'Most Influential Virginians' Recognized

Virginia Business announced the "50 most influential Virginians" and Southern Virginia proudly boasts three of them.

Ben J. Davenport Jr.

ben davenportChairman, First Piedmont Corp. and Davenport Energy and Vice Chairman of the IALR Board of Trustees

Davenport was recognized for his work to support economic development in rural Virginia and to support early childhood development projects.

Vice Chairman of the Board of GO Virginia, he also serves on the boards of Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corp. and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

 

Tad Deriso

tad derisoPresident and CEO, Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corp., South Boston

Deriso was acknowledged for his role in improving Southern Virginia’s economic development. MBC, which he helped established 15 years ago, is now responsible for a 1,900-mile advanced fiber optic network covering 33 counties and also reinvests revenues in economic and community development initiatives. Deriso serves on the board of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

 

Connie Nyholm

connie nyholmMajority owner and CEO of Virginia International Raceway, Alton, and a member of the IALR Board of Trustees

Nyholm was lauded for her business acumen and her impact on Southern Virginia. Nyholm resurrected a historic track that now draws 300,000 visitors each year and helps employ more than 400 people. Nyholm serves as president of the Road Racing Industry Council and on the board for the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

 

from IALR March 2019 newsletter

Second Annual Industrial Hemp Summit Sells Out to More Than 350 Attendees

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) and Halifax County (Va.), co-hosts of the 2019 Industrial Hemp Summit, announce that tickets for this year’s event sold out at more than 350 attendees. Held at IALR Feb.25-26, the multi-stakeholder collaboration focused on building the U.S. industrial hemp market, highlighting innovations and exploring necessary resources and infrastructure for industry development.

“Last year’s event attracted attendees from 10 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, Mexico and China,” said IALR Executive Director Mark Gignac. “We are pleased with this year’s sell-out event, which has drawn an even wider audience from 18 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and the U.K. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and the increasing interest in this emerging market, we expect the size of the event to grow even more next year.”

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Grand Springs Water voted best in US

Grand Springs Water in Alton was recognized as the 2nd best water in the world and the best in the USThe Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting competition has been called the “Academy Awards of Water.”

And on Saturday, the 29th Annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting was held with entries from five continents making this “truly an international event,” said Robert Smith, owner of Grand Springs Water in Alton, who came home with a silver award for having the second best water in the world and the best in the United States.

The competition consists of entries in five different categories of products from around the world including Best Municipal Water, Best Bottled Water, Best Sparkling Water, Best Purified Water and Best Flavored Essence Sparkling.

The most prestigious award is to receive the Best Bottled Water in the World award.

Grand Springs Water of Alton has received this prestigious award twice in years past winning it back to back in 2008 and 2009, Smith said.

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Go-TEC initiative ready to get in gear

The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) and its partners in the Go-TEC (Great Opportunities in Technology and Engineering Careers) collaborative have been awarded a $648,000 state grant to prepare local students for high-growth careers in information technology, advanced manufacturing and related fields.

Go-TEC is a partnership between higher education centers in Halifax, Pittsylvania and Henry counties, and the K-12 school systems in their service areas. Higher education partners are the SVHEC, Danville Community College, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, New College Institute Patrick Henry Community College, and Southside Virginia Community College.

“This is regional collaboration at its very best,” said Dr. Betty H. Adams, SVHEC executive director. “The Go-TEC project leverages existing technical programs of excellence across the region while reaching into middle schools to inspire and motivate local students into high-demand career pathways.”

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State officials talk key issues with local leaders

Secretary of Commerce visits Southern VAThe Southern Virginia Regional Alliance and the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) of Halifax County hosted Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball, Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) President and CEO Stephen Moret, members of their staff and others for a round table event held late last month.

The round table session, held at Southern Virginia Technology Park, included manufacturing and business representatives as well as Sen. Frank Ruff; Legislative Assistant to Del. James Edmunds Shelia Bradley; and representatives from GO Virginia, Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC), ChemQuest Technology Institute (CTI), Southern Virginia Higher Education Center and the Halifax IDA.

The discussion focused on the vision for rural economic development. Topics addressed included broadband technology, inclusive of MBC’s work in the region; CTI’s research for companies worldwide; the Henrietta Lacks Life Science Center plans for the region; and relevant pending legislation.

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Higher Ed Solutions for Rural Students

More states should consider creating rural higher education centers, writes Anne Kim, and colleges should embrace such centers as a way to help more students succeed.

After graduating from her rural Pennsylvania high school in 2005, Tesla Rae Moore did what most American high school seniors today expect to do: she left home for college with her sights on a four-year degree. But when she was a sophomore in nursing school at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, the unexpected intervened: she became pregnant with her son.

“It was a high-risk pregnancy, and I decided to stop the program,” she said. Moore returned to her hometown of Kane, a community of about 3,500 in northwestern Pennsylvania. At first intending just to take a break, she ended up dropping out. “I was going to go back, and then it was just one of those things,” she said. “Life happened.”

Moore didn’t lose her desire to return to college; she just couldn’t figure out how to make it work. As a single mom, she couldn’t quit her job. Moreover, getting to Pitt-Bradford, the nearest four-year institution, required a ninety-minute round-trip commute. The closest two-year college, in Butler County, was a two-hour drive each way. Online-only classes might have been a solution, but Moore felt she needed more structure to succeed. “Especially for somebody that’s been out of school, it takes a lot of discipline,” she said.

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IDA donates to help Cometbots

Halifax County High School’s Robotics Team, the Cometbots, has been invited to compete in the World Championships in Detroit, Michigan, this month, but they need help getting there.

On Friday morning, members of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority offered $2,500 in much-needed financial aid during their regular monthly meeting held at the Southern Virginia Technology Park in South Boston.

In order to pay for SUV rentals, gas, hotel rooms, event registration, meals and the safe transport of the Cometbots’ robot, the Cometbots started a GoFundMe page in an effort to raise $5,000 of their estimated $15,199 budget.

IDA member Nancy Pool offered the motion that the IDA contribute a $2,500 grant to the HCHS Robotics Team for their trip to the World Championships in Detroit.

“We’re very proud of our students and the school system for the robotics program,” Pool said as her motion was unanimously approved.

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Foreign trade zone is latest effort of Halifax County IDA

Progress continues on Halifax County Industrial Development Authority’s efforts to boost economic development in the county by establishing a foreign trade zone in the county, and progress also is being made in the EPA Brownfield Program.

Those two items were topics of updates at the joint meeting between Halifax County Board of Supervisors and the town councils of South Boston and Halifax on Monday.

Applying to become part of a foreign trade zone is the county IDA’s latest effort to boost economic development in the county by adding another incentive for current businesses and industries as well as for potential prospects eyeing the county.

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