Mid-Atlantic Broadband Celebrates Their 10 Year Anniversary

Open-access fiber optic network continues to help regional economy grow

Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC), a successful wholesale fiber-optic open-access network transport provider, is celebrating their 10 year anniversary today. Many things have changed over the last ten years, but MBC has remained steadfast in working to fulfill its core mission areas of promoting economic development, lessening the burdens of government, bridging the digital divide, and reinvesting in our communities.

The initial investment in 2004 from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission funded the build out of the first 800 miles of fiber throughout Southern Virginia, connecting every single industrial, business and technology park in the region. MBC recently completed three Federal grants through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 which included the construction of over 700 additional miles of fiber to the original network. Those projects included extending open-access fiber to all K-12 schools in Southern Virginia, extending the fiber backbone west to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, and extending network builds to southeast Virginia/Hampton Roads market in partnership with Old Dominion University. Today, MBC maintains a regional fiber network of 1600+ route miles with over 300 buildings and 70 towers on-net, including direct connectivity to the largest Internet peering hubs in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic region.

As MBC's network has grown, so has the MBC team. Mid-Atlantic Broadband now has fifteen full-time employees dedicated to managing the $100 million organization. Since its inception in 2004, MBC has directly enabled the creation of over 900 full-time jobs and attracted over $1.3 Billion in private sector investments from companies expanding their presence in rural Southern Virginia. MBC recently opened an office in Silicon Valley, California to promote Southern Virginia and enhance our economic development recruitment efforts for companies looking to expand to cost effective east coast markets.

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Enterprise Zone Payments Made to 6 Companies

The Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) has distributed over $133,000 in Halifax County Enterprise Zone grants to six different business and industries for their capital investments made.

"These are real investments made by our strong and stable corporate partners in Halifax County," says Matt Leonard, the IDA's Executive Director. "These investments broaden the County's business and industrial tax base, generating more revenue over time which helps keep down the tax rates for our citizens."

Enterprise Zones are allowed in select communities by the Commonwealth of Virginia. They allow localities to offer grant-backs of a portion of the increased tax revenues County's receive when businesses and industries invest more in their community. In any five-year period, and on average, the amount granted back is approximately 50% of the increased revenues received. The IDA administers the program for the County because of its close ties to the County's industries.

"We track their needs, and work to help meet them." says Leonard. "Our existing and new industries appreciate that we appreciate them. We form long-lasting partnerships with them. The Enterprise Zone program is an aspect of that partnership; and part of the reason why they come to Halifax, and stay and grow in Halifax. The distributions made this week went to companies that have been in Halifax County from five years to 30 years."

"Based on the information the IDA gathered from County industries regarding near-term plans, we anticipate awards of nearly $140,000 in 2014," says Marissa Jackson, the IDA's Operations Manager who will take lead on the EZ program this year. "That's more than 2013 and that means there's still measurable growth."

Riddle set to rejoin Chamber

The Halifax County Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that Mitzi Riddle will be joining the Chamber as vice president of Business and Program Development effective Tuesday, Jan. 21.

Riddle worked for the Chamber from 2000 to 2011. Most recently, she worked for Averett University as director of special events.

She holds a bachelor's and master's degree in business administration from Averett University. She is a 2005 graduate of the US Chamber's four-year Institute for Organization Management program through which she earned the chamber industry's IOM designation.

"I am very excited to return to the Chamber," Riddle stated. "I am passionate about what the Chamber does for businesses and the community. I look forward to working with the Chamber's board and volunteers to grow the organization and serve the membership," she continued. Riddle's major responsibilities will include marketing, membership, and programming.

"The Chamber is very fortunate to attract someone with Mitzi's credentials and experience. Having worked at the Chamber for eleven years, she brings a strong background in organization and volunteer management. Add to that her education and experience at Averett, the Chamber is going to benefit tremendously. She's coming back at a good time because March is the end of our fiscal year. Planning for 2014-15 is beginning.' stated Chamber President, Nancy Pool.

