Project Phoenix hemp operation eyes start-up

Halifax County will seek $250,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Commission to help launch a privately-owned hemp processing facility in the county.

The investors, Halifax County natives Sterling Edmunds Jr. and Rick Gregory, both of whom have gone on to successful careers in finance, are pledging matching funds of $6,350,000 from the private venture, code named Project Phoenix.

In the grant request to the tobacco commission, county officials estimate the hemp processing operation will create 41 direct jobs and “hundreds of ancillary jobs” in the first three years.

Brian Brown, executive director of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority, said Tuesday that he could divulge few details about the venture.

“All I can say is that they’re looking at an existing building” for the operation, said Brown.

The goal, he added, is to have it open within a year.

“Hopefully we can announce something in the near future,” he said.

In the grant application to the agribusiness committee of the Tobacco Commission, officials lay out hemp’s potential as a major cash crop for Southside Virginia, but also describe catch-up efforts to match hemp’s rise in adjoining states. With its agricultural profile and infrastructure, “nowhere is better positioned to take advantage than Virginia’s Tobacco Region.

“However, the crop’s economics are reliant on nearby commercial-scale processing facilities of which none currently exist in the proposed service area. Meanwhile, North Carolina is investing rapidly,” the request notes.

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MBC president updates members of IDA

The Halifax County Industrial Development Authority met Friday for their monthly meeting. Tad Deriso, president and CEO of Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation, was guest speaker.

“I’m sure everyone has seen the noisy construction,” Deriso said, referring to demolition work at the old Hailslip Dental Lab building on Wilborn Avenue. This location will be the home of the SOVA Innovation Hub that is being built by Mid-Atlantic Broadband. The Hub is due to open next fall.

MBC covers 26 counties with data centers. “We step in to build fiber networks” for rural communities that lack broadband internet access, he said.

MBC helps to promote economic growth in Halifax County several ways, Deriso said. One strategy is its “Invest in Virginia” initiative to bring more industry to Halifax County with access to advanced manufacturing sites and data center locations.

MBC’s fiber network offers direct connections to Europe and South America through the two subsea landing stations based in Virginia Beach. “It’s exciting and in the early days,” Deriso said, explaining how the fiber system is equipped for any major company to set up and plug directly into the ultra-high speed digital network.

In addition to creating a data center-ready network, MBC invests in data center site marketing. “We took the variety of requirements a business, like Facebook, would need from Dominion Energy to design our network,” said Deriso.

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Career Tech Academy observes Manufacturing Day with tour, event

anninManufacturing facilities and educational institutions around the nation recently opened their doors to students, parents, teachers and community leaders in observance of Manufacturing (MFG) Day. Locally, Annin Flagmakers in South Boston hosted Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s Career Tech Academy (CTA) Year 1 students for a tour of the plant.

Organized by the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce, the Oct. 4 tour gave students a behind the scenes look at the local manufacturer, giving them an opportunity to see how IT and mechatronics impact the industry.

“Annin Flagmakers was excited to host the students from SVHEC for a tour of our manufacturing facility,” said Tammy Creasy, Annin human resource generalist. “It is always a pleasure to see students interested in the manufacturing process and the different types of jobs offered, from director of operations to graphic artists, chemists, digital print operators and sewing machine operators as well as many more. We appreciate SVHEC and the students for wanting to tour our facility and learn about manufacturing in our area,” she said.

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Official accreditation ratings confirm 9 of 9

It’s official.

All county schools are accredited, according to Virginia Department of Education accreditation ratings released Monday.

Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg announced in August all nine county schools were accredited after SOL results were released from the state.

“I’m just really, really proud of our students and staff. It’s always a great accomplishment to achieve accreditation, and we’re going to keep on working hard to stay accredited. The key is being consistent,” added Lineburg.

Last year, eight of nine schools were accredited with Clay’s Mill Elementary accredited with conditions.

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IDA backs sales tax for upgrade of high school

YesThe Halifax County Industrial Development Authority on Friday joined the chorus of governing bodies and agencies passing resolutions in support of using sales tax revenue for school construction and improvement when they unanimously adopted a resolution expressing support for the levy of a general retail sales tax.

