By Barrett Baker
Collected here are some highlights of relevant news and information (available as of press time) from local cities and counties including pandemic response measures.
The 2019 Annual Report, scheduled to be released in June by the York County Economic Development office, highlighted several initiatives including two new Economic Development Authority grants—the Business Growth Grant and the Commercial Corridor Property Improvement Grant, offering matching funds for one-time expenses and exterior improvements, respectively. York County has partnered with James City County, the City of Williamsburg and the businesses in the Edge District to promote the area as a hip new food destination, and the York County EDA has begun or completed several light industrial land sales and purchase agreements in Busch Industrial Park and York River Commerce Park.
- York County’s public schools have achieved the highest accreditation rating in Virginia for seven consecutive years—based on the Standards of Learning exam results—and have received several other achievement awards. Money Magazine named York County schools one of the top 100 education buys in the country.
- York County has the second lowest real estate taxes on the Coastal Virginia Peninsula.
- SmartAsset has ranked York County as the fifth happiest county in the nation.
- Bloomberg Businessweek previously listed Poquoson as “Best Affordable Suburb” in Virginia, and CNBC’s included Poquoson on its U.S. list of “10 Perfect Suburbs.”
- Despite a growing population, crime continues to drop in York County. Statistics show that crime was down 7.4% between 2018 and 2019 and continues to drop. Since 1999, crime has decreased by 24%.
Governor’s Health Sciences Academy awarded grant funding.
The Governor’s Health Sciences Academy at Bruton High School in York County is one of 16 programs awarded grant funding from the Virginia Department of Education for equipment upgrades. BHS will receive $37,500 to purchase virtual reality (VR) interactive anatomy laboratory equipment. The use of VR will give students an interactive view of an anatomical model of a human body system which traditional schematic drawings cannot provide. Students will be able to use the VR equipment independently or collaboratively. Bruton High School is one of only nine Governor’s Health Sciences Academies in Virginia. Enrollment in the Governor’s Health Sciences Academy is open to all YCSD high school students. Students can choose a pathway in Therapeutic or Diagnostic services according to their interest.
COVID-19 Response and Recovery
The Board of Supervisors held an emergency session in April where the board considered items related to the COVID-19 pandemic response. The board approved all items including certain temporary forms of tax relief: waiving credit card convenience fees; reduction in penalties and interest on late tax and utility billing payments until Sept. 30; and eliminating the bad check fees for payments made by electronic transfer due to account number entry errors.
Regional County Roundup
Year four of the Small Business Incentive Program was funded jointly by the Board of Supervisors and the Gloucester County Economic Development Authority for a total of $148,347. Twenty-seven grants were awarded to 17 businesses during the 12-month period in 2019. There was approximately $2,544,932 in private investment with $44,363 in public grants paid out. By every account, the fourth year of the program continues to be a successful economic driver and marketing tool for Gloucester County.
A visit to the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) in the summer of 2019 offered Surry County School System students the opportunity to learn about different educational pathways that can result in a stimulating and lucrative career in manufacturing, preparing the students of today for the 21st-century workforce.
CCAM is a resourceful environment creating solutions to complex advanced manufacturing challenges. They are the center of an academic, government and industry ecosystem where partnerships create real economic value. Their staff and researchers play an active role in developing the most talented manufacturing workforce by providing a diverse and industry-driven educational pathway.
Isle of Wight
In mid-2019, M&M Milling announced they will invest $2.3 million to establish a new milling facility in Isle of Wight County. The facility will purchase Virginia-grown shelled corn, grind it into fine flour to mix with other materials for use as a stabilizer, extender and colorant in the glue used in the manufacture of plywood. Over the next three years, the company is committing to purchase at least $2.3 million, or 575,000 bushels, of Virginia-grown corn, 100% of all expected agricultural purchases.
The county’s Economic Development Authority plans for 2020 include continuing infrastructure improvements for the Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park, including developing a capital improvement program to continue the construction of a series of pad-ready sites to meet market demand. The county-owned Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park is a 1,200-acre space dedicated to providing affordable business building sites close to The Port of Virginia. The park is currently home to three nationally recognized companies: Keurig Dr. Pepper, Safco Products Company and Cost Plus World Market (a subsidiary of Bed, Bath & Beyond).
Southampton County will be renovating and repairing the existing courthouse facilities located in Courtland, Virginia. The project includes the facilities for Southampton County General District Court and associated clerk, the facilities for the Juvenile and Domestic Relations (J&DR) Court and associated clerk, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, and the Circuit Court and associated clerk, which is shared with the City of Franklin. The project does not include the adjacent jail or sheriff’s office.