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PE Economic Development Discussed

PRINCE EDWARD – It's been a busy few years for Prince Edward's Economic Development office.

“You're gonna see that the numbers look really pretty good,” County Economic Development Director Sharon Carney told County supervisors at their May meeting. “In comparison to most of our neighbors, we have a very aggressive Industrial Development Authority and a very progressive Board of Supervisors so I think you'll be pleased.”

Ms. Carney presented highlights on the office's activities from 2004-2012 at the May Board of Supervisors meeting. The primary goal of the office, she explained, is to attract businesses and industry to the county that pay a sustainable wage with benefits and invest in jobs in the community and put in a substantial investment.

Among the highlights of the detailed report:

*The office is currently working with 12 business and industry recruitment projects including three forthcoming projects totaling $77 million and 153 jobs. (The three, she cited, include Granite Falls Hotel and Conference Center (112 jobs, with an investment of $55 million), Luck Stone (16 jobs, a $20 million investment) and Tharpe Trucking (25 jobs, and a $2 million investment).

“These are in the pipeline right now and should be coming forward probably in the next 12 to 16 months,” Ms. Carney said.

*There have been six active projects and three inquiries in commercial/retail projects since January. (An active project is where an executive or someone from a company has visited the area. An inquiry is where a firm has shown interest in the area but has not sent executives to visit.)

“Some of these people are people I talked to prior to the downturn in the economy and then when the economy downturned they went a little silent and now they've come back. So what was making us popular before the downturn is still making us popular today,” Ms. Carney stated.

*One of the primary goals of the office is grant writing or grant administration and project coordination related to economic development efforts, Ms. Carney detailed. Currently, she noted they have four open projects totaling $3,996,848. That includes the Workforce Training Center factoring two Tobacco Commission Grants totaling $1,645,848, a Tobacco Commission Grant for $350,000 for the Prince Edward Cannery, four enhancement grants totaling $501,000 for the Depot Revitalization from the Virginia Department of Transportation, and a $1.5 million Virginia Department of Transportation revenue sharing grant for the Route 786 road construction.

*Since 2004, it was noted, seven grant projects were closed out totaling $1,466,118, which she cited “attributed to the overall success” of four projects. The list included two grants for Paris Ceramics from the Tobacco Commission totaling $600,000; a $145,848 Tobacco Commission Grant for STEPS; two VDOT Enhancement grants totaling $375,000 for the Heartland Regional Visitor Center; and two Tobacco Commission Grants for the County's business park totaling $345,270.

*Ms. Carney noted that the Economic Development Director is also the Enterprise Zone Administrator. Spanning 2004-2010, there were 42 Enterprise Zone grant applications submitted by businesses from the County's zone totaling $3,032,000 in grant awards.

*She also cited that the Economic Development Director also functions as the Secretary to the County's Industrial Development Authority. Since 2005, there have been six loan instruments executed by the IDA totaling $14,284,000 and currently, there are six loans remaining with balances over $9.6 million. (The largest is from Hampden-Sydney College for $8,571,427 for the library, with Hampden-Sydney responsible for paying it back, County Administrator Wade Bartlett cited. Neither the IDA nor the County is on the hook for any of the repayment.)

*Ms. Carney also presented a list of completed and closed out projects including: Moore Building-revitalization of a vacant building for the regional visitor center; Paris Ceramics-sold vacant shell building for $1.2 million, created 33 jobs with a $2 million investment; Lowe's Home Center-sold 13 acres for $1.3 million, and they created 110 jobs with a $5 million investment; Prince Edward Business Park-pre-engineered four ready to go building sites for future development; and YMCA-administered $1.5 million in building construction which created 35 jobs.