Kristy Johnson

Kristy Johnson

Kristy Johnson has hit the ground running as the new executive director of the Halifax Industrial Development Authority since starting Wednesday, and updated the IDA board Friday morning on the Southern Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Center and other plans for the next month.

Johnson first updated the board on the SVAMC, the former Daystrom building, and RTP Co. Engineered Thermoplastic Compounds’ recent move-in to Section A of that building.

She said the difference in the appearance of that section of the building was remarkable, with upgraded lighting, and she is glad to see the SVAMC operating as a “full facility.”

The IDA is leasing 79,000-square-feet of space in the SVAMC to RTP for 10 years. RTP, which operates out of a facility next door to the SVAMC at 1150 Greens Folly Road, is using the leased space in the SVAMC for warehousing.

Johnson also provided an update on a grant-funded environmental assessment of the SVAMC.

The IDA’s current Virginia Brownfields Grant for the SVAMC ends in December, Johnson noted.

She said the company conducting the environmental assessment of the SVAMC property, Draper Aden Associates, plans to take another round of samples from the retention pond on site to assess any seasonal difference in the samples.

She said the IDA still does not have the results from the last round of samples from the pond but does not think there is “any reason to be alarmed” about those results.

Draper Aden also is assessing the composition of an oil stain inside the SVAMC facility but Johnson says she does not anticipate that being a major environmental concern either.

“Draper Aden is working to put together a package for us to close out that brownfields grant, and then we’ll figure out our next steps toward a certificate of satisfactory completion through the voluntary remediation program,” Johnson informed the board. “As you all know, that is going to be a long process to complete, but it is moving forward.”

The certificate of satisfactory completion with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s voluntary remediation program will help the IDA market the SVAMC to prospective tenants.

Johnson also shared the news with the board that the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s Virginia Business Ready Sites Program had received $7 million this year for upgrades or additional assessment for planning to move business sites up to the next tier in terms of readiness as a commercial/industrial site.

“It’s something I think we could strive to participate in in the future. I don’t think we have anything this round,” Johnson explained. “It requires sites of 100 developable acres or more, so we don’t have any sites that meet that criteria, but they can accept applications from privately owned sites if there is some sort of agreement and the zoning is appropriate and they have been through a characterization assessment.”

Johnson said she would like to work with the county to help identify sites that meet the criteria for future rounds of funding. At the least, she said she hopes the county and the IDA can identify a privately owned site that could benefit from the program and boost the county’s competitiveness in attracting new business and industry.

Other plans for the upcoming month that Johnson shared are attending a GO Region 3 stakeholders meeting and going over a year one report for Golden Piedmont Labs, a large-scale industrial hemp processing facility that opened in South Boston in October 2020.

Following her update, board chairman Robert Bates thanked Johnson for her commitment to the Halifax County community and to the IDA. He added he is optimistic about the future of the IDA under Johnson’s leadership.

“I look forward to moving onward and upward,” he said.

IDA board treasurer Rick Harrell also congratulated Johnson on completing her first two days on the job and congratulated the IDA’s new operations manager Blair Jeffress on completing her first 90 days on the job.

Johnson said Friday she and Mike Davidson, who held the role of interim Halifax IDA executive director since November, had completed their “initial transition” in leadership of the organization, but Davidson would still be working for the IDA “behind the scenes” for the next 30 days.

Board member Ryland Clark also shared with the board at Friday’s meeting the news that Hitachi ABB Power Grids currently is looking for qualified candidates to fill a number of positions at the South Boston plant, adding the power distribution transformers manufacturing company was “investing a lot in the community here.”

In other business at Friday’s meeting, Harrell presented the IDA’s finance report for the month of August. At the end of August, the IDA had $647,373 in unrestricted funding, Harrell shared. Harrell made a motion to accept the financial report for the month of August and vice chair Jeremy Satterfield seconded the motion.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.