The need for additional funding for capital improvement projects was a topic of discussion when the Halifax Industrial Development Authority met with the Halifax County Board of Supervisors on Friday morning in the IDA boardroom.
“We don’t have a large capital improvements fund, and we have a lot of needs coming up in the next few years,” said IDA executive director Brian Brown. “We have burnt through $1.6 million of our reserves for two projects. We’re suffering going through the budget this year.”
Of that $1.6 million, Brown said more than $600,000 was spent on the purchase of the former Blue Ridge Beverage Company building on Houghton Avenue in South Boston, now home to the large-scale industrial hemp processing facility Golden Piedmont Labs. A ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new facility was held Thursday. The remainder of the $1.6 million was spent on the construction of a shell building at the entrance of Southern Virginia Technology Park, for the purpose of attracting industry to Halifax County. Construction of that building is slated for completion in the next three weeks.
County administrator Scott Simpson told Brown and the IDA board the county has a pool of $350,000 that is available and could potentially be used to assist the IDA with upcoming capital improvement projects. The IDA owns a number of buildings in need of renovation/upgrades because of the age of the structures, and Brown told the board of supervisors the IDA has a 10-year plan for capital improvement projects.
Brown explained that when the IDA adopted its current participation policy for providing assistance to new and current industries in Halifax County, they kept limiting the IDA’s financial exposure and risk in mind.
“We should be the financial institution of last resort,” Brown said. “We think this is a much better way of operating, in terms of making ourselves more self-sufficient.”
Brown added the IDA would introduce new businesses and industries in need of loans to local banking institutions to serve their needs.
The IDA executive director also presented to the two boards the IDA’s economic incentive policy to stimulate economic development and growth in Halifax County. Brown shared that available economic development incentives the Halifax IDA, in cooperation with Halifax County, might provide are tax rebating based on level of investment, infrastructure improvements to project sites, and loans and grants for tenant improvements of IDA owned properties. The Halifax IDA may also provide targeted incentives for job creation and “destination retailers” such as entertainment venues and restaurants.
A brief discussion on how to make Halifax County attractive to new businesses and industries followed. ED-6 Supervisor Stanley Brandon brought up the potential economic impact of the Caesars Entertainment casino project in the city of Danville, a referendum on the ballot in the Nov. 3 election.
“How do we cut deals like they (the city of Danville) cut with that casino,” Brandon asked. “They are going to receive $20 million if the referendum passes…How do we become that attractive where instead of us granting and giving the funds, we’re actually collecting from them because they’re interested in our locality?”
IDA board member Rick Harrell said a casino is not the sort of new industry that he would like to see in Halifax County, and the results of bringing the casino to Danville would be a “mixed bag.”
“Everybody loses when they gamble,” Harrell said. He brought up another economic development project called the Berry Hill Project in Pittsylvania County just west of Danville, and shared that Halifax County might have the opportunity to get an “offshoot facility” because of its proximity to that project.
Dominion Energy has selected a 149-acre lot in the Southern Virginia Megasite at Berry Hill for a 500-megawatt combustion turbine “peaking” plant that would have the power to serve approximately 125,000 homes.
Harrell also stressed the importance of the two boards continuing to have open discussions on economic development in Halifax County.
“We’re all just struggling, and I think the more that we talk in public about what we want to do, the better off we are, and the better off our citizens are, because they’re not in the dark,” Harrell said.
After the two boards went into closed session discussion and the IDA reconvened in open session, board member Jeremy Satterfield said he was pleased with the IDA board’s discussion with the board of supervisors, and like IDA board chairman Robert Bates, he sees the need for the two boards to meet quarterly to share information. Harrell agreed with the need for the boards to continue to meet regularly.