The Virginia General Assembly has granted the citizens of Halifax County an historic opportunity to impact the educational future of their children for the next century without emptying the county coffers, IDA members agreed during their meeting held in the Southern Virginia Technology Park Friday morning.

The county’s community strategic plan has recognized Halifax County High School needs to be modernized.

Commissioned by the Halifax County School Board and the Board of Supervisors, two independent studies conducted by reputable architectural firms have concluded that the Halifax County High School facility has dire needs that must be addressed.

To address school construction needs, community leaders have advocated for access to a 1% increase of the state sales tax in order to generate significant revenue to fund construction or renovation of county schools so real estate taxes may remain low.

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Microsoft HQ in miniature at SOVA Innovation Hub

deriso MBC microsoft2 copyThe new SOVA Innovation Hub that is slated to open in downtown South Boston next year will feature a first-floor Microsoft visitor center with technology similar to what the tech giant deploys at its Redmond, Wash., headquarters.

Tad Deriso, CEO of Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corp., which is building the Innovation Hub, spoke to Halifax County supervisors at their monthly meeting on Tuesday about MBC’s plans for the building, and the involvement of Microsoft through its TechSpark initiative.

The first floor of the Innovation Hub will feature a Microsoft “experience center” with cutting-edge capabilities, from augmented reality to TV white space internet to tech tools that can enhance Southside Virginia’s agricultural industry, said Deriso.

“They want to make this a showcase,” said Deriso of Microsoft. “So if you go into Redmond, Wash., in their global headquarters — bigger than our building, obviously — and you see a lot of the new technology they’re rolling out, it’s really exciting, really inspiring to see what they’re doing in those types of facilities.

“And through our partnership with Microsoft, they’re going to be doing this right here in Halifax County.”

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Halifax County Restaurant Week returns Sept. 8-14

It was famed English writer Virginia Woolf who said it best, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well.” We couldn’t agree more, Ms. Woolf. If you are looking to dine well, make a reservation during Halifax County Restaurant Week, and we assure you that everything else will fall into place. This culinary event begins Sunday, Sept. 8, and runs through Saturday, Sept. 14.

In its fourth year, Halifax County Restaurant Week continues to be the most delicious week of the year in Southern Virginia. It is hallmarked by local eateries putting together delightful, delicious, and easy-on-the-purse menus. Restaurant Week has something for every taste. The slate this year features 10 restaurants, including four newcomers. Badeaux’s Seafood & Grill, The Busy Bean, Four Oaks, and Spainhour Diner are all first-time participants. The week of dining will also feature restaurants who have been on board since inception. Returning for 2019 are Bistro 1888, Darby’s Tavern at Berry Hill Resort, Molasses Grill, The Packhouse, and Southern Plenty Café.

“We are thrilled to celebrate our local restaurants with this festive week of dining out,” said Halifax County tourism director Linda Shepperd. “For the participating restaurants, this week is a great opportunity for them to showcase their restaurants to people who may otherwise not dined with them and to attract diners from across the region.

“We love that several of the restaurants have been on board since we started this event in 2016 and excited to have four new establishments join us this year.”

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South Boston-based education group teams with JMU

Virginia Advanced Studies Strategies, Inc., which was founded in South Boston in 2007 to promote the spread of high-end academic offerings in low-income rural and urban school districts and later evolved to focus on innovative teaching strategies in K-12 classrooms, is now a part of James Madison University.

VASS, led by president and CEO Jennifer Stevens, announced Friday that it has entered into a memorandum of understanding to begin a new partnership with James Madison University’s office of professional and continuing education and college of education. Through the partnership, VASS will further develop classroom programs and support K-12 teachers through professional development and collaborative learning strategies.

“On behalf of the board and staff, I am thrilled for Virginia Advanced Study Strategies to become a part of JMU,” said Stevens, who becomes part of the JMU faculty along with three other staff members: Sandy Wilborn, director of programs; Darla Edwards, director of special projects; and Amanda Adams, director of public affairs.

“We have been working with faculty members at (JMU) for several years, and we have come to know and respect them as invaluable team members for many of our initiatives,” said Stevens. “In its 12-year history, VASS has accomplished a great deal, but this new partnership with JMU will certainly raise the credibility of our organization to new heights and make even more possible in the years to come.”

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