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IDA upbeat on economic projects

The year 2010 will go down in the record books with nearly $200 million in new investments announced here, and one group in Halifax County is looking forward to the New Year and reflecting on the outgoing one.

Staff of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) and specifically IDA Executive Director Mike Sexton are upbeat when reflecting on 2010 and even more upbeat on 2011.

In a year end review release, Sexton outlined some of the IDA’s accomplishments that have come to fruition over the past year.

Solar research center

The IDA announced with Dominion Resources one of the nation’s largest solar array research facilities in North America. The research center will cost an estimated $35 million to construct and is expected to create about 100 construction jobs.

Sexton noted that the project would generate an estimated $1,000,000 annually in new tax revenue for Halifax County.

“The construction jobs for the solar facility won’t be the only construction jobs in Halifax County. The announced biomass or wood fired power plant on the former Georgia Pacific site will add an additional 300 to 400 construction jobs,” Sexton said.

NOVI Energy

NOVI Energy announced plans to spend approximately $150 million to construct the plant. The plant is expected to go on-line in 2013 and to create 40 full-time jobs when it does and $700,000 in new taxes annually.

An additional 75 jobs are expected to be created in the agribusiness sector to fill the needs for fueling the power plant.

Construction is expected to start this month.

“Once these two projects are complete, Halifax County will be unique in the power options that are being generated here –coal, solar, biomass and hydro. We are already seeing great interest in the projects, and the opportunities for additional new investment, including advanced manufacturing, are significant.

The Riverstone Energy Center also will benefit from both of these projects.” Sexton said.

“Certainly 2010 wasn’t the year that we had all hoped it would be, but we saw significant positive movement and plenty to be optimistic about, even during one of the worst recessions in America – and for that matter, global history,” said Sexton.  “When I reflect on where Halifax County was when I got here, and where we are today, I am proud of what our team has accomplished. We had few leads or prospects in the pipeline and nearly no public product to market. A community without product is like a car dealership without cars on the lot, you can’t hope to get customers in if you have nothing to sell.”

With the assistance of the tobacco commission and the board of supervisors, Sexton said the IDA has taken significant steps forward to resolve that problem. 

Five sites cleared and graded

The IDA has cleared and graded five sites, all of which are pad ready with infrastructure in Riverstone Technology Park.

“For the first time in over a decade, Halifax County has public sites that are shovel ready that clients can actually visualize. They can see and walk the sites and get a feel for what their building will look like sitting on a site. There are as many wooded lots as Carter has liver pills, but the number of graded, build-to-suit, pad ready sites with full infrastructure are few and far between,” Sexton said.

Sexton added that Halifax is the only community in Southside with this number of sites.

“They are already paying off. We had prospects in this week looking at the pad ready sites. We would have never gotten them in the door had we not taken the step to create large sites and get them shovel ready.”

Shell building grant

The IDA also is been awarded a grant to do the engineering for a shell building for one of the sites. They are evaluating plans for a 60,000 square foot building that is expandable to 120,000 square feet.

“With the assistance of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, we determined the most commonly requested, and least available building specifications that prospects are searching for, and we are designing our building to fill that gap,” Sexton said.

Work is significantly completed on the grading in Riverstone and continues to be ahead of schedule according to Patsy Vaughan, development director. 

“The overall dry summer helped us to make excellent progress, and we are very pleased with where we are at this time,” Vaughan said.

Green View Advanced Manufacturing Center”

According to Vaughan, the IDA also will be closing on the former Daystrom Furniture plant this month.

The IDA plans to award contracts for the renovations of the building that are planned to start no later than the first quarter of 2011.

“There is no way that the IDA could have developed such a complete site for the purchase price and rehabilitation costs of the Daystrom site,” Vaughan said. “When the first phase of the work is complete, we plan to rename the site “Green View Advanced Manufacturing Center,” and I think the entire community will be pleased with the results.”

Vaughan said the IDA will have a rail accessed site to market for the first time since the development of the Halifax County Industrial Park on U.S. 58 East. She said that there have been no sites to market in that park since the late 1980s, so projects looking for rail bypassed Halifax County in their search.

Results matter

Of course to the citizens of Halifax County, it is the results that matter, and Sexton is keenly aware of that.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to jobs and investment. We have too many people out of work and hurting, and my staff works to tackle that challenge every day. There isn’t a person on the IDA staff who doesn’t come to work each day and strive to make Halifax better for all citizens.”

Over the past two years the IDA has changed their marketing efforts and focused on “in-bound” marketing as opposed to relying on trade shows and conferences.

“We have such significant assets here like The Prizery, VIR and South Boston Speedway, excellent restaurants and accommodations, historic treasures, recreational opportunities and an outstanding school system with the S.T.E.M Academies that are supported by the unparalleled advantages of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, that when people see it for themselves, they are overwhelmed. Two years ago we weren’t for anyone’s radar, but that is changing with our efforts to bring state leaders, leading publications and site location consultants to the area and let them see it for themselves. The word is getting out,” Sexton said.

“But at the end of the day, those things don’t put bread on the table, and that is why I am so pleased by the economic announcements that have been made – both small and large – because that is what matters,” Sexton said.  “Even during one of the worst global recessions in history, there are local businesses that are expanding, investing in new machinery, reinventing the way they do business, and I am proud of the support we have been able to offer and the role that we have been able to play, both small and large,” Sexton said.

TMI AutoTech, Inc.

Sexton noted that TMI AutoTech, Inc. added a new line at their manufacturing facility at VIR. TMI acquired all North American manufacturing, distribution, sales and services rights for HoodXpress.

“This is a perfect example of a business looking outside the box to find new ways to increase revenue and open new markets. Class 8 big-rigs are a far cry from the Ariel Atom supercar that TMI produces here in Halifax County, and Dave and his team are to be commended for finding new revenue streams to add to the bottom line and more importantly, keep their talented team working during these uncertain economic times.”

Grand Springs Natural Spring Water expansion
Grand Springs Natural Spring Water also announced an expansion of their services. The company is now doing distribution and a coffee service and added two jobs, according to Sexton.

Converted Organics
Converted Organics also set-up shop in Halifax County and signed a letter of intent with Spirit Services, Inc. for the development of an energy and industrial wastewater treatment facility using waste oil.

Mid-Atlantic Broadband expansion
Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative (MBC) also announced an expansion with plans to build over 400 miles of new fiber routes.

The company, which is headquartered at Riverstone Centre is currently expanding their offices to make room for 25 new employees, and they plan to add an additional 75 throughout their service area.

Once the $20 million expansion program is completed, MBC will have increased their fiber routes to 1,500 miles.

“These are a few of the projects that have occurred in 2010. They represent businesses small and large, local and new. We continue to be optimistic that this trend of investment will carry-on in the New Year and look forward to announcing many more jobs,” Sexton concluded.