The Halifax County Industrial Development Authority approved the IDA budget for the coming year and ratified a lease agreement for the county’s Iperion X manufacturing plant on Friday.

With an otherwise light agenda for the June monthly meeting, the 2023-24 budget was the prime focus of the board discussion, with members expressing satisfaction at how the agency’s finances are shaping up in the coming fiscal year. The new budget takes effect July 1.

“It is a conservative budget, and I think [the IDA Finance Committee] put a lot of time and energy into [balancing information] from the current years and what we’ll have next year in the forecast,” said IDA treasurer Nancy Pool.

Executive Director Kristy Johnson said the budget has changed little from the current year’s package, which totals $2.3 million, but the IDA is prepared to handle any possible changes that could arise throughout the upcoming year.

“From the operating standpoint, the budget is largely the same with a few exceptions,” said Johnson. “We have an increase in maintenance and operations costs for two of our facilities which is significant, but otherwise we have a balanced budget.”

The main driver of higher spending is the rising cost of utilities such as electrical and natural gas service.

“There are many opportunities to improve the budget throughout the year. However, at this point I think it’s best to consider moving forward and amend [possible changes] as we go throughout the year. I’m hopeful that we will have some improvement,” she said.

The draft budget was unanimously approved by IDA board.

With no discussion, the board also unanimously approved a lease agreement with IperionX. The company is preparing to open a titanium recycling and manufacturing center inside the shell building at the Southern Virginia Technology Park on Philpott Highway. IperionX expects to begin operations by early 2024 and is projected to hire up to 108 employees in South Boston over a three-year span.

Johnson noted that IperionX hosted engineering meetings this week in the run-up to the plant opening, which remains on track for shortly after the start of the new year.

Johnson, delivering the executive director’s report, discussed the IDA’s work with the Halifax Chamber of Commerce and Halifax County Board of Supervisors to develop a “Live Here Work Here” campaign. The marketing pitch is intended to encourage citizens to work locally with Halifax County employers rather than driving elsewhere for jobs. The campaign partners are preparing video footage to drive home the message, and promotional billboards are expected to debut by late July.

Johnson also discussed the 2023 Virginia Brownfields Conference, a multi-day affair held from June 13-15 at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville. She and South Boston Town Manager Tom Raab gave a presentation on redevelopment programs under way in the community. “It was a definite highlight for the Town of South Boston and their redevelopment efforts. It was a very meaningful day,” said Johnson. “Anytime you get to celebrate your partners is a meaningful day.”

During the board member comment period, IDA chair Rick Harrell praised how the IDA staff has carried out business in recent months. “A lot of times people think you just go to work and come home, but that’s not the case. I think we’re doing a good job at laying future groundwork.”

The next regular IDA board meeting will be held July 21 at 8:30 a.m.

From SoVANow