The town of South Boston got an economic shot in the arm with the announcement on Monday of a $5 million investment by Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities (MBC) and Microsoft to build a SOVA Innovation Hub at the site of a former tobacco warehouse on Wilborn Avenue.

I couldn’t help but note a little irony looking at where the business is locating, the site of a former tobacco warehouse that was destroyed in a spectacular fire in 2002.

That warehouse represented an economic way of life for Halifax County for generations, bringing jobs, revenue and tax dollars.

Sadly, all but one of those warehouses in downtown South Boston have burned down or been razed, the notable exception being the New Brick Warehouse, which has been transformed into lofts and condominiums.

It’s only natural for most of us to hang on to what’s familiar, including myself, who grew up south of town and experienced first-hand the sights and sounds of the tobacco market.

A downtown businessman told me not too long ago when the tobacco market was in full swing, his father called him to the entrance of their store and asked him to take a whiff of the aroma of tobacco wafting down the street.

“That’s the smell of money,” he told his son, referring to the revenue the tobacco market and those associated with the industry brought to town.

Halifax County also was known for textiles, and I recall running to the highway and watching the trucks rolling through the county on their way to and from textile plants.

“Big trucks” I called them, and I motioned with my hand to give me a toot of their horns, and many responded, some when I wasn’t even outside to signal them.

One former textile plant in South Boston has been converted into apartments, now known as the Imperial Lofts, while another well-known property, the John Randolph Hotel, is now being renovated as well.

The days of giant factories with hundreds of employees are behind us, with many businesses focusing on smaller footprints, and advances in technology and automation have reduced overhead at the expense sometimes of an expanding workforce.

All of us adults began walking with baby steps instead of giant strides, and seeds must be planted before a crop grows and matures.

What was once a vacant lot will soon be the home of entrepreneurs and other professionals who have the best interests of their community in mind, and hopefully the seeds have been planted for continued growth for Halifax County.

Doug Ford reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at

Doug Ford covers news and sports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at