Governor McDonnell Announces Presto Products Company to Expand in Halifax County

Company to invest $6 million and create 22 new jobs over the next three years

RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell today announced that Presto Products Company, a manufacturer of plastic film and bags will invest $6 million to expand its operation in Halifax County. The company will add five new manufacturing lines, creating 22 new jobs.

Speaking about today’s announcement, Governor McDonnell said, “Presto’s investment and expansion of five manufacturing lines will allow for increased capacity, serving more customers from its facility in Halifax County. This project will not only increase the company’s competitiveness in its market, but also will help secure the future of the plant and 375 employees. I commend the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center for its commitment to workforce training to meet the needs of Halifax County’s corporate citizens, and Dominion Virginia Power, which helped ensure that the quality of the plant’s electrical service could accommodate the expanded production capacity.”

Read more ...

Southern Virginia Regional Alliance Hires First Director

Press Release

Contact: Mike Sexton
Phone: 434-572-1734

Danville, VA (June 2, 2011) - Virginia’s newest regional economic development organization, the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance (SVRA), has hired Leigh Cockram as the organization’s first Director. Cockram is currently the Vice President of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation, and has been actively involved in the formation of the SVRA since March 2010.

SVRA is a marketing partnership between Halifax, Henry, Patrick, and Pittsylvania counties and cities of Martinsville and Danville, created to promote economic development and job creation in southern Virginia. It will be funded over two years with $200,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, $200,000 from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and $200,000 combined from the six communities of the alliance for a total of $600,000.

“Leigh’s knowledge of our region and this initiative made her a great candidate for the Director position,” said Mike Sexton, Executive Director for the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority. “Each of our community’s economic development offices looks forward to working with her on promoting the SVRA.”

“I was delighted to hear that the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance had hired one of their own to head up economic development efforts in Southern Virginia,” said Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling. “Leigh Cockram has done a great job in Martinsville and Henry County, and she now has an opportunity to make a positive impact for the entire region. Leigh knows the region well, she understands the importance of regional cooperation in achieving economic development goals, and she has great relationships with public and private sector partners. I know Leigh will do a great job, and I look forward to working with her to advance our efforts to support economic growth and job creation throughout Southern Virginia.”

“I am honored to have the opportunity to continue working with the SVRA team to market our region as the ideal place for businesses to locate,” said Cockram. “Southern Virginia has a wealth of opportunities for companies looking to grow, from great industrial parks to first class training facilities. I am confident that marketing our assets collectively will have a much bigger impact to site selection consultants and company executives who are searching for new places to do business.”

Tobacco Commissioner and Delegate Don Merricks said, "Regionalism is a must as we market Southern Virginia to prospective business and industry clients. I am pleased that we will have a Southern Virginia native heading up this initiative. Leigh has the experience and communication skills to market our area the most effective way possible. I look forward to working with her as we move forward."

“The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) is proud to be a partner in this collective marketing initiative for Southern Virginia,” said Jeff Anderson, VEDP President and CEO. “We anticipate great results, and the SVRA has already been recognized by Southern Business & Development Magazine as one of theTen Notable Collective Economic Development Efforts in the South. We are excited about the opportunity and look forward to working with Leigh Cockram to market the region.”Cockram, a 2002 graduate from the University of Virginia and native of Henry County, will begin her duties with the SVRA on June 15th.



SCC Approves South Boston Biomass Generation Facility

RICHMOND — The State Corporation Commission (SCC), in a 2-1 decision, has approved an application to construct and operate a 50-megawatt biomass electric generating facility in Halifax County, Virginia. The power plant will be located just outside of South Boston and will burn wood byproducts to generate electricity.

The applicant, South Boston Energy, LLC, intends to sell the electricity produced by the plant to Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC), its parent company. NOVEC will also be involved in the design, construction and operation of the facility.

In the order granting approval, Commissioners Judith Williams Jagdmann and Mark C. Christie stated, “Our path to reaching this result...has been made particularly arduous by the numerous deficiencies in NOVEC’s case apparent in this proceeding.” The Commission said, “Ultimately, however, our obligation herein is to apply the relevant Virginia statutes to the case before us...We find that based on the specific facts of this case taken as a whole, and only with...numerous additional requirements... the application satisfies the statutory standards.”

The Commission conditioned its approval on several requirements, including a $180 million cost cap, a mandate for NOVEC to develop an integrated resource plan, and directives for subsequent SCC review of additional actions related to this facility.

In a dissenting opinion, Commissioner James C. Dimitri stated, “The record shows that NOVEC has failed to undertake the evaluation and due diligence required for such a significant economic decision,” and concluded that, based upon the record, the application did not meet statutory requirements for approval.

The case is continued pending further order of the SCC regarding the various requirements set forth in the Commission’s order on the application.

Affordable, green housing could have Scandinavian look

A near net-zero energy-use house like these could be one of a handful erected in South Boston for low-income families. This design relies heavily on solar power generated by its roof and windows, wind energy and captured rainwater for flushing toilets. The project seeks to make houses affordable, environmentally friendly, low-maintenance, durable and attractive – all while boosting the economic development of the region

The possibility of getting free, solar-powered, affordable housing wasn't met by South Boston Town Council with initial enthusiasm so much as with architectural critique.

