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Positive economic strides

Prince Edward County Economic Development Director Kate Pickett Eggleston gave a quarterly update to the county Board of Supervisors during the board’s regular November meeting, touching on a variety of subjects including the governor’s fall visit, the efforts to renew and amend the county’s enterprise zone and the county’s progress toward becoming a certified Work Ready Community.

Kate Pickett Eggleston

“In September, Gov. (Ralph S.) Northam toured the Commonwealth of Virginia and Virginia state parks, sharing his initiative, which is a new office of outdoor recreation,” Eggleston said to supervisors. “This is really important to Prince Edward County, as you know, because we’re the home of three Virginia state parks, the oldest state forest and two wildlife management areas.”

She noted that who could attend a Prince Edward-based event on Northam’s tour was determined by the governor’s office.

“We were able to secure a seat for Supervisor (Jerry R.) Townsend, as the event was held in his district at Twin Lakes State Park, and it was a really great opportunity to meet with the governor and also to talk to business owners — who are working in outdoor recreation — about their needs at both the state and local levels,” she said.

Addressing another topic, Eggleston recalled a past discussion with the board in which it was mentioned that Prince Edward’s enterprise zone status will be expiring in December 2019.

“The county submitted an enterprise zone renewal letter,” she said. “We’ve not yet heard officially whether or not we will be renewed, but it’s understood that most likely every county who submitted a letter will be renewed and will have an enterprise zone renewal.”

She cited having passed out enterprise zone maps to the supervisors prior to her presentation.

“We are hoping to do a boundary amendment to our enterprise zone area next year,” she said. “The reason I passed out the maps to you all is because I could really use your help. If you know any businesses in your district who may be looking to expand, add jobs, add new additions to their buildings, … we can look to see if they’re currently in the enterprise zone, and if they’re not, we may be able to put them in with that boundary amendment so that they can receive the state grant funding for those changes that they’re making and those jobs that they’re adding to their companies.”

Eggleston took a moment to highlight her continued work with a certified Work Ready Communities program.

“The county is currently at 91-percent completion for certification,” she said. “If we are the next county to be certified in the VGA (Virginia Growth Alliance) region, then we will be the fourth in the region to be certified, and VGA is working to become the first region in the Commonwealth of Virginia to be certified.”

She stated that in September, she attended a broadband summit in Richmond with state and local government officials.

“The focus of that day was on public and private partnerships and how we can get a basic level of service of broadband into our counties,” she said. “We looked over many case studies. We talked about affordability, and we also talked about different programs and grants that are going to be available in the upcoming years. And so for us to be able to move forward with that, we need an internet service provider who’s willing to work with us and to be a part of a public-private partnership so that we can help bring broadband to Prince Edward County.”

She praised YakAttack for the early strides it is making in terms of hiring.

“Last month, I worked with YakAttack to submit grant reports to the Tobacco Commission and also to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership,” she said. “In their deliverables, they are required to have at least 34 new jobs in the next three years. So far in the last report, they reported six out of the 34 jobs that they’ve hired, which is about 17.6%. So they’re right on track, and they’re doing a great job keeping up with those deliverables and coming through with those.”

Work progresses with Eggleston and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) Site Characterization Program.

“That’s the program in which we submitted multiple sites throughout the county for VEDP to characterize into different levels,” she said. “In those multiple sites, we submitted our business park, and that’s currently at a level four. The sites range from level one to level five. A level four site states that all infrastructures (are) in place or will be deliverable within the next 12 months, and all permits have been identified.

“That is really great,” she continued. “We only have a few other things to do to bring that site up to a level five, which means that all permits are in place and the site is ready.

Eggleston noted having attended an entrepreneurship and innovation focus group in October.

“This was held by Longwood University, Mid-Atlantic Broadband and also Microsoft,” she said. “They, together, had a GO Virginia grant that they received, and so they invited me to be a part of that in which we sat down with a lot of business owners from the county and throughout southern Virginia to talk about business growth and to talk about how to reach the market outside of this area.”

Also in October, “I went to a cyber security summit at Longwood with leading experts in the field discussing the challenges that are facing the (Information Technology) IT community today, which is a really important part of the economic development community as a whole,” she said.

She concluded her presentation with an update on one of her key tasks as a public information officer with the county.

“I’ve been working with Granicus, which is the company that we hired to do our website update,” she said. “We’re working to make the new website to look more modern, to be more user friendly and to be mobile responsive, because a lot of folks out in the county are looking at our website on their phones, and so we want to make sure that it’s accessible on their phones, it’s easy to read and easy to find information that they need.

“We’ve been working with the company to do best practices and ensure (Americans with Disabilities Act) ADA compliance and all of those things that are necessary, and we’ve been working on the wire frame, which is really a layout,” she continued. “It’s kind of the bones of the website and where things will be and how it will be structured. So that’s where we are on that project.”