Governor's Cabinet Members Make Multiple Stops in Region











While Governor Terry McAuliffe, First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe and other members of the governor's cabinet were attending a series of meetings, events and fact-finding sessions in Danville on Tuesday, several cabinet members split up to explore other areas of southern Virginia. Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward and Secretary of Education Anne Holton traveled east to South Boston. McAuliffe and his cabinet were guests of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce's State of the Region addresses Tuesday morning. Shortly after lunch, Ward made her way to the Visitor's Center in South Boston where she met with State Parks Director Joe Elton, Staunton River State Park Manager Adam Layman and Tourism Director Linda Shepperd.

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Local African-American Leaders Honored

Seven local African-Americans were honored with a reception on Friday for their achievements as the most influential and respected African-American leaders in South Boston/Halifax County. Dozens attended the Gallery of Greatness dinner held at Washington-Coleman Community Center in South Boston.

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Halifax to Host Wild Blue River Festival September 13, 2014

Planning is in full swing for the upcoming Wild Blue River Festival to be held in the Town of Halifax on Sept. 13. The festival got its inspiration from the nickname going around for the new Southern Virginia Wild Blueway. The Banister River, or Banister Blueway, is an integral part of the "Wild Blue." To promote the kayak/canoe launch site, under construction on the Banister, the Town of Halifax will be hosting a day long celebration of the Banister as well as other forms of outdoor recreation."Currently we are in the process of seeking sponsors, vendors and volunteers for the festival," said Rebecca Ramey, events coordinator for the Town of Halifax. "Small businesses and corporate sponsors are essential to any event. They allow the town to offer unique activities as well as spread the word about the festival. In exchange, the sponsors receive advertising and marketing benefits. They also earn a reputation in the community for helping to create quality of life events for people in our county. Not only do events benefit our current residents, but festivals also help to attract and retain employees considering moving to the area because it shows that our county has things to do.

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Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton praises SVHEC job efforts

Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton visited the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center on Tuesday afternoon and expressed a high level of enthusiasm for what she found there.

Leading Holton through the SVHEC’s Innovation Center Dr. Betty Adams and Dr. Nettie Simon-Owens, accompanied by Hope Harris Gayles, proudly showed off the Center’s award winning Wood Link chairs and the Martinsville Speedway clock that had been produced in the Center for Arts and Design.

Adams also introduced Holton to David Kenealy, director of the R&D Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Efficiency, which has been making the trophies featuring a replica of the race track on them for VIR’s upcoming special event, the Tudor race, set for Aug. 21-22.

Kenealy, who currently has 20 students enrolled in his program, said the young people are very excited about their project and Holton said she was impressed with the work that is being done in the R&D Center.

Holton also toured the new welding center where 18 students are participating in the program which meets twice weekly.

Holton asked how many students the program could accommodate and was told that it is possible to have 24 participants. Turning to members of the press who were accompanying her on the tour, she instructed them to “fill this place up. Get those additional students who can train here and learn how to make a good living wage for their efforts.”

Commenting on the Center’s flexibility, Holton said she was very interested in all the opportunities offered at the Center. She inquired as to how the Center had been able to buy all the high tech equipment there and was told that most of the funding had come from the Tobacco Commission.

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Big Money Bet on Job Initiative

Students will soon be able to train for advanced manufacturing careers at the new Center of Excellence in South Boston — but first comes the task of creating the program at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center. One of three Centers of Excellence (CoEs) established this year by the Virginia Tobacco Commission, the South Boston center aspires to expand the ranks of middle-skill workers — welders, precision machinists, and industrial maintenance mechanics, in particular — who are projected to be in growing demand as industries make the shift to advanced manufacturing. The Tobacco Commission in May earmarked $2 million for centers in South Boston and Martinsville; a third center will serve Southwest Virginia, at a site yet to be determined.

The South Boston CoE will build on existing programs at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC), giving the area a leg up on other locations that have been tapped by the Tobacco Commission for the initiative, said John Cannon, a leaf panel director and SVHEC board member. Although the higher ed center has long provided job training programs for students and workers, the CoE initiative “takes us to another level,” he said. “When you come out of community college, you have a certain skill level. When you come out of this, you’re going to have a written certification that you can do [specialized] procedures for advanced manufacturers,” said Cannon. He predicted the CoE will boost Halifax County’s ongoing efforts to attract new manufacturers: “It’s one of the greatest things that has happened to the area …. We’re really a sweet spot that will finally bring people in here, that will bring [industry recruitment] to fruition. I feel really good about it,” said Cannon, who also serves as chairman of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority.

