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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Davenport Energy’s Taft Yeatts named president of state propane association

davenTaft Yeatts, director of safety for Davenport Energy Inc. in Chatham, has been appointed president of the Virginia Propane Gas Association.

The appointment, which is for one year, took place at the association’s annual meeting in Virginia Beach in July.

In past years, Yeatts has served as president-elect, treasurer, secretary, director and chairman of the education and safety committee for the Virginia Propane Gas Association.

He received the association’s safety award in 2014 and 2017 for contributions to propane safety in Virginia.

The association promotes the safe and economical use of propane, propane appliances and the use of propane as a motor fuel.

Yeatts entered the propane industry in 1994 and has been a member of the Virginia Propane Gas Association for nearly 25 years.

A graduate of Gretna High School and Averett University, he also is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a fuel specialist.

Yeatts and his wife, Karen, have four children and three grandchildren.

A regional petroleum company, Davenport Energy serves more than 35,000 customers from offices in Chatham, Gretna, Danville, South Boston, Rocky Mount, Martinsville, Bedford, Roanoke, Covington and Siler City and Greensboro, North Carolina.

From The Gazette Virginian


The Industrial Development Authority of Halifax County is pleased to announce the hiring of Mr. Brian K. Brown as its new Executive Director. Mr. Brown is a resident of Roanoke and most recently was employed as a Market Executive for Countryside Service Company, real estate developers in Staunton, Virginia. Mr. Brown has extensive experience in local economic development having served for over seven years as the Economic Development Director for the City of Buena Vista and as the Economic Development Administrator for the City of Roanoke before that. He also has private sector experience from his employment as a Marketing Coordinator and Business Development Representative with Hayes, Seay, Mattern & Mattern, an engineering firm in Roanoke.

In his role as Executive Director Mr. Brown will be responsible for directing the operations, programs and projects of the Halifax IDA. His first priority will be to deploy and manage a comprehensive plan for economic development, including business recruitment, retention and expansion programs. The Executive Director’s responsibilities also include managing and marketing the IDA’s inventory of land and buildings.

Mr. Brown replaces Matt Leonard who departed the IDA on November 1, 2018. Deputy Director Kristy Johnson has served as Interim Director since then.

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‘9 of 9’

9To the strains of “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” blaring from a loudspeaker, teachers and school employees streamed into the high school Tuesday for a pep rally to celebrate good news before the start of school: full state accreditation for all nine county schools.

“You’re the ones that did it!” said school trustee Walter Potts, one of several speakers who praised teachers who gathered at the HCHS cafeteria for the mid-afternoon rally. “The schools that needed to come up — you did that.”

The Virginia Department of Education made the news official on Tuesday morning with the release of statewide testing data, based on the round of SOL testis administered in the 2018-19 academic year. Halifax schools achieved full accreditation after coming close to the milestone last year, with only Clays Mill Elementary falling short with an “accredited with conditions” rating.

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County man tapped as chairman of DCC board

cwDuring their June meeting, the Danville Community College board selected its new leaders for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

Carlyle Wimbish, a representative from Halifax County, began his term as board chair on July 1.

Telly Tucker, representing the city of Danville, began his term as vice chair that same day.

Wimbish, who joined the college board two years ago, is a retired high school business and education teacher and also served as an alumni director at a North Carolina college, headmaster at a Virginia private school and president of a wholesale grocery firm and a retail paint firm.

He was formerly licensed as a real estate and insurance agent.

Wimbish most recently worked as director of a small business center in the North Carolina Community College System and a business development center/incubator that he developed.

Wimbish serves on numerous other boards, including the Virginia Rural Center, and he formerly served two four-year terms on the Southside Virginia Community College Board and two three-year terms on the Hargrave Military Academy Board of Trustees.

Tucker, who serves as director of Danville’s Office of Economic Development, joined the DCC board in 2015.

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MEC’s Lee elected vice chairman of ODEC board

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) and EMPOWER Broadband, Inc. president and CEO John Lee has been elected to serve as vice chairman of Old Dominion Electric Cooperative’s (ODEC) Board of Directors. The new officers were elected at the Generation and Transmission Cooperative’s annual membership meeting held in Williamsburg on July 30.

mecKent Farmer, president and CEO of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, was elected to serve as chairman of the board; Lee was elected to serve as vice chair, and Southside Electric Cooperative president and CEO Jeff Edwards was chosen for the secretary/treasurer position. These officers will serve in those positions for the next three years through 2022.

Old Dominion Electric Cooperative is a generation-and-transmission cooperative that provides wholesale power to 11-member electric distribution cooperatives, including MEC, in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. ODEC, which now boasts over $2 billion in assets, is wholly owned by MEC and 10 other Members. Among its Virginia assets are 50% of the Clover Power Station (coal) in Halifax County, 11.6% of the North Anna Nuclear Station in Louisa County and two natural gas-powered peaking stations: Marsh Run Power Station in Fauquier County and Louisa Power Station also in Louisa County.

ODEC also wholly owns Wildcat Point Power Station, a combined cycle natural gas generation facility in Rising Sun, Maryland.

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