Health care, social assistance jobs projected to expand in the region

Brian Brown, executive director of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), had some good news and some not so good news during a presentation Friday at the IDA board’s planning session, with some job sectors showing an increase in job opportunities, while others contracted.

Brown told board members the strongest forecast by numbers of jobs over the next five years is for health care and social assistance with a projected increase of 116 jobs, followed by information-related jobs with a projected increase of 14 jobs and utilities-related employment with a projected increase of 11 jobs.

According to Chmura’s Jobs EQ data, the best-paying jobs in Halifax County are utilities ($75,978), finance and insurance ($55,102) and management of companies and enterprises ($52,799).

Chmura also reported the average worker in Halifax County earned annual wages of $36,542 as of the second quarter of 2019, and that average annual wages per worker increased 3.7% in the region over the preceding four quarters.

For comparison purposes, annual average wages were $57,025 in the nation as a whole as of the second quarter of 2019, according to Chmura Jobs EQ.

In terms of a strategic plan, Brown asked how the board and staff can help their training partners, schools and community deliver information about job opportunities and teaching skills necessary to fill those positions.

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Praising conservation efforts, Adam Davis takes top honor at group’s annual awards banquet

5dd6f5a75efc8.imageHalifax Soil and Water Conservation District hosted its annual awards banquet earlier this month and bestowed its most prestigious award on Adam Davis.

Approximately 50 invited guests, district directors and staff were in attendance at the banquet earlier this month, as Luke Hudson, district conservation technician, recognized efforts of Davis with presentation of the 2019 Outstanding Cooperator Award, given annually to individuals who do an outstanding job of conserving the land and natural resources and cooperating with the Soil and Water Conservation District on implementing conservation.

This year is Davis’ fourth year participating in the district’s cover crop programs to scavenge remaining nutrients and prevent soil erosion. He is extending his conservation efforts to his cattle operation with exclusion practices set to be installed, which will prevent direct deposition of contaminants and improve water quality.

Davis knows the importance of conservation efforts and knows that not only will the environment and local community benefit from his actions, but his farming operation will benefit also.

He has been active in many of the district’s programs as well as other local organizations and is always willing to speak up and ask important questions or share his personal experience with others.

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Downtown brewpub preps for spring debut

brewery side copyThe wave of brewpubs opening in the region will sweep into South Boston in the spring, if all goes according to plan.

The owners of Factory Street Brewing Company are shooting for a spring opening. The brewery, located at the intersection of Factory Street and Seymour Drive in the Venture Center building, is within short walking distance of The Prizery and SVHEC, downtown shops and the Tobacco Heritage Trail.

“We hope the brewery will support the economy of local businesses in downtown South Boston,” said Lisa Francisco, co-owner with Jeff Francisco, general manager Cyndi Overby and brewmaster Brigid Layman.

The historic tobacco building, built in 1920, is currently undergoing renovation as part of a complete overhaul. The support beams are being sandblasted, the floor plan rearranged, interior walls have been knocked down, and the ceiling is being painted black to enhance the interior’s natural beauty.

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New businesses in the works

va auto mart copySouth Boston, which has seen two auto dealerships open in town since 2018, is about to welcome a third.

Virginia Auto Mart has purchased the 3625 Old Halifax Road location formerly occupied by Puckett Auto Sales & Service and plans to be open by Dec. 2 with a large inventory of pre-owned cars, trucks, SUVs, work vans and bucket trucks for sale.

“We are excited to come to Virginia and do business,” said Heather Harvey, business manager. Virginia Auto Mart is an expansion of Oxford Car and Truck, which has been in operation for 15 years in Oxford, N.C. The company is owned by Eddie Caudle.

Virginia Auto Mart’s arrival comes on the heels of two other chain dealerships opening car and truck lots in South Boston over the past year and a half. In April 2018, CrossRoads Ford of South Boston moved out to its new showroom and facility on U.S. 58. CrossRoads, the county’s only new car franchise, bought out Crowell Motor Company in late 2016.

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Fiber-to-the-home gains toehold in county

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative has completed the initial stage of fiber-to-the-home internet service in Halifax County with the deployment of roughly 5.5 miles of fiber optic cable in the Clays Mill and Crystal Hill areas.

The Chase City-based cooperative, through its EMPOWER subsidiary, will soon complete a 23-mile stretch of fiber network in Halifax County, encompassing the 5.5 mile portion that has been deployed, plus an additional segment extending north on L.P. Bailey Highway and west in the vicinity of Republican Grove, on Pumping Hill Road.

Through the project, EMPOWER will soon be able to offer ultra-fast broadband internet service to an estimated 479 county homes and businesses.

“We’re continuing to build it out,” said David Lipscomb, MEC vice president of member and energy services. While more work lies ahead before the system can be activated, Lipscomb said EMPOWER will be notifying residents on the path of the fiber network that service will soon be available, and customer requests will be solicited in the next several weeks.

“Once they [technicians] light the fiber up, we can begin taking applications from the folks who live along that line for lines to their homes,” Lipscomb said.

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Voters say yes to sales tax increase in Halifax County

yes2An overwhelming majority of Halifax County voters said a resounding “YES” to what many consider to be the most important question that has appeared on a county ballot in years — the fate of Halifax County’s proposed 1% sales tax increase.

Across the county’s 21 precincts on Tuesday, 6,546 county voters said yes, while 2,758 voted no to raising the current 5.3% sales tax to 6.3% when they went to the polls on a perfect weather election day that saw a “very good” voter turnout all day, according to the county registrar’s office.

The county board of supervisors placed the levy on the ballot -- the first of its kind in Virginia -- after Del. James Edmunds succeeded in changing state law to allow the historic referendum earlier this year.

The proposed sales tax hike is projected to raise about $3.3 million annually, or $100 million over 30 years, with revenues to be used exclusively for the construction or renovation of schools.

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Town of South Boston Announces $876,000 Grant for Boat Landing Project on Dan River

The Town of South Boston is pleased to announce that it is the recipient of an $876,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Recreational Trails Program, to build Greene's Crossing Boat landing at the Watkins Bridge Crossing on the Dan River at the southern entrance into Downtown South Boston.

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is a federal matching reimbursement program for building and rehabilitating trails and trail related facilities. Federal Highway Administration funds make the program possible and mandate allocations. Grant funds are funded by the Federal Highway Administration thru the VDCR.

Preliminary engineering for the Greene's Cross Boat Landing should be complete by July 2020 with a proposed completion date in mid-2021.

The Town is pleased to bring access to the Dan River for motorized boats, kayaks and canoes on the Dan River Water Trail. The Dan River is a designated scenic river and it will be promoted as part of the Southern Virginia Wild Blue.

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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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