RD114 - Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority 2017 Annual Report
This year was a very exciting and active year for the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA). Not only did VCEDA experience one of the highest numbers ever of business prospect visits to the region, in 2017 the Authority also approved and earmarked $23.6 million in loans and grants, the most in the Authority’s 29-year history. VCEDA also reported the highest quantity of new projects and expansions in its history.
A number of the new projects were made possible by a new funding program implemented by VCEDA in 2017. At the board’s February meeting, VCEDA approved changes to the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund to make it a matching grant program for small businesses three years and under with less than 10 full-time employees. The response was outstanding to the new matching grant program designed to spur entrepreneurship in the coalfield region. Applicants worked with Margie Douglass and Tim Blankenbecler, directors of the Small Business Development Centers at Southwest Virginia Community College and Mountain Empire Community College, to prepare the seed capital applications to VCEDA. During the year, the Authority approved grants to help a dozen new small businesses, including a coffee shop, a botanicals company, a digital marketing business, a pastry shop, an e-bike rental business, and an Airbnb short-stay business, just to name a few.
While supporting entrepreneurship in this new way as a means to further diversify the region’s economy, VCEDA also maintained its focus on marketing and supporting the region as a great location for new business and business expansions. Some highlights of such projects include a new manufacturing operation in Russell County by JENNCHEM, LLC, an innovative new diabetes treatment center and a new craft brewery in Tazewell County, and the addition of new jobs at TeleTech and Sykes Enterprises.
Additional highlights of the year include the proposed new Haysi Trails Center and a ribbon cutting on the Ridgeview ATV trail system in Dickenson County, the ribbon cutting on the new Mineral Gap Tier III data center in Wise County, the opening of Southern Gap Outdoor Adventures in Buchanan County, a new zip line attraction at the Breaks Interstate Park, a groundbreaking on a new technology shell building in Tazewell County, a regional Agriculture Summit at which the results of a study commissioned by VCEDA on how to expand the region’s agriculture industry were presented, and the closing of a workforce development and training grant by VCEDA to the Southwest Virginia Community College Educational Foundation.
As VCEDA looks forward to its 30-year anniversary in 2018, its role remains as important as ever and it continues to play a key role in the enhancement and diversification of the economy of the coalfield region of Virginia.