January 30, 2022
In December 2021, public-private campaign InvestSWVA announced the launch of an economic development initiative designed to help Southwest Virginia manufacturers find entry points in the supply chain for wind energy equipment components. The initiative, called Project Veer, will connect Southwest Virginia manufacturers with industry experts, public sector partners, the Hampton Roads Alliance, Dominion Energy Inc., Appalachian Power and GO Virginia Region One’s economic and workforce development organizations. Project Veer builds on recommendations from a study conducted by the Hampton Roads Alliance that exposed gaps in the supply chain and defined how manufacturers could fill them. (VirginiaBusiness.com)
Two small businesses received $6,500 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority seed capital grants in early January. The recipient in Tazewell County was a new solar energy company formed earlier this year, Southwest Virginia Energy Consultants Inc. The company seeks to help commercial businesses, homeowners and agricultural businesses in the region grow solar energy use. In Wise County, VCEDA selected pool installation and service business Hughes Enterprises LLC, dba Wise Guys Pools, as a grant recipient. Wise Guys Pools projects it will create three full-time jobs and four part-time jobs within five years. (SWVAToday, The Coalfield Progress)
On Jan. 7, the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission approved funding for several projects in Southwest Virginia. The Lonesome Pine Regional Industrial Facilities Authority will receive a $500,000 grant for infrastructure work at the Project Intersection industrial site in Norton. The property needs additional site development, and the authority needs to build a 30,000-square-foot building to accommodate the EarthLink customer support center announced in September 2021. Another funded project is the second phase of the Russell Place Project, for which the Russell County Industrial Development Authority will receive $303,500 to redevelop a vacant industrial park property in Lebanon. (Bristol Herald Courier)
The six-week Washington County Business Challenge was set to launch Jan. 18 as a virtual-only weekly event. It will award more than $32,000 in cash and services to startups and expanding businesses in Washington County and the towns of Abingdon, Damascus and Glade Spring. The Washington County Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Community Capital and Virginia Highlands Small Business Incubator host the challenge. This year, in addition to $5,000 cash and support from the Virginia Highlands incubator, the winner of the entrepreneurship award will receive mentorship, tuition assistance and the chance for three employees to attend Emory & Henry College’s Small Business Growth Program. (Bristol Herald Courier)
In December 2021, Wise County Industrial Development Authority members and project partners broke ground on the 3.46-megawatt solar energy project that will serve the Mineral Gap data center in the Lonesome Pine Regional Business & Technology Park. The 20-acre site will be developed on previously mined land. A $500,000 federal grant will partially fund site remediation and preparation. Clintwood-based McFall Excavating Inc. is the site development contractor. The site development work is set to conclude in the spring, and Charlottesville-based Sun Tribe Solar will then work with Mineral Gap to begin solar panel installation.X (The Coalfield Progress)
Wytheville Town Council gave preliminary approval on Dec. 13, 2021, for a 15-building apartment complex with about 270 residential units. The planned development, called Olde Equine, would sit on 56 acres facing North Petunia Road north of Lee Highway. The council’s approval came with two conditions: The complex must have an entrance at West Lee Highway, and the entrance needs a deceleration traffic lane on the highway. A business located near the middle of the site, Wythe Physician Practices – Bone & Joint, is likely to be redeveloped into a clubhouse to support the development. (SWVAToday)
Washington, D.C.-based commercial real estate data and analytics company CoStar Group Inc. will build a $460 million corporate campus in Richmond, creating 2,000 jobs. CoStar’s riverfront campus will feature 750,000 square feet of new office and retail space, including a 26-story, 510-foot LEED-platinum-certified skyscraper that will be the tallest building in Virginia. CoStar already has a significant Richmond presence, with more than 1,000 employees at the former WestRock building at 501 S. Fifth St., but the expansion will give the company 1 million square feet total in downtown Richmond.
