Tourism efforts gaining steam

Tourism is gaining momentum in Halifax County, supporters say, and efforts are ongoing to build up the county’s tourist assets. “Halifax County has a wealth of things to do,” said Virginia State Park District Manager Tim Vest, speaking Monday before members of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors and South Boston and Halifax town councils. Vest thanked elected officials for their support of local tourism, which has helped the county’s two state parks attract a growing number of visitors. Enumerating the various activities and historic treasures of Halifax County, Vest cited its three rivers — the Staunton, Dan and Banister — as well as the archeological site near Clover’s Staunton River Battlefield State Park, where visitors can join professional archeologists in unearthing historic Native American finds from thousands of years ago. Vest also noted the appeal of the historic Berry Hill Plantation, The Prizery and the Crossing of the Dan site to outsiders visiting the county. Much of his focus, however, centered around activities at Staunton River State Park and Staunton River Battlefield Park. He talked about the recent star gazing party at Staunton River Park, which this year attracted more than 300 people, from amateur star gazers to more advanced astronomers.

 CHAOS (The Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observation Society) hosts star parties each spring and fall, with one night featuring a free public viewing. The crowds have grown from ten people who attended the first party in 2011 to 110 registered participants during the Oct. 1-6 event this year at Staunton River State Park, said Vest.

A group of youths from New York visited the park, Vest added, and for the first time ever were able to see the stars.

Vest said the Staunton River State Park location is one of the top sites on the East Coast for star gazing, and he urged governing officials to preserve the area’s dark skies by encouraging the use of incandescent or low wattage electric bulbs in construction projects.

Other popular features at Staunton River State Park are its recently-opened equestrian trail and Edmunds Lake, one of the largest fishing areas in the state.

Vest also touted the proposed creation of river trail system involving South Boston, Halifax, the Battlefield Park and Staunton River State Park. Local tourism officials are seeking a $10,000 grant for the trail from the Virginia Tourism Corporation, which require a local match of $10,000. He said Virginia State Parks has pledged $3,000 with Mecklenburg and Halifax County each contributing $1,500.

The remaining $4,000 would be sought from the Virginia Capital group, which supports non-profits, according to Halifax County Tourism Director Linda Shepperd.

Shepperd said the grant application was submitted to the Tourism Corporation on Monday and she hopes for an answer before Christmas.

The grant, she said, encourages a regional approach, which is favored by state officials. “We feel we have a strong proposal which includes not only the Staunton, Dan and Banister rivers, but also the Hyco. All told we have some 200 miles of navigable rivers.”

In other reports, Halifax Town Manager Carl Espy spoke on the 2013 Scenic Awards ceremony held in Richmond recently. Three newly designated state scenic rivers were recognized by Scenic Virginia, the statewide conservation organization with a particular focus on the preservation of significant views and vistas. On July 1, a 38.4 mile segment of the Banister River was awarded the scenic river designation, Espy said, with sections of the Dan and Meherrin Rivers receiving the same designation.

Supervisors and Council members presented Del. James Edmunds with a framed resolution thanking him for his continued dedication towards protecting and promoting the community’s natural resources. Edmunds was the patron of House Bill #2220 dealing with scenic river designations.

Supervisors and Council members also heard a report from Library Board Chairman Bee Edmunds Espy. She advised that representatives of the State Library have recommended that the local library board consider joining a regional library system with Campbell County, which is partnering with Lynchburg and Bedford County. With regional status bringing additional state funds, Espy said partnering with Campbell County would mean a bonus of $35,677 for Halifax libraries. The state formula for funding, she explained, is based on basic state aid — 40 percent of local expenditures plus 30 cents per capital and $10 per square mile.

The state formula for regional libraries is 40 percent basic state aid, 30 cents per capital or 60 cents if combined with Campbell, Bedford and Lynchburg and $30 per square mile.

In addition to the increased financial support, Espy said other benefits includes having a greater source of materials to offer patrons, as well as having only one director for the entire library region. But the process can be complex and lengthy and could take as long as two years to complete.

She said the Library Board will continue to evaluate the recommendation and work with the Joint Library Committee to come to some decision on the feasibility or regionalization.

Following the joint session with the towns, County Supervisors approved a resolution for the irrevocable election not to participate in the Virginia Local Disability Program and named County Administrator Jim Halasz and ED-4 Supervisor Doug Bowman to serve on the Lake Country Development Corporation’s Board of Directors.