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Destination Downtown gains National Main Street Accreditation

Destination Downtown South Boston (DDSB) has been designated as an accredited National Main Street Program for meeting the commercial district revitalization performance standards set by the National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Each year, the National Main Street Center and its partners announce the list of accredited Main Street programs in recognition of their exemplary commitment to historic preservation and community revitalization through the Main Street Four Point Approach.

“We congratulate this year’s nationally accredited Main Street programs for their outstanding accomplishment in meeting the National Main Street Center’s performance standards,” said Patrice Frey, President and CEO of the National Main Street Center. “Accredited Main Street programs create vibrant communities by using a comprehensive strategy to preserve their historic character and revitalize their commercial districts, which helps make these great places to work, live, play and visit.” The organization's performance is annually evaluated by the Virginia Main Street Program, which works in partnership with the National Main Street Center to identify local programs that meet ten performance standards.private partnerships, securing an operating budget, tracking programmatic progress and actively preserving historic buildings. ”

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Special Recognition Earned for Halifax County Veterans After Discovering Career in Farming

A military couple is now milking cows in Halifax County. They've traveled around the world serving the county and are now using their experiences to raise livestock and it's getting recognition. Denise and David Hudson haven't operated their farm for long, but they've acquired quite a variety of animals. "We have the Highland cattle, the Jersey cattle," Denise said. "We raise meat goats, milk goats." You will find some of the friendliest livestock in Halifax County on the Hudson Heritage Farm.

Besides summer trips to family farms, neither has much experience with livestock before moving to the farm, but their previous careers are all the prerequisites they need. "Think about what farmers do. It's a dedicated lifestyle of supporting the rest of the country to feed America. Veterans are pretty much the same way," David said. Both Denise and David are veterans and have served in the United State Air Force and the Army National Guard.

"You've traveled the world. Why set up camp here in Halifax County?" I asked. "We really like the area. We like the people," Denise said. The combination of military service and newly found love of farming qualified the couple to get certification from the Farmer Veteran Coalition's national Homegrown by Heroes program. Find out more information here. "People are interested in buying products from veterans as well so that's a benefit got us," Denise said.

Members get access to unique farming resources and connections to other veterans who are farming. "We've had a lot of people contact us and want to learn about farming, we've had a lot of people want to cook our products," said Denise. That appreciation the Hudson's can only find on their quiet farm.

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Speaker: Despite economy, tourism growing in Virginia

"Travel is a lifestyle," and despite a flat economy, tourism is one market that continues to grow year after year.

So learned more than 50 people attending the Tourism Summit hosted by the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association at the Berry Hill Mansion and Resort Tuesday afternoon.

The summit made its way to Southside Virginia facilitating discussion among industry experts, policy makers, the General Assembly tourism caucus and members of the tourism business community about the importance of tourism in Southern Virginia.

During the two-hour long meeting, Halifax County Tourism Director Linda Shepperd welcomed everyone and introduced elected officials and community leaders in attendance including Halifax County Industrial Development Authority Executive Director Matt Leonard, Halifax Town Manager Carl Espy, Halifax County ED-6 Supervisor Larry Giordano among others.


Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association President Eric Terry offered a research presentation on the hotel market in Virginia, and Esra Calvert of the Virginia Tourism Corporation followed with a presentation about the economy in Virginia and its impact on travel and tourism.

"Travel is a lifestyle," Calvert told the crowd. She explained tourism continues to grow year after year despite the economy.

Thad Smith offered a presentation on the branding efforts and marketing campaign of the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

According to Smith, the corporation's challenge is that their brand — "Virginia Is For Lovers" — is so well known they need to reconnect back to people and make sure they know it's about travel.

The summit also included a 45-minute panel discussion.

Those on the panel included Diana Ramsey of MacCallum More Museum and Gardens, Mecklenburg County Tourism Director Justin Kerns, Nichol Cooper of Coopers Landing Inn and Travelers Tavern, Steven Schopen of Molasses Grill, and Kristian Harvard of the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association served as moderator.

from the Gazette-Virginian