Halifax County IDA - Brighter, Bolder, Business

The Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) looks back on 2013 as a year of positive change with exciting new projects. The IDA looks forward to 2014 as a year of opportunity. "Our Brighter, Bolder, Business tagline is not just some clever little bit of alliteration," says Matt Leonard,the IDA's Executive Director. "It is how we operate now." Leonard explains that the IDA has restructured its operations, reworked its staff, deployed new and targeted marketing initiatives and reinvigorated its relationships with its critical mission partners. These are natural extensions of Halifax's long history of working to set itself apart from and above other communities when it comes to business and industry. What we have done in 2013 bodes well for 2014.

As the County looks back over 2013 it can be proud of its resilience through these difficult economic times. Halifax continues to retain many of our strongest and longest lasting employers, while new ones emerge. These include ABB, Presto, Aquatic, Annin, CCI, TMI and Dollar General. New industries opened in 2013, including the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative's South Boston Energy biomass plant, a $150M capital investment with 26 new full time jobs, and positive economic ripples through our legacy wood products industry. Also, Halifax Regional Health System merged with Sentara, making its 1,300 employees part of a 24,000 member organization, and promising $115M in capital investments over the next ten years. "Their continued commitment to Halifax is a testament to our long-term viability," adds Leonard.

The Halifax IDA administers a state Enterprise Zone program that incentivizes current and prospect industries to create new jobs and add capital investments. "The IDA managed County awards of over $130,000 in EZ incentives in 2013," says Marissa Jackson, the IDA's Operations Manager. Marissa will take lead on the EZ program beginning in 2014. "We anticipate awards of nearly $140,000 in 2014," she says. "That means growth."

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Halifax County, VA Hosts Virginia Economic Development Partnership

The Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) hosted 11 staff members of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), including a number of its senior leadership. The full day event took place on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 and included an itinerary of IDA presentations, tours of IDA and community assets, and strategic planning discussions. The IDA was represented by its staff and Board members throughout the day. IDA Board members Chris Lumsden (Chairman of the Prospects & Properties Committee) and John Cannon (Board Chairman) attended most of the day's events.

"VEDP is a critical partner to the IDA's mission of increased employment and economic growth," says Matt Leonard, the IDA's Executive Director. "We are fortunate to already have a strong relationship with VEDP's senior leadership, including Chris Lumsden who is the current Vice Chairman of the VEDP Board, and instrumental in helping to facilitate the session on January 8th."

The goal of the January 8th session was to display the IDA's significant staffing, and operational changes, and receive input from the VEDP regarding the IDA's current marketing strategies and tactics. It also allowed both to continue to coordinate these efforts to become more effective and efficient.

"As a member of the VEDP's Board of Directors and the IDA Board," said Lumsden "knowing the changes in leadership and strategies in both organizations over the last year, I thought it was important to get the two groups together. Especially in light of the challenging economy we all face together. I am pleased with how it all came together and turned out."

Among those from the VEDP in attendance was Liz Povar, Vice President of Business Expansion. She had this to say about Halifax, Virginia: "Our discussion with Halifax leadership was a way to more fully understand the assets of the County and its strategic goals. The VEDP team appreciated the opportunity to carry out this "deep dive" and we were impressed with its focus on weaving education, applied research and real estate into a solid framework to build on existing industry as well as business formation and recruitment."

The final session of the day was attended by representatives from other local mission critical partners. These included, Doug Bowman, Finance Committee Chairman of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, Mark Estes, Executive Director of the Halifax County Service Authority, Dr. Betty Adams, Executive Director of the SVHEC, Ed Owens, Mayor of South Boston and the immediate past Chairman of the Tobacco Commission's Southside Economic development Committee, Mattie Cowan, IDA Board Member, and Ted Bennett, IDA Board Member and HEF Board Member.

Dollar General gives $40k literacy gift to Sinai Elementary

Sinai Elementary School principal Kevin Neal reacts after opening an early Christmas gift from the local Dollar General distribution facility. Dollar General made a $40,000 donation Wednesday to the school to be used to purchase reading materials and help promote literacy. (David Conner II photo)Santa Claus arrived early Wednesday morning at Sinai Elementary School as Dollar General managers Hank Bruining and Matt Hunt handed a yellow and black box containing a big surprise to Principal Kevin Neal.

Neal opened the box as students and school officials looked on, finding a check for $40,000 made out to the school.

"I couldn't believe it," said the flabbergasted Neal.

