aCorridorNews :: News of Virginia's access Corridor to Markets, Technology & Transportation

Issue 15 March 2011

Virginia’s aCorridor
is a region of southwestern Virginia that includes the Cities of Bristol and Galax, and the Counties of Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Smyth, Washington and Wythe.

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P.O. Box 983
Marion, VA 24354

Phone: 276.783.9474
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FAX: 276.783.7999

aCorridor Headlines

  1. Guardian Industries to expand in Galax
    New solar energy product line to create 40 new jobs.
  2. New company creates 42 jobs in Grayson County
    Independence Homes to build modular cabins, cottages.
  3. Mary Rae Carter is aCorridor guest
    Deputy Secretary of Commerce & Trade for Rural Economic Development addresses aCorridor Board of Directors.
  4. aCorridor counties receive megasite grants
    Tobacco Commission awards funding for site development.
  5. Bland County company gets research funding
    American Mine Research to develop next generation technology.
  6. From My Perspective...
    An update from Executive Director Tom Elliott.
  7. around the aCorridor...
    Alpha Natural Resources announces plans to buy Massey Energy. Carroll County's Bucyrus plant adds jobs.

Guardian Industries to expand, add new solar energy product line


Galax officials visit with key Guardian managers after the expansion announceent. From left, Keith Barker, Galax City Manager; Mike Frazier, Production Manager; C.M. Mitchell, Mayor of Galax; James Aldred, Engineering Manager; and Eddie Davis, Superintendent.


Governor Bob McDonnell announced in December that Guardian Industries will invest $2.1 million to expand at its Consolidated Glass & Mirror facility in the City of Galax. The project, which involves a new solar energy product line, will create 40 new jobs. The expansion in Galax will enable the company to produce specially coated mirrors used in the technology of concentrating solar power (CSP), a type of solar thermal power. The mirrors track the sun and radiate its energy onto a central receiver, creating the power equivalent of hundreds of suns. That power is used to vaporize water into steam to power a turbine for the generation of electricity.

"Consolidated Glass has been an important part of the Galax economy for more than 30 years," said Governor McDonnell. "Virginia has declared the energy industry a key target sector going forward and we appreciate that this Virginia company is expanding into the solar energy business."

"It is exciting to see a Virginia company involved in green innovation, and we are proud that Guardian Industries will manufacture this important product in Galax," said Jim Cheng, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade.

Founded in Galax in 1979, Consolidated Glass & Mirror Corporation became a subsidiary of Guardian Industries in 1992. Guardian currently has 28 float glass lines and 13 glass fabrication plants around the world.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the City of Galax and Virginia's aCorridor to secure the project for Virginia. The Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission approved $100,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds to assist Galax with the project. Through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program, the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funding and services to support the company's recruitment and training activities. The City of Galax will also provide a grant of $30,000 to assist Guardian with the expansion.

New company to manufacture modular cabins in Grayson County


Jonathan Sweet, Grayson County Administrator, visits with Independence Homes officials to discuss the retrofits under way at the facility. From left, Butch Reeves, Executive Vice President; Joe Weddington, CEO; Sweet; and Mike McMillan, COO.



Independence Homes, LLC, a new company in Grayson County, announced in December it will invest $1 million to begin manufacturing of modular cabins and cottages at its new facility in Independence. Joining the new company in making the announcement were the Grayson County Board of Supervisors, along with the Grayson County Industrial Development Authority, the Independence Industrial Development Authority and the Blue Ridge Crossroads Small Business Development Center. The project involves the construction of park-model homes and modular cabins and cottages and is expected to create 42 new jobs.

The Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission approved $75,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds to assist Grayson County with the project, $125,000 was received from the Independence IDA in a low-interest loan and business planning assistance was provided through the SBDC. The Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funding and services to support the company's recruitment and training activities through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

Virginia's first rural economic development Secretary visits region

Executive Director Tom Elliott discusses marketing strategies for the aCorridor with Mary Rae Carter, Virginia's first Deputy Secretary of Commerce & Trade for Rural Economic Development.

Mary Rae Carter, Virginia's first Deputy Secretary of Commerce & Trade for Rural Economic Development, was the special guest at the aCorridor's February Board of Directors meeting. Ms. Carter spoke to the group about her role, the Administration's focus on economic development, and the Governor's Opportunity at Work initiative. She stressed the importance of regional organizations like Virginia's aCorridor, saying, “When a prospect identifies a region to look at, they want a single point of contact, and that should be him,” pointing to Tom Elliott, the aCorridor's Executive Director. The Deputy Secretary also voiced her support of the aCorridor 2011- 2012 Marketing Strategy, which Tom had presented earlier, and emphasized her commitment to work with the region to land more prospects in the days ahead.


Tobacco Commission awards funds for site development in aCorridor 


The Virginia Tobacco Commission announced in early January the awarding of grants for megasite development. The Commission says: "The Megasite Grant Program is intended to advance the readiness of large sites with which communities and the Commonwealth can successfully compete for significant private industry investments."

Three aCorridor counties received megasite grants: The Blue Ridge Crossroads Economic Development Authority (BRCEDA) was awarded $3.8 million for site development and build-out at Wildwood Commerce Park in Carroll County. The Smyth County Board of Supervisors received a grant of $130,500 for planning and study of a megasite in Smyth County. The Washington County Industrial Development Authority received a grant of $1,526,490 for access roads, utilities and site grading for Phase IV at Oak Park Center for Business and Industry.