Dominion Energy Inc. sold its Questar Pipelines business on the Wyoming-Utah border to Southwest Gas Holdings Inc. in late December 2021. The deal, announced in early October 2021, is valued at $1.975 billion, including the assumption of $430 million of existing debt. Selling the pipeline business allows Richmond-based Dominion to focus on its utility customers and its clean-energy portfolio, such as solar farms and the development of an offshore wind farm, the company has said. Dominion bought Questar Pipelines in 2016 in a deal valued at $1.725 billion, including $823 million in cash and the assumption of $435 million in debt. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Virginia Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, said in early January that legislation he’s drafted to let Petersburg hold a casino referendum will include a provision barring Richmond from holding a second referendum. The bill puts the state senator at odds with Richmond Councilwoman Reva Trammell, who was set to introduce legislation to have Richmond vote again on a casino project after voters last November rejected national media conglomerate Urban One’s $600 million plan for its ONE Casino + Resort. Morrissey said the state would bar Richmond from holding another referendum for five years after last year’s result, adding that he thinks allowing Richmond to vote again would be undemocratic and redundant.
Starplast USA, a subsidiary of Israel-based plastic manufacturer Starplast, plans to invest $17.7 million in a new facility in Chesterfield County, creating 300 jobs over the next five years, Gov. Ralph Northam announced in December 2021. The company will retrofit an existing industrial building near Meadowville Technology Park in the southern part of the county. Starplast was founded in 1958, and its U.S. subsidiary started in 2005, producing housewares, garden storage and toys, among other plastic products. Starplast USA opened its first U.S.-based manufacturing plant in Houston in 2018. (VirginiaBusiness.com)
In December 2021, the Supreme Court of Virginia unanimously approved new congressional and General Assembly maps, ending a contentious redistricting process that for the first time gave no say to the state’s elected officials. The court’s action had officials in both parties poring over maps, trying to gauge the fallout from the once-in-a-decade redraw — conducted by two special masters appointed by the court after a bipartisan redistricting commission failed to complete the task. Ultimately, three members of Congress — Democratic Reps. Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger and Republican Rep. H. Morgan Griffith — were drawn out of their current districts, but all three have said they will run for reelection. (The Washington Post)
On Jan. 14, former Virginia Attorney General Richard Cullen left his position as senior partner at McGuireWoods, the state’s biggest law firm, to serve as counselor to Gov. Glenn Youngkin. The former McGuireWoods chairman and U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia has represented a host of high-profile clients, including most recently former Vice President Mike Pence in the congressional inquiry into the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (VirginiaBusiness.com)
Irving, Texas-based Darling Ingredients Inc. announced in December 2021 that it would acquire Winchester-based Valley Proteins Inc. and its outstanding shares for about $1.1 billion in cash. Valley Proteins employs 1,900 workers and has 18 major rendering and used cooking oil plants and 550 vehicles. Darling Ingredients produces organic ingredients and generates protein and fat products and renewable energy. It collects waste from the agri-food industry on five continents to create specialty ingredients like feed-grade fats, pet food ingredients, fuel feedstocks and bioenergy. (The Winchester Star)
Warren County Circuit Judge Bruce D. Albertson entered an order in the last week of December 2021 to sever the remaining co-defendants in the lawsuit against former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer McDonald, in which the EDA alleged that McDonald used its money for her own benefit. Those with active cases are Earth Right Energy Solar-Commercial LLC and Donald F. Poe; ITFederal LLC and Truc “Curt” Tran; April Petty; William Lambert; McDonald’s husband, Samuel North; and McDonald’s mother, Linda Hassenplug, and Little Rugratz Daycare LLC.
(The Northern Virginia Daily)
On Dec. 21, 2021, Spotsylvania Circuit Judge Joseph J. Ellis denied a petition seeking greater transparency in the operations of the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative’s board of directors, although he said that trial statements indicated that the REC is “not as cooperative as it should be.” The ruling ends a group of members’ three-year legal fight to amend the cooperative’s bylaws. The group sought to make board meetings, except for executive sessions involving sensitive information, open to members, as well as to eliminate secret balloting for proxy votes and to publish directors’ annual compensation. (Virginia Mercury)
On Jan. 4, Stephens City Town Council unanimously approved entering into a franchise agreement with Shenandoah Cable Television, a limited liability company for Glo Fiber, to provide internet, telephone and cable service within town limits. Comcast is currently the predominant internet provider in Stephens City, but town officials said that Glo Fiber would likely cover a larger area than Comcast. Town Manager Mike Majher said that Glo Fiber should have started installing equipment almost immediately, but that the town had not received a date for when residents would be able to sign up for the service. (The Northern Virginia Daily)
The Winchester Economic Development Authority voted unanimously on Dec. 21, 2021, to amend its agreement with Frederick County-based Aikens Group, reducing the backend payout the authority will receive for selling the developer a 1-acre property. The high cost of building materials and supply chain issues were making 16-townhouse Piccadilly Townes a potential money loser for the developer. Aikens Group agreed to buy the land for $480,000 and to pay the EDA 5% of the net sale price of each townhouse, which would come to an estimated $225,600 total. Now, Aikens will pay the EDA 50% of its total profit. (The Winchester Star)
In January, Eric Hash became the new CEO of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Association of Realtors (HRAR). Hash was previously the executive of the Dan River Region Association of Realtors. He holds a master’s degree from Liberty University and a bachelor’s degree from Johnson University. Hash plans to continue previous CEO Bob Hill’s focus on outreach and affordable housing. Over the past several years, HRAR has been involved in community and local government discussions about bringing down prices for area homebuyers.
