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Added jobs keep Halifax County tech facility buzzing

Activity at Riverstone Technology Park is bustling these days with its parking lots filled to capacity.

No longer does the building lack activity, but instead is humming with busy workers occupying the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority office, American Wood Finishing Institute, Energy Center, Coatings Center, Mid-Atlantic Broadband, Modeling & Simulation Center and Faneuil, Dominion Power’s newest call center.

During Friday morning’s meeting of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority, members of the board of directors took notice of the activity as employees made their way from nearby parking lots into the newly renovated upper portion of Riverstone Building I.

According to Authority Development Director Patsy Vaughan, Faneuil construction is 99.5 percent complete in the upper level of the Riverstone building.

A certificate of occupancy has been issued, signs are being installed in the leased area and on the roof, and a punch list is being completed.

Tobacco grant funds and a county match have been requested, a Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund grant has been deposited, and the full county match has been received for the project.

Training classes at the call center are offered every two weeks for up to 20 new employees, and on July 1, the employment should reach 150 with the center being fully operational in August.

Parking improvements at Riverstone are well under way with preliminary engineering finalized on the parking expansion. Once complete the renovated parking area will accommodate 121 additional spaces bringing total parking from 146 spaces to 267, including six required handicapped spaces.

Poor soil conditions will require the parking area to be undercut by two feet and replaced with suitable material, Vaughan explained.

“This has been incorporated into the preliminary design and construction estimates,” she said.

Improvements to the entrance to Riverstone Park were approved in January, and right now the authority is considering combining the intersection improvements with several other needed truck ingress/egress improvements within the park property while awaiting approval of expenditure of funds from existing grants, Vaughan told board members.

A newly hired environmental consultant has completed a new environmental routing study for a 115 kV transmission line extension to the park that identifies three viable routes from a possible five routes considered, she explained.

A teleconference meeting was held earlier this month to discuss the three new routes identified and review comparisons of the routes.

The next step in the extension process is to have a public information meeting to make the public aware of the viable extension routes. No date has been set for that meeting, Vaughan said.

The development director also brought board members up to speed on ongoing authority projects including grading at the Day site located behind Bojangles off Highway 58.

Board members are expected to advertise the work at the site as soon as approval is received and funding approved through grant budget revision, Vaughan said.

New springs have been installed on the dock levelers and repairs have been made to the overhead doors at the former Medical Textiles building located on Industrial Park Road.

At Friday’s meeting, authority board members ratified the lease of 11,648 square foot of warehouse space in the former Medical Textiles building to Cherokee Tobacco for four months at a cost of $5,824 that was paid up front.

Vaughan also updated authority board members on plans for the 387,000 square foot former Burlington Industries building in Halifax. The authority has a 12 month option with a six month extension on the Burlington property currently owned by Nelson Jones and located on 80 acres of property just off Cowford Road.

The authority has received a $50,000 grant from the Industrial Revitalization Fund for feasibility planning for development of a strategic market position for the Burlington plant and another $50,000 grant from the VA Brownsfields restoration and Economic Redevelopment Assistance Fund.

According to Vaughan, a budget is being developed for site related studies to be paid for by the grants.

The authority had requested $600,000 in tobacco commission grants last fall but were passed over, according to Vaughan, because other communities had similar projects with clients or prospects.

“We could not compete with that. They felt we needed to do more studies on the site,” she added.

The final update came on the South Boston Energy project currently being constructed off Plywood Trail.

The governor recently announced approval of a $650,000 grant to fund off-site improvements including construction of a pump station and force main that will transport treated gray water from the Halifax County Service Authority wastewater treatment plant to South Boston Energy, construction of a pump station and piping to provide river water for the treatment plant to supplement the station’s inflow; and construction of a sewer force main to convey cooling tower blow downs from South Boston Energy to the treatment plant.

South Boston Energy is matching these funds with $536,310 to complete the project.

Funding from a Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund grant totaling $2.7 million also has been received and wired to South Boston Energy to help fund the cost of the interconnection with Dominion Virginia Power, Vaughan said.

In other action Friday morning, authority board members adopted a resolution to purchase a sanding machine for the American Wood Finishing Institute from MB Maschineau of Hiddenhousen, Germany.

According to IDA Director Mike Sexton, the German company is the only firm that manufactures this specialized piece of machinery.

The sanding machine is the only machine available in the world with its particular capabilities and level of performance and is the only machine that will fulfill the requirements of the coatings and finishing lab and research facility at Riverstone.

The company plans to send two sanders to Riverstone, so one can be showcased in the United States, and potential buyers will no longer have to travel to Germany to see the specialized sanding machine.

The sander will be purchased using funds already committed to the upfit of the High Bay area at Riverstone.

Also approved Friday was a resolution approving the transfer and refinancing of the Hinson property located near the Berry Hill Plantation property.

The authority purchased the property, which lies in a flood plain, in 2003 to protect its investment and control access to property near Berry Hill Plantation at a time when a prospect was interested in the site.

Since that time, Sexton said the authority no longer has a prospect for the property and has no intention of doing anything with the property.

However, it is costing the authority $7,000 each year.

“It’s better to move it off our balance sheet,” Sexton said.

Authority board members then voted 4 to 2 with one abstention to convey one half undivided interest in the property to the South Boston Industrial Development Authority in exchange for that authority assuming full responsibility for the repayment of principal and interest remaining under the note and releasing the county authority from any further liability.

Voting against the motion were Marcus Hargrave and Garland Ricketts. Wanda Jeffress abstained from the vote.

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