"It was just amazing. I was told by a company representative last week that we would be receiving a surprise, but I had no idea it would be of this magnitude."

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Merle Herndon, on hand for the presentation, shared the thought: "It just brought tears to my eyes," said Herndon. "I had been told that it was an important gift, but I had no idea of its magnitude."

Bruining, Senior Manager for Human Resources at the South Boston distribution center, explained that the gift to Sinai Elementary continues a long standing relationship between Dollar General and the school.

"We have supported their literacy program through their 'Reading Is Fundamental' [initiative] for the past ten years, providing books for the students to take home and with other supplies," said Bruining, "but when Dollar General announced this new program, 'Reading Revolution' this year, we thought of Sinai Elementary."

Dollar General's new Reading Revolution program aims to provide schools with extra resources to purchase books, computers and other educational supplies to enhance reading and literacy programs. This is the first year of the program; Bruining said some 12 schools around the nation located near company headquarters or distribution centers have been chosen to receive the awards.

"By supporting Sinai Elementary School with this gift, we hope to help students become better readers, more successful students and lifelong learners," said Denine Torr, Dollar General's director of community initiatives.

Herndon praised the company for making such a large investment in the community.

"It's also a great investment in the future of our children and one we greatly appreciate."

Neal said he and school staffers will sit down after the Christmas holidays to look at needs at Sinai and make long-range plans for using the money. "We want to be very careful to spend it so as to get the most bang for our bucks." He expressed his thanks to Dollar General for the generous gift.

from The News & Record


Using 3-D printing technology, students create new hand for young girl

Abby Lammerts practices picking up a ball with her new hand, created by students at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston.Gripping a handle, picking up a ball, holding a hair brush — these are movements most people do a thousand times a day without even thinking about it. But for 12-year-old Abby Lammerts, these simple tasks have been virtually impossible.

Until now.

Abby was born with a spinal condition called "syringomyelia," as well as defects in her hands and face. The fingers on her left hand were completely fused together, while the bones in her right were present but didn't connect properly.

Abby underwent seven surgeries before her fourth birthday, most of which were reconstructive procedures. Still, her mother, Amy Hudson Lammerts Cole, said Abby never let her physical differences hold her back.

"She's had her challenges. But we always told her she's no different than anyone else, so that's what she grew up believing," Cole said. "She never let it get her down. If anything, she used it as motivation to push even harder."

But the deformities in her hands still made it difficult for Abby to do certain tasks, such as playing the trombone, riding a bike and brushing her hair. It was a part of life that she, and her parents, simply accepted as reality.

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14 Organizations Attend C-CARE Pre-Proposal Meeting

CCARE operator RFP meetingHalifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) hosted a mandatory Pre-Proposal Meeting for the National Center for Coatings Application Research and Education (C-CARE) December 6, 2013 at Riverstone Centre. 14 different coatings industry businesses, professional associations, and workforce training and education organizations attended the meeting. C-CARE is part of Halifax's economic development tool-kit which aims to provide assets and programs to support and attract industries that require advanced manufacturing technology and skill sets. The IDA has issued the C-CARE Request for Proposal (RFP) to attract an operator, or team of operators, for C-CARE who can meet critical economic development goals. "C-CARE is a world-class facility in Halifax, Virginia," said Matt Leonard, the IDA's Executive Director. "We need world-class operators to make the most of it. This RFP process is our way of finding them."

The mission of C-CARE is to assist manufacturers with their process engineering, research and development, and work-force training needs in the application of coatings to their final products. The C-CARE lab in Riverstone Technology Park has been recognized by industry as a one-of-a-kind facility and rounds out Halifax's capability in aiding manufacturer's in all cycles of product development, including modeling and simulation, design, engineering, and prototyping. "We were well pleased with the turnout of various industries and stakeholders along the coatings and advanced manufacturing spectrum," commented Dr. Doug Corrigan, Executive Director of the IDA's Riverstone Energy Center. "The quality and reputation of these organizations underscores our ongoing vision of creating a world-class and one-of-a-kind program for an unmet need in the industry."

Attendees were given an overview of the RFP and then toured Riverstone Energy Center, C-CARE, and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center's Innovation Center. Responses to the C-CARE RFP are due February 21, 2014.