GRUNDY, VA — (JANUARY 3, 2020) – A total of 42 new projects and seven expansions creating 556 total jobs helped make 2019 the most active year in the 31-year history of the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA). The statistics were compiled at year-end and also showed private investment related to those jobs projected at $28.56 million.
“In terms of marketing events, prospect visits, new projects, loan/grant approvals and loan/grant closings, 2019 was the most active year in VCEDA history,” said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel. “Projects were announced and funding was approved in all eight localities in the VCEDA region which includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell and Wise counties and the City of Norton.”
The year began with three vacant industrial shell buildings and one under construction. It ended with three of them sold – including the one under construction. One of those buildings had been on the market for more than a decade.
Belcher noted VCEDA participated in 35 outreach marketing and business development events in 2019 to promote the region, the highest number in VCEDA history.
The 42 new projects announced in 2019 are projected to create 209 full-time jobs and 67 part-time jobs with a projected private investment of $16.494 million. The seven expansions are projected to create 260 full-time jobs and 20 part-time jobs with a private investment of $12.067 million. Combined, they bring 469 full-time and 87 part-time jobs to the region.
Nine loans and 48 grants were approved and nine loans and 44 grants were closed in 2019 – two additional record setters in VCEDA history. The nine loans and 48 grants approved in 2019 represent $18.8 million in new VCEDA funding.
“The level of activity and interest in our region during 2019 was notable,” Belcher said. “Not only did we set records for new projects, but we also set them for prospect visits.”
Belcher noted prospect activity was up in 2019 with 70 prospect visits, the most ever recorded by VCEDA. The authority handled 174 inquiries throughout the course of the year. The region’s average unemployment rate is also the lowest in more than 12 years at less than 4 percent.
Some of the projects announced during the year included Canadian manufacturer Polycap’s decision to locate in Russell County, bringing with it 65 jobs; the Paul’s Fan Company back-to back announcements of an expansion in Buchanan County and its new endeavor in Lee County bringing a combined total of 55 new jobs and retention of 42 jobs; the Sykes-Intuit expansion bringing 154 jobs to Wise County; the Carbon Research and Development Company bringing with it 35 new jobs to Wise County; and the Lawrence Brothers Inc. expansion in Tazewell County which will bring 28 jobs. A number of tourism-related projects also were announced in 2019.
Belcher said VCEDA’s seed capital matching grant program, established two years ago in 2017, continued to grow in 2019. Thirty-six new small businesses were approved for seed capital matching grants in 2019, bringing the total to 71 that have been assisted since the program started.
“Our seed capital matching fund has continued to be successful,” Belcher said. “Since its inception, we have funded projects for entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and to create jobs in a variety of fields. The program has successfully resulted in investment by small businesses in our local communities and has also created jobs benefitting residents in VCEDA’s seven county, one-city area.”
“In addition to VCEDA’s other programs and initiatives which are more targeted to traditional industrial development, we believe that supporting entrepreneurship and small business growth is another very important component of enhancing the economy of the region,” he added.
Small businesses in the VCEDA region, ranging from fitness centers to repair shops, food trucks to health care services, horse bit manufacturing to cafes and more were approved for the dollar-for-dollar matching grants under the program designed for businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees. Applicants for the seed capital program work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare their applications for funding to VCEDA.
Marketing outreach by VCEDA in 2019 was accomplished by attendance at and sponsorship of a variety of events. Establishing relationships with site consultants and others involved in foreign direct investment (FDI) continued as an outreach target area. VCEDA again exhibited at and participated in the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, DC, the highest profile event promoting FDI in the United States. VCEDA also met with site consultants at conferences in Dallas, Texas and Chicago, Ill., during the year and participated in call trips in Indiana and West Virginia.
Other major outreach events included the utilities, data centers and renewable energy conference in Richmond, Va.; Data Center World in Phoenix, Ariz.; Manufacturing in America Summit and Call Trip in Detroit, Mich.; Automotive Composites Conference and Exhibition in Novi, Mich.; FABTECH in Chicago, Ill.; Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Supplier Fair in Las Vegas, Nev.; National HUBZone Conference in Chantilly, Va.; and AUVSI Xponential in Chicago.
“The success that VCEDA and the coalfield region enjoyed in 2019 was made possible by a team approach,” Belcher said. “Elected officials, economic, community and workforce developers, educational institutions, localities, industrial development authorities, private businesses — including the coal and natural gas industries – are team members who are key to positive progress in our region. We look forward to working with them again in 2020 to continue to build and diversify the region.”
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. www.vaceda.org or www.e-Region.org.