Roanoke/New River Valley
After a 12-year-long push, LewisGale Medical Center is getting a neonatal intensive care unit. LewisGale announced in December 2021 that the Virginia Department of Health approved its Certificate of Public Need (COPN) for the NICU. Carilion Clinic, LewisGale’s closest medical competitor, initially opposed approval of another NICU, but dropped that stance in 2020. The NICU could be up and running as soon as fall 2022. (WSLS and The Roanoke Times)
Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline are picking another legal fight. Environmental and community groups filed a petition the week of
Dec. 25, 2021, with a federal appeals court. The groups want the court to review the decision by the State Water Control Board to allow the infrastructure to cross streams and wetlands. Pipeline opponents say Mountain Valley should not be allowed to continue given its past track record of violating erosion and sediment regulations in Southwest Virginia. But Mountain Valley said those problems were largely caused by heavy rain in 2018 and have been corrected. (Associated Press)
Phoenix Hardwoods Inc., an artisan manufacturer of furniture and home goods made exclusively from Virginia-grown hardwoods, will expand its production facility in Floyd County and open a new retail storefront in the Farmer Supply store in downtown Floyd. The project will create eight jobs, leading to $100,000 in capital investment and allow the company to purchase an additional $76,000 of Virginia-grown hardwoods over the next three years, according to a Jan. 11 news release. Gov. Ralph Northam approved a $10,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund for the project, which Floyd County will match with local funds. (Cardinal News)
Due to a spike in COVID-19 infections, the city of Roanoke announced Jan. 11 that all 1,700 city employees must either be vaccinated or present regular negative test results and wear face coverings at work. Roanoke’s requirement was intended to be effective Feb. 1, allowing workers enough time to get vaccinated. The city’s weighing of a vaccine requirement came on the same day that Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Attorney General Jason Miyares announced that Virginia would join other Republican-led states and business groups in challenging federal vaccination mandates. (Cardinal News)
A proposed new residential subdivision in Smith Mountain Lake was approved by the Franklin County Board of Supervisors in December 2021, following months of delays. A debate over the use of private roads in the 195-acre, 112-lot development was stalled by supervisors. Usually, subdivision roads are built according to Virginia Department of Transportation standards and become state-maintained roads once development is complete. In this case, an adjacent property owner was unwilling to turn over his road easement, leaving VDOT unable to take over the roads. Developer SML Partners LLC agreed to provide road maintenance funding for the next 20 years. (The Roanoke Times)
The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg is using a joint-effort approach to support life science startups in the Roanoke and New River valleys. In December 2021, the CRC announced a partnership with Montgomery County, Roanoke and Carilion Clinic to build new shared lab facilities at the center for smaller life science startups, with the ultimate goal of opening up a larger facility in Roanoke. It also announced a unique partnership with Johnson & Johnson. The $1.1 million project is largely funded by GO Virginia, which awarded the research center $600,000 toward the project, which will create 25 wet and dry lab spaces in a turnkey facility. (The Roanoke Times)
Residents and visitors to Danville soon will be able to zip around on rented electric scooters. Bird, an electric-vehicle sharing company, said it would bring 20 to 30 stand-up scooters to Danville by February, with plans to expand the fleet to 50. The scooters will be located throughout Danville, with most near the downtown area. A percentage of the ride’s price will go into a public works fund to offset costs incurred by removal of scooters that may be left in the right-of-way. (Danville Register & Bee)
The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in late December 2021 announced its search for a president, a new position created by the board of trustees. Betty Jo Foster will serve as interim president. Executive Director Mark Gignac will continue with certain administrative and operational responsibilities under the new structure. The expansion is a result of extensive growth of the institute’s level of activity as well as strategic succession planning. The institute formed a seven-member search committee to identify, interview and recommend candidates. Washington, D.C-based management consulting company Korn Ferry will conduct a national search. (Danville Register & Bee)
The plan for Martinsville to revert from a city to a town has gone from peaceful negotiations to an outright court battle. Henry County filed an injunction to stop reversion from happening.
