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IDA paints picture of progress, growth for Halifax County

Halifax County Industrial Development Authority board members working with the community are positioning the county for progressive growth and development.

That’s the message echoed during Friday morning’s authority board meeting held at Riverstone.

Executive Director Matt Leonard painted the positive picture for board members after being asked by Chris Lumsden to offer his observations on the inventory of assets the community is developing to position the county to better compete for jobs.

Lumsden said he attended a meeting Thursday and heard Virginia Economic Development Partnership Vice President of Business Expansion Liz Povar praise Halifax County as a rural community poised for growth and development.

“My take is the same as many of the board members who have seen people in this community work very hard to position Halifax for success over the last three decades,” Leonard said, adding, “We have done a good job at that.”

He pointed to the essentials that every business considers when they are looking to expand or relocate — land, labor, quality of life and capital incentives — saying we have all of these.

“But we can always use a little more and a little variety in that, and we are working toward that,” he added.

Referring to “great infrastructure” in place here, he pointed to the MBC fiber backbone providing 400 gigabytes per second, second to none in the country and maybe in the world. 

“That’s unheard of in most rural communities,” Leonard added.

He praised the combined Halifax County Service Authority “that has done a great job of expanding their footprint, distribution and collection capabilities.”

On the labor side, he noted Halifax County has a “tremendous, reliable, hard-working common-sense workforce that can work with their minds and their hands” in a way that can help an industry be successful.

Next he praised the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center for providing a workforce training center that can even make the workforce better.

“I think what we’ve done to date has helped up to stay head above water with this economy that has been awful. I think if we are to take advantage of this economy that seems to be slowly trending up, we need to stay with that,” he added.

Speaking of capital incentives that can be offered to prospective business and industry, Leonard said the ability to access funds through the various funds including the tobacco commission, federal, state and local programs and the enterprise zones allows the county to make a difference.

“Good businesses don’t need those incentives to be successful. It just makes them more comfortable that they will be successful over time,” he added, “and it shows to them a partnership with the community that may be different from other communities.”

The county has the big three and added the quality of life to what Halifax County has to offer potential business and industry looking to locate in a rural community.

“We’ve done a great job of making sure we have a great education system and a higher education system along with live performing arts, a lively downtown in Halifax and South Boston that offer activities for children,” the executive director continued.

He told board members Halifax County has the right combination of all things business and industry are seeking.

IDA Board Chairman John Cannon agreed saying, “The community leaders here, about 10 years ago, focused on where we are going, and we hit it right on the head…We’re on the right road. We just can’t let it drop.”

Lumsden said he is becoming more and more aware that Virginia Economic Development Partnership “right now considers Halifax County as a premiere  rural community here in Virginia that is prepared for business, and that is important.”

Working with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership is where the county is going to get 60 percent of its “prospect leads,” according to Lumsden.

He added that Halifax County should focus its energy on competing against communities “somewhat like us.”

“We don’t need to beat everyone. We need to beat our competition that are communities like us,” when attracting jobs.

“If we can position ourselves to compete against those communities like us, I think we have a greater chance for success,” he concluded.

In other action Friday morning, authority board members also took the following actions:

Agreed to set a date in the future to visit as many of the IDA’s properties as possible in one day to offer all members a tour of the county’s assets; and

 Listened as LEAD Virginia were made presentations in the coatings center.