"Ugly as sin," chuckled Council member Ed Owens.

Council member Connie Manning mused that it looked like a trailer home.

But Dr. Mark Morris averred that it was Scandinavian in style, Town Clerk Jane Jones suggested it was reminiscent of a beach house, and, ultimately, Council voted unanimously to support the snappily-named ecoMOD project in its quest for funding.

Here's how it might work, according to Town Manager Ted Daniel and John Quale of U.Va. and ecoMOD's project director: The University of Virginia's engineering, architecture and landscape-architecture departments collaborate with the brand-new Innovation Center at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center to design partially pre-fabricated, attached home units – up to 10. Cardinal Homes of Charlotte County and Sips of America in Blairs might build them. For starters, two units are erected on less than an acre on Poplar Creek Street, across from Fairmont Apartments. Solar panels are on the roofs, the windows themselves generate energy and wind energy is harnessed when possible. While electric lines come into the house, the dwelling is as self-supporting as possible. Rainwater is captured for flushing toilets.

Read more ...

Inventor speaks to dual enrollment students at the SVHEC

inventor speaks at svhecInventor Ryan Rusnak visited the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) on Friday, Feb. 25 to speak to Halifax County High School dual enrollment students in Digital Art & Design, Product Design & Development, and Hi-Performance Technology classes.

Rusnak has made a name for himself in the world of physical computing with his invention of the beverage cannon. The cannon is a converted mini-fridge that will launch the beverage of your choice with the touch of an iPhone app button.

During the lecture, “What’s in your toolbox,” Rusnak encouraged students to gain a broad set of skills and to seek out different experiences. Rusnak is an example of what he preaches. He attended Virginia Tech as a psychology and biology major, and is currently working for an accounting firm in Northern Virginia. “I did some construction in high school and I know some limited programming. I’m interested in design and engineering, and physical computing ties a lot of that together. I couldn’t have made the beverage cannon without have a broad set of skills,” Rusnak said.

Physical computing involves connecting the physical world with the digital world and is an increasingly large part of our lives. From car thermostat controls to mini blinds that open and close according to sunlight, physical computing is all around us.

“A lot of people think the Digital Art & Design program is just a graphic design program, but it’s not. It has design at its core but you have to think about the future of digital art for building interfaces for things like the iPad or websites and making all of these devices talk to each other. That’s the nice thing about physical computing,” said Ben Capozzi, curriculum coordinator for the Business of Art & Design program offered in partnership with Danville Community College.

Throughout the lecture Rusnak encouraged students to collaborate with others, and to leverage the people who have the skills they need. He explained that to build the beverage cannon he had to collaborate with two friends—an engineer to work out the launching aspect, and a graphic designer to create the graphics for the iPhone app. “It took the three of us putting our knowledge together to build this,” he stated.

Finally, Rusnak shared how the power of the Internet, and specifically Youtube, enabled his beverage cannon to reach a global audience. “Youtube is a game changer. Rather than telling someone what you’ve done you can show them what you’ve done,” he said. His Youtube video of the beverage cannon, the only one in the world, received 4.2 million hits over the course of one month, and led to the invention’s feature on Great Britain’s “The Graham Norton Show” and Rusnak’s appearance in Britain’s “The Sun” newspaper.

When asked why it was important for Rusnak to speak to students Capozzi said, “The idea that you can use digital technology and the insight of creative people to figure out how we should interact with our physical environment is a very rich world of future possibility for students interested in bridging the gap between art, engineering, science, and creativity. I thought it was really important that the students be able to meet with someone who’s done that. Here’s a guy who doesn’t have a background in art & design, but who’s found this really rich outlet for creativity in his spare time.”

Rusnak ended his presentation with high praise for the SVHEC and the Prizery, “You have an amazing facility here. This makes MIT completely jealous.” He was also struck by the caliber of students in the programs, and offered an opportunity for collaboration, “I want you guys in my toolbox,” he said.

The Hi-Performance Technology class is offered by Southside Virginia Community College, and the SVHEC’s Digital Art & Design and Product Design & Development classes are offered in partnership with Danville Community College.

Parents and high school students may learn more about dual enrollment opportunities in Digital Art & Design and Product Design & Development by attending the Business of Art & Design Open House on March 17 from 6-8 p.m. For more information about the Business of Art & Design or the Open House, email or call 434-572-5566, and toll free 1-800-283-0098 ext 5566.


IDA Launches Green View Advanced Manufacturing Center

greenview_launchFor approximately two decades it has sat as a silent reminder of better times from the past. Today the Industrial Development Authority of Halifax County (IDA) takes steps to make it a beacon for the future.

The former Daystrom Furniture Plant on Greens Folly Road began operation in the 1960’s and in its heyday employed over 1,000 workers cranking out chrome plated furniture for the world. At a small “launching” ceremony a group of officials from around the county gathered to christen the relic as the Green View Advanced Manufacturing Center.

“It is our hope that today we begin a new chapter for Halifax County, looking forward to bringing manufacturing jobs back to this area that has such a strong tradition of manufacturing. It is exciting to think of this building coming back to life and seeing people going to work here every day,” said IDA Executive Director Mike Sexton.

Read more ...