Last summer, the Tobacco Commission awarded the Joint Industrial Development Authority of Wythe County, Wytheville, and Rural Retreat a Southwest Economic Development grant of $1 million for the rail site development project of Lot 24, a 232-acre site at Progress Park in Wytheville. In November, the Joint IDA was awarded a $3 million grant announced by Governor Bob McDonnell as one of the first recipients of Virginia's Major Employment and Investment (MEI) Project Site Planning Grant Fund program. This grant will also be used for site development at Progress Park.

In addition to the Megasite Grant Program award for Wildwood Commerce Park, which will be used for engineering and related costs, funding the construction of water and sewer, an access road and fiber optic communications, in 2010 the Tobacco Commission also awarded $1 million for BRCEDA's acquisition of the 167-acre site off Interstate 77's Exit 19. The Commonwealth of Virginia also has recommended a federal Appalachian Regional Commission grant of $500,000 for water and wastewater extensions to the Wildwood Commerce Park site.

Bland County company receives funding for research & development

American Mine Research in Rocky Gap, Va., is developing next generation underground wireless tracking and communications systems.

The Bland County Economic Development Authority and American Mine Research, Inc. (“AMR”) anounced in late 2010 they were awarded a research and development grant of $800,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Commission. Eleven new jobs are associated with this grant. Founded in 1975, AMR is a leading manufacturer of monitoring and control electronics for the underground and surface mining industries.

The Tobacco Commission's grant will be used to hire and train new technical and production personnel over the next two years. The new personnel will aid in the development of AMR's next generation underground wireless tracking and communications system, Mine Net™ Mesh. All new personnel will work from AMR's Rocky Gap facility. The new Mine Net™ Mesh system will combine tracking, voice and text communications, atmospheric gas monitoring and other monitoring and control capabilities all in one completely wireless system. Currently, AMR has over 60 Mine Net™ Systems installed throughout the country.


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From my     perspective...

Tom Elliott     

Executive Director

2010 Report Card

• 14 Expansions, 327 Jobs, $38.55 Million capital investment

• 3 New Industries, 125 Jobs, $2.25 Million capital investment

• A Total of 17 Announcements, 452 Jobs, $40.8 Million capital investment

Since our last newsletter, we have wrapped up the year 2010. By all accounts, it was another tough year, but we had some fair results, with 3 of our announcements coming in mid-December. Not surprisingly, existing industry expansions led the way. Typically, these account for the greatest job creation year in and year out. In 2010, they also chalked up the greatest capital investment. Case in point - you have to pay attention to your existing industries, and our localities do that!

It’s very encouraging to see existing industries like Utility Trailer bringing back 340 jobs at their operations in Washington and Smyth Counties in the last half of the year, when only months before, they were in danger of shutting down. In the Bristol Washington County Industrial Park, Universal Fibers hired 280 people in 2010, and now has 650 employees. A number of other companies in the region are rehiring or adding employees.

We are seeing some positive signs in new prospect activity as well, with a few more large projects in the pipeline, and we have a few projects still pending from last year. So, to repeat a well-worn phrase that most economic developers are currently using, we are "cautiously optimistic" about 2011. Meanwhile, everyone’s keeping a close eye on the Middle East…

In closing, I must pay my respects to a departed friend and colleague. All of us were deeply saddened at the passing of Jerry Brown on Feb. 6, 2011, after a long illness. Jerry was employed by Bristol Virginia Utilities as Director of Economic Development, and he served as Executive Director of Virginia’s aCorridor, then known as The Peaks of Virginia, for ten years, 1990 - 2000. Jerry will be greatly missed and our deepest sympathies go out to his wife Nancy and the family.

around the aCorridor...

Alpha Natural Resources announced in late January plans to buy Massey Energy Company in an $8.5 billion cash and stock transaction. According to an Alpha Natural Resources news release, the merger will bring together Alpha's and Massey's highly complementary assets, which include more than 110 mines and combined coal reserves of approximately 5 billion tons, including one of the world's largest and highest-quality metallurgical coal reserve bases. "Alpha and Massey believe the new entity will be well positioned to capitalize on strong global demand trends for coal including the metallurgical coal used in the steel manufacturing process. Further, the combination is expected to permit Alpha and Massey to benefit from geographical and asset diversification, including operations and reserves in Central and Northern Appalachia , the Illinois Basin and the Powder River Basin in Wyoming." Currently headquartered in Abingdon, Alpha is building a new facility in Bristol, Va. and is expected to move its employees to that location later this year. Alpha recently announced it was establishing offices in Australia and India.


According to an article in The Galax Gazette, the quality of the workforce at the Hillsville Bucyrus plant has contributed to the expansion of jobs at the Carroll County facility. Heavy equipment maker Bucyrus, an international company headquartered in Milwaukee, has decided to shift two of its products to the Hillsville plant in a consolidation, according to Sonny Beckham, plant manager, who was quoted in the news article. The products are a polymer plastic and pulleys that can be up to four feet in diameter.

The Abingdon Farmers Market announced in January it would start operating year round, with dates announced for January, February and March. According to the market's manager, Sara Cardinale, said the winter market will help keep the interest of customers who generally have to wait until the market is in full swing the end of April to shop for local produce. Some vendors will use the winter market as an opportunity to deliver items pre-ordered by customers. Cardinale encourages customers to sign-up for the Abingdon Farmers Market newsletter at for up-to-date information on participating vendors.


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