Published / October 24, 2013



Institute assists VIR to clone famed oak tree

National Speed Sport News

Virginia International Raceway is moving forward with plans to improve its facilities, including repaving the 3.27 mile historic road course and widening it in several places, as well as paving in the north paddock this off-season.

In addition, the raceway will further memorialize its iconic oak tree, which fell this summer after serving as a prominent feature and welcome shade provider to the track’s south end for more than 200 years.

Honoring the fallen oak tree, VIR is working with the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research to actually clone the tree. The IALR is located in Danville and focuses on using research, education and conferencing to create economic development. Once its work is complete, the cloned saplings will be offered to VIR fans so they can replant them in their own communities and celebrate the iconic old oak tree for years to come. VIR will announce more on timing and purchase opportunities once details are confirmed.

“To be able to honor the grand old oak tree in such a historic and innovative way is really special for us,” said Connie Nyholm, owner and CEO of VIR. “We’re so grateful to the IALR for helping us with this and we’re excited to be able to share the cloned tree with VIR fans. Nothing will replace the old tree, but this will serve as a great tribute to it.”

The announcements come at the fourth day of racing at VIR, leading up to today’s appropriately named Oak Tree Grand Prix featuring the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron. Fans who bought advanced tickets to the race will receive a limited edition key chain featuring a token made from the original oak tree. Additional memorabilia made from the tree’s wood is planned and will be announced in the weeks and months to follow. As a final nod to the original, VIR will plant a new oak tree near the spot of the fallen one.

The VIR track improvements this off-season will include: · Repaving the track’s full course, the first time the 3.27 miles have been repaved since 1999 in preparation for VIR’s 2000 reopening · Widening the track by six feet at several locations to allow easier passing (map available with specific locations) · Moving of the start and finish line to just after pit row, allowing better viewing for spectators as well as positioning the finish on a wider portion of the track · Paving of the north paddock, including both previously paved and unpaved portions to ensure an even and smooth surface.

C-CARE partners with Kawasaki Robotics

Kawasaki robotics at C-CAREThe National Center for Coatings, Application, Research and Education (C-CARE) has solidified its partnership with Kawasaki Robotics by integrating a new 6-axis robot into the Riverstone facility, Doug Corrigan, executive director of the Riverstone Energy Center, announced Friday.

The partnership was formalized last week.

C-CARE represents a multi-million dollar investment by the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Communities Revitalization Commission, the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), Halifax County and a host of industry partners.

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 in North America and rounds out Halifax's capability in aiding manufacturers in all cycles of product development, including modeling and simulation, design, engineering and prototyping.

C-CARE is part of Halifax's economic development tool-kit that aims to provide assets and programs to support and attract industries that require advanced manufacturing technology and skill sets.

C-CARE is equipped with state-of-the-art technologies from a number of industrial partners, which include Superfici, Krautzburger, Graco, Kremlin and Kawasaki. The latest addition to the C-CARE lab, a 6-axis Kawasaki robot, enables manufacturers to use the latest technology for applying spray coatings to their parts on an automated hangline.

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Local businessman in "Top 35 under 35" rising stars in automotive industry

TMI Autotech logoTMI AutoTech's Co-Owner and VP Mark Swain has been recognized as one of the "Top 35 under 35" rising stars in the automotive industry by SEMA - Specialty Equipment Market Association.

TMI AutoTech, the North American manufacturer of the Ariel Atom, is headquartered at VIRginia International Raceway in Halifax County. The company also offers precision manufacturing for clients, and corporate retreats through its VIR Driving Experience.

Visit to read the article.

SVHEC receives software grant from Siemens PLM Software

SVHEC to use the same technology in its classrooms that companies worldwide depend on to design some of today's most sophisticated products

Computers in SVHEC's cadlab will be loaded with Siemens Go PLM software for student instruction & workforce training.

Today, the SVHEC announced it received an in-kind software grant from Siemens PLM Software, with a commercial value of $94 million.

The SVHEC will adopt the software for students training in Product Design & Development (a program offered in partnership with Danville Community College), and for use in the R&D Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Energy Efficiency (R&D CAMEE). R&D CAMEE will use Siemens PLM software for workforce training, and to resolve advanced manufacturing product development and process solutions for regional business and industry.

The software adoption gives students and industries across southern Virginia access to the same technology that companies around the world depend on every day to develop innovative products in a wide variety of industries including automotive, aerospace, machinery, shipbuilding, high-tech electronics and many more. Graduates with this type of software training are highly-recruited candidates for advanced technology jobs.