Both sides have spent months going back and forth over the process. The two found common ground with a voluntary settlement agreement and memorandum of understanding. Then, on Dec. 14, 2021, the Henry County Board of Supervisors did an about-face, voting not to approve the agreement. Now both sides are turning to the courts to intervene. Circuit court judges will have to rule on the matter, but it’s unclear when. (WSET ABC 13)
On Jan. 5, Recurrent Energy announced a purchase and sale agreement with Appalachian Power for its Firefly Energy project in Pittsylvania County. It marks Appalachian Power’s largest solar energy acquisition to date. An agreement approved by the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors calls for $2.25 million in upfront payments. It was one of three agreements approved in December 2021 by the board that
are expected to bring about $41.6 million in revenue to the county over a 35-year span.
(Danville Register & Bee)
On Dec. 24, 2021, Dave McCormack of Waukeshaw Development Inc. filed the remaining paperwork needed to begin construction of a 40-unit apartment building at the site of the former Planters Warehouse in Clarksville, at one time the oldest continually operating tobacco warehouse in Virginia. McCormack planned to break ground in January on The Royster. He said the completion date is pending, based on obstacles that he has had to overcome since he first approached the town with a proposal to save the iconic building from the wrecking ball in 2015. (SoVaNow)
Henry County Administrator and Public Service Authority (PSA) General Manager Tim Hall announced his retirement on Dec. 14, 2021. The county Board of Supervisors named Deputy County Administrator Dale Wagoner as the new county administrator upon Hall’s July 1 retirement. The board also recommended the PSA consider Wagoner as Hall’s replacement as general manager for the authority. Hall has served in those roles since 2012. He began his career with the county as a public information officer in December 1998. (Martinsville Bulletin)
Richmond-based Dodson Property Management acquired Berkeley Realty Property Management Inc. in Williamsburg in January. Sold by Pam Blank and Ed Robbins, Berkeley was founded more than 40 years ago and focuses on property management for single-family property owners and residents, as well as homeowner associations in the Greater Williamsburg area. A release from Dodson says the transition during the acquisition will be “seamless” as the Berkeley team will continue to maintain all existing operations. The acquisition includes 61 HOAs, a total of 6,530 units. (WYDaily)
Dominion Energy Inc. has ordered 176 offshore wind turbines from Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy S.A. for its 2.6-gigawatt, $9.8 billion Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, the Richmond-based Fortune 500 utility announced in December 2021. Siemens Gamesa expects to begin installing the 800-foot-tall turbines in 2024 at the wind farm site 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. (VirginiaBusiness.com)
In early January, Huntington Ingalls Industries announced it had successfully tested systems that allowed drones to coordinate with other vessels without the need for humans to step in. The test, conducted off Virginia Beach, showed HII’s systems can work with the unmanned vessel operating systems of its Sea Machines affiliate. It means an unmanned vessel can operate without the need for human involvement in completing a task, such as collecting data via a sensor or delivering supplies to a certain area or even escorting manned vessels, HII said. HII’s systems managed mission delegation and enabled collaborative operation with other unmanned systems. (Daily Press)
Construction of a full-fledged fiber optic network that will eventually provide all Norfolk residents with a second option for internet service is underway in the Norview and Five Points neighborhoods. In 2021, Norfolk enlisted the services of MetroNet, an internet and phone provider, to install fiber cable all around the city in order to provide an alternative to Cox Communications Inc., the sole internet provider in Norfolk. MetroNet’s infrastructure costs for the project will come close to $90 million in Norfolk. It should take two to three years to fully install the network citywide, though service will be available in some neighborhoods as early as this summer. (The Virginian-Pilot)
A new year is bringing renewed focus on boosting volunteerism in Hampton Roads. Volunteer Hampton Roads and the Hampton Roads Chamber committed to working together to increase regional corporate volunteerism. Volunteer Hampton Roads became an affiliate of the chamber, effective Jan. 1, and moved its office from Virginia Wesleyan University into the chamber’s downtown Norfolk office. (Inside Business)
