanted a career in IT. As a kid he threw himself into anything that involved technology, including robotics, audiovisual editing classes and extracurriculars. Later, he moved 160 miles east, across the state, to study computer science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. Three years into the program, he had to return home to South Boston where he enrolled at the IT Academy at Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC). In early 2021, he got a job as a help desk analyst for his current employer, which has offices around the world. And he continues to draw on his experience from the academy today. “I’ve had many a time where I’ve just been hit with a random problem,” says Kent. “And that hands-on knowledge from the academy is something that I can always look back to and immediately grasp onto.”

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Hitachi ABB becomes Hitachi Energy with plans to hire 100 new employees

Hitachi ABB has transitioned to Hitachi Energy. Hitachi Energy Logo

The South Boston transformer factory currently has 380 employees, and in the next six to eight months, they plan to hire an additional 100 individuals to supplement a range of functions including manufacturing associates, test technicians and welders.

Along with the companies name change is an effort to renew their purpose of “advancing a sustainable energy future for all.”

“This evolution highlights the breadth of opportunities where we can contribute our competence, expertise, and solutions - in areas like sustainable mobility (such as EVs and electric trains), and renewable energy, such as offshore wind power — that need innovative solutions to reduce carbon footprint, increase resilience, safety and security and which support the acceleration towards a sustainable energy future,” said Kurt Steinert, external communications manager for Hitachi Energy.

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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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