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Energy Center intern studying Computer Science at VCU

Riverstone Energy Center intern Zack Raney is beginning his first year of college at Virginia Commonwealth University as a Computer Science major. As a Junior at Halifax County High School, Zach began his internship in June 2012 after touring the Riverstone Energy Center as part of Longwood University’s Digispired program.

“Using the knowledge I gained from Digispired, I was able to help Riverstone Energy Center create computer programs based on virtual reality to help expand their capabilities in Modeling and Simulation. I was able to experiment and develop applications using virtual reality tools like UNITY, Kinect, the OCULUS Rift, HYDRA, and the CAVE at Riverstone. Over the time I have been here, I have gained a great deal of knowledge about many things like programing, working with a team, and developing software for industry. Working here has been a great experience that I have gained a lot from. I am glad that I have had this opportunity to work with Riverstone Energy Center”, Zack Raney stated.

Dr. Doug Corrigan, Executive Director of the Riverstone Energy Center stated, “The Riverstone Energy Center internship program uses the talents of local high school students and college students to develop and adapt new technology within the Modeling and Simulation Center of Excellence. We have some great students in Halifax who are amazingly creative and intelligent, and we should be finding ways to develop that talent and retain them within our region.” To date, the program has worked with a number of interns from the high school and other colleges and will continue to expand into the future. For more information, please contact Doug Corrigan at

IDA Hires Manager of Marketing & Business Development

Kristy Johnson, Manager of Marketing & Business DevelopmentThe Halifax Industrial Development Authority (IDA) is pleased to announce that Kristy Johnson has been selected as its Manager of Marketing & Business Development. While this is a new position for the IDA, Kristy is well known to the IDA and Halifax County.

"Our search lead us to our own backyard," said IDA Executive Director, Matt Leonard. "We had an excellent response from candidates local and beyond, including those with marketing experience for nationally recognized organizations," reports Leonard. "Kristy knows Halifax County, and believes in it deeply. She has proven that over and again through her excellent work for the IDA and REC over the last five years, and through her community involvement outside of her work. Between her previous education and experience, and her different roles and responsibilities at the IDA and the REC, she has built up many of the skills needed for the this new position.."

Kristy first came to the IDA as its Operations Manager in 2009, a position she held until 2011. Her excellent work in that capacity made her the IDA's clear choice to become the Director of Operations & Business Development for Riverstone Energy Center (REC). REC is an IDA component, funded by the Tobacco Commission, the County and IDA, offering Business Incubation, and Product Development and Improvement. Dr. Douglas Corrigan is REC's Executive Director, and worked extensively with Kristy over the last two years to launch and grow the REC.

"Kristy is a great mulit-tasker, and a notably hard worker. She has done everything we needed her to do, and done it well," said Dr. Corrigan. "In fact, we singled her out at this time last year for her exemplary work on the Advanced Manufacturing Symposium and C-CARE Ribbon Cutting event. Kristy spent countless hours coordinating many of the IDA's partners, and industry stakeholders from around the country."

Johnsons's new duties will include planning and implementing targeted marketing strategies and tactics, coordinating prospect events, developing and coordinating marketing materials, deploying marketing through various media (electronic, social, print, etc.), developing and maintaining productive relationships with economic development and community partners and allies, assisting when negotiating agreements and contracts with prospects.

Johnson lives in the Town of Halifax with her husband Clint Johnson, a SVCC instructor working at the SVHEC, and their two sons. She is a Town of Halifax Council Member, Town of Halifax Planning Commissioner, Mentor Role Model Board Member, and Co-Chair of the Chamber of Commerce's Young Professionals & Entrepreneurs. She holds a BA in Business from Georgia Southwestern State, Basic Economic Developer Certificate, and a graduate of the Chamber of Commerce's Leadership program. She will start her new position on October 15th.

SVHEC receives manufacturing grants

Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) has received two grants to help train Southern Virginia's manufacturing work force.

The Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission awarded the higher education center a $163,750 grant to fund its Advanced Manufacturing Bootcamp and a second grant of $20,886 to fund the initial group of participants in SVHEC's new welding lab.

The Advanced Manufacturing Bootcamp will prepare participants for skills needed in entry-level advanced manufacturing positions. Participants will also earn nationally recognized credentials, including National Career Readiness Certificate, OSHA 10, Lean Principles, Standard Work, and CPR & First Aid.

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