Verizon and Tysons-based broadcast company Tegna Inc. reached an agreement Jan. 8 following a contract dispute. The deal will restore Verizon Fios customers’ access to WVEC, the Tegna-owned Hampton-licensed ABC affiliate. This isn’t the first time Tegna has pulled its channels from local providers. Fios customers suffered a WVEC blackout in early 2019, and DirecTV lost the channel temporarily in late 2020. Tegna also pulled its channels from almost three million Dish Network users in October, according to the American Television Alliance advocacy group. (The Virginian-Pilot)
More than 60 years after Ramon W. Breeden Jr.founded his Virginia Beach-based real estate development company, The Breeden Co. has new leadership. Chief Operating Officer Timothy Faulkner was promoted to president and CEO in January after serving more than 20 years with the company. Breeden, who founded his company in 1961, will remain chairman of the board, maintaining an active presence. Breeden’s son, C. Torrey Breeden, will continue as The Breeden Co.’s executive vice president, focusing on land acquisition and development. (VirginiaBusiness.com)
In December 2021, Amazon.com Inc. announced a $21 million grant to create a two-year professional training, mentorship and capital funding program for real estate developers of color focused on affordable housing. With the Amazon Housing Equity Fund grant, Arlington-based Capital Impact Partners created the Housing Equity Accelerator Fellowship. The program will provide training on developing affordable housing in the Washington, D.C., area and access to grant capital for pre-development expenses. (VirginiaBusiness.com)
Tysons-based event software company Cvent Holding Corp. went public a second time in December. The company began trading on the Nasdaq Global Market on Dec. 9, 2021, after closing its merger the day before with San Francisco-based SPAC Dragoneer Growth Opportunities Corp. II.
In 2016, Cvent was acquired by Vista Equity Partners for $1.65 billion and taken private. The deal with Dragoneer was first announced in July 2021, and Cvent was valued at about $5.3 billion. During the pandemic, Cvent began providing remote events software, in addition to its live event management services. Its virtual events arm now generates more than $100 million in revenue. (VirginiaBusiness.com)
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine was stuck on Interstate 95 for more than a day in early January, along with hundreds of other drivers disabled in a fast-moving winter storm along a 50-mile corridor. Starting on the afternoon of Jan. 3, winter precipitation caused power outages, multiple vehicle crashes and closed lanes in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Fredericksburg district. Hundreds of vehicles were at a “standstill” overnight between Prince William and Caroline counties, after several tractor-trailers jackknifed in the winter storm. Although people stranded in the storm reported being hungry and cold, there were no reports of serious injuries or deaths. Kaine, who reached his Washington, D.C., office after 27 hours, called the ordeal “a kind
of survival project.” (VirginiaBusiness.com, The Associated Press)
MicroStrategy, the Tysons-based data analytics firm helmed by billionaire cryptocurrency bull Michael Saylor, announced its latest big investment in bitcoin in December 2021: a $94.2 million purchase of approximately 1,914 bitcoins for $49,229 per coin between Dec. 9 and Dec. 29, 2021. The company says it now holds approximately 124,391 bitcoins, purchased for nearly $3.8 billion, or an average price of $30,159 per coin. MicroStrategy’s latest investment came as the price of bitcoin struggled near a two-month low, after a nearly 10% selloff tanked prices about 17% below levels at the end of November 2021. (Forbes)
Reston-based Octo Consulting Group, backed by Arlington Capital Partners, announced in January that it had acquired Herndon-based health information technology company B3 Group Inc. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. B3 holds the $686 million U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Digital Transformation Center task order. B3’s leadership will remain with the company and expand Octo’s health business. (VirginiaBusiness.com)
Will it be the Commanders? Or is it a trick designed to lead fans in the wrong direction? That’s the question after the Washington Football Team left a portion of its name reveal uncensored during a television show produced by the team. In January, Washington shared it will unveil its new name Feb. 2 on NBC’s “Today” show. In a video from the team, President Jason Wright is talking about potential options with Coach Ron Rivera, but the papers in front of him are blurred out. However, when the team re-aired the video on its cable program, “Washington Football Today” on NBC Sports Washington, the paperwork was not blurred, and a potential “Commanders” logo and seal could be clearly seen. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)