Downtown South Boston has a new business on the block. Wisters flower shop has opened its doors at 441 Main St.
The fragrance and vivid colors of mingled flowers greeted the crowd that gathered Friday morning for the first day of Wisters’ two-day grand opening, a bright spot in the cold, gray January day. Owner Amanda Rose welcomed the crowd into her shop.
“I want people to come in here and feel that they are really comfortable and at home,” Rose said. “I want everyone to feel welcome here.”
Rose named Wisters after her grandfather John Wister, who always kept his door open for friends and neighbors and supported her projects and interests.
She has had the help of her mother Rhonda Day and her aunt Lisa Wilkinson in preparing for the business’ grand opening. Preparations included redoing the flooring and repainting the walls of the building.
Rose believes the building across from South Boston Town Hall is the prime spot for her business. The last business at the location was Sweet Cee’s Gifts & Kids Consignment.
“I just love this location. I feel there’s a lot of growth down here,” Rose said. “I feel at home here.”
A South Boston native has been hired to fill a leadership role at the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA).
Tracy G. Mallard will start her new role as IDA assistant director on Feb. 1.
IDA board members welcomed Mallard to her new position at their monthly meeting Friday morning.
“We’re excited to have her on board,” said IDA executive director Brian Brown. “I think she will be a true asset to this office. I look forward to partnering with her for multiple projects for the betterment of Halifax County.”
Mallard, who has spent the past five years working as a data analyst for Noblis in Danville, said she is happy to have the opportunity to turn her focus to her hometown.
“For me, there’s no greater honor than to serve and advocate for the place where you’re from,” Mallard said. “I care so much about Southern Virginia as a whole, but to get to serve in my hometown is such an honor.”
Mallard said she looks forward to building upon the workforce development pieces that are already in place here, such as the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center and the Information Technology Academy at the center, to help recruit talent and industry to Halifax County.
Brown shared with the board at Friday’s meeting that he believes this is the perfect time for Mallard to join in the IDA’s efforts to promote economic growth in Halifax County.
The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) will host the region’s first event focused specifically on meeting the needs of area hemp growers. The 2020 Hemp Grower Expo, to be held Tuesday, Jan. 28, at IALR, will allow producers to network with peers, connect with providers of hemp seeds and clones and discuss ways to successfully prepare for the next growing season.
“We are a tool for our community to thrive and grow, and one of the important audiences we serve is growers, especially since agriculture remains Virginia’s largest private industry,” said Mark Gignac, executive director of IALR. “While hemp is an exciting opportunity for diversification, as an emerging industry, there are still many guidelines and best practices to work through. We look forward to offering this platform for growers to openly discuss challenges and solutions and to connect with hemp seed and clone providers.”
The 2020 Hemp Grower Expo will occur from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 28. The agenda will feature a networking and exhibit showroom of hemp seed and clone providers the entire duration of the expo.
From 11 a.m. to noon, IALR’s own Yimeng “Jack” He, Analytical Chemist, will present “Unraveling the Mysteries of Hemp Testing.” His remarks will address the testing process and the six causatives IALR has identified regarding lab-to-lab discrepancies.
Gignac also will discuss the ways IALR is using its research assets and expertise to help inform guidelines and best practices moving forward as consensus methodology is developed for hemp testing.
Halifax County was recently recognized for its workforce development achievements over the past year at the ACT Workforce Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina. The annual summit, which brings together experts in business, education, workforce and economic development, included the ACT Work Ready Communities Awards Ceremony and Recognition.
Meagan Owen, coordinator of learner success and engagement for Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC), accepted the award on behalf of Halifax County for completing a new set of goals to maintain its certification as a Work Ready Community.
“We are so happy to recognize and award our Work Ready Communities at our annual convening of workforce experts,” said ACT president of measurement Suzana Delanghe. “These participating communities have demonstrated a commitment to developing a strong workforce pipeline, which is paramount to building stronger communities and fostering business and economic growth.”
Robert Smith, of Grand Springs Distribution in Alton has been elected to serve as chairman of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) Board of Directors for 2019-2020.
IBWA members elected the association’s leadership during the 2019 Annual Business Conference held in Anaheim, California, from Nov. 18-21.
Smith is a member of IBWA’s executive committee and board of directors. He previously served as vice chairman.
Grand Springs bottles water at the source in a controlled environment within its Alton facility for assurance of quality and purity.
The plant is located on 495 acres with numerous pristine spring sources located within the property in a protected environment. These springs have been protected for the purpose of producing premium water products.
Longtime public works employee C. W. Crowder Jr. is the new South Boston public works director, succeeding Danny McCormick, who announced his retirement last month.
Town Manager Tom Raab made the announcement at Monday’s work session, noting Crowder’s knowledge with Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) regulations, including VDOT’s state of good repair program and his experience working with the public works department in a number of capacities for 24 years.
Known as state of good repair (SGR), the program provides funding for deteriorated pavements and structurally deficient bridges maintained or owned by the Virginia Department of Transportation and/or localities as approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
Crowder, operations supervisor since 2006, will supervise 23 public works employees in his job as public works director.
Brian Brown, executive director of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), had some good news and some not so good news during a presentation Friday at the IDA board’s planning session, with some job sectors showing an increase in job opportunities, while others contracted.
Brown told board members the strongest forecast by numbers of jobs over the next five years is for health care and social assistance with a projected increase of 116 jobs, followed by information-related jobs with a projected increase of 14 jobs and utilities-related employment with a projected increase of 11 jobs.
According to Chmura’s Jobs EQ data, the best-paying jobs in Halifax County are utilities ($75,978), finance and insurance ($55,102) and management of companies and enterprises ($52,799).
Chmura also reported the average worker in Halifax County earned annual wages of $36,542 as of the second quarter of 2019, and that average annual wages per worker increased 3.7% in the region over the preceding four quarters.
For comparison purposes, annual average wages were $57,025 in the nation as a whole as of the second quarter of 2019, according to Chmura Jobs EQ.
In terms of a strategic plan, Brown asked how the board and staff can help their training partners, schools and community deliver information about job opportunities and teaching skills necessary to fill those positions.