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Supes give green light to $150,000 grant match

Halifax County Supervisors in a 7-1 vote Monday evening gave the green light to provide $150,000 in matching funds for a tobacco commission grant for renovation of the Green View Advanced Manufacturing Center.

The money will come from the 2014 budget.

At its November meeting, the board delayed its decision to permit more time for consideration of whether to support the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority’s request for a $1.3 million grant from the tobacco commission to support the next phase of work in Green View.

As part of the total project budget of $1,492,000, the authority has committed $42,000 of authority funds as a local match and is now requesting $150,000 of additional local match from the supervisors.

The sticking point came last month when supervisors found out the authority may return each year with a request for an additional $50,000 to $150,000 contribution to this project stretching out over an additional four years.

In making the motion to approve a $150,000 one-time match to support the $1.3 million grant request, ED-4 Supervisor Doug Bowman explained the board is not binding themselves or other boards for future support of the project.

He pointed out half of the $1.3 million will be used to replace the roof on a 140,000 square foot portion of the 429,000 square foot building as well as upgrade mechanical, electrical and plumbing, improve the parking lot and grade and landscape the front entrance.

County Administrator Jim Halasz recommended supporting the grant application but cautioned supervisors he did not recommend any request for funds for later years of the project.

“I would recommend the board be clear such a commitment is not being extended to the IDA,” he said.

As a further point of clarification, Halasz noted the authority is prepared to offer future business prospects who may consider locating in the county “a unique array of business support opportunities” at Green View.

“Green View is best envisioned as a manufacturing/business center that can provide an extensive array of support services that enhance opportunities for successful commercialization of new products and technologies and improved chance of business success. While it is obviously clear many businesses may not need or desire these services, some will,” he said.

It is those businesses that will find the environment to support business success in the county to be an incentive to bring their business here and grow it here.

“From services such as training, incubation, mentoring, ready to lease facilities and access to technology, the Green View Center creates a competitive environment in Halifax County that further improves our chances to compete for business and retain business,” the administrator added.

However, ED-5 Supervisor Barry Bank shared a much different perspective on providing $150,000 of county funds to match the $1.3 million tobacco grant.

“I have a problem with that (obligating $150,000 from the 2014 budget) because we don’t know what we’re going to be facing next year. Here we’re going to obligate you to giving us $150,000 when it does not look like it’s going to be a lot of revenue around,” Bank told Authority Executive Director Matt Leonard who attended Monday night’s meeting.

“We’ve already taken a lot of money out of our reserve balance and are below what we should have in there,” he added. “Where is this money going to start coming from?

“We still keep putting nickels and dimes in these things and don’t seem to get a lot back,” Bank continued. 

According to figures the ED-5 supervisor cited, the county has spent $100 million on industrial development projects since 2000, and he asked Leonard how many jobs have been provided over that same timeframe.

“First of all, I’m not sure the county has spent $100 million,” Leonard said, adding he didn’t have the job numbers about which Bank was asking.

Bank referred to a VEC labor market analyses that said in 2000 13,725 jobs were in Halifax County. In 2011, average jobs for the year amounted to 12,079 for a difference of 1,646 fewer jobs than the county had before.

“To me, that doesn’t seem to be a real good return on investment,” Bank said, adding, “Fewer jobs for that amount of money.”

He continued, “I don’t know of any financial institution that would lend money based on that record.”

He also asked Leonard should a high-tech prospect locate in Green View, does the county have the qualified labor force to work there?

“We have them here in Halifax County,” Leonard responded. “We have a labor shed of almost 2 million people in a 60-mile radius. We have a workforce training development program that is second to none in Virginia, and we have programs already in place, and we have programs we are putting in place for those exact type of jobs, so yes we will have a labor force, and we have some now.”

After hearing the labor force is available, Bank responded, “Even though we may have the training programs and the people, a lot of these younger people are looking for something in a social situation that we don’t have like at restaurants. It makes it more difficult for us to staff people.”

Bank said he is concerned about taking $150,000 in taxpayer money to leverage a $1.3 million grant only to have the building sit there “because we don’t have the people to go in there to work.”

Without any further discussion, Bowman offered a motion to appropriate $150,000 from next year’s budget “to reroof and save the Daystrom building in Greens Folly now known as Green View.”

ED-8 Supervisor W. Bryant Claiborne seconded the motion urging the authority executive director to seek economic development authority grants from Southside Planning District Commission to cover the $150,000 matching grant.

Bank then asked for a roll-call vote in which he cast the lone dissenting vote.