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Mecklenburg County pursues funds for business expansion / December 26, 2012
Mecklenburg County has won tentative approval for a $900,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission to assist with the expansion of an existing business — known as Company XYZ.

The bulk of the money, $650,000, will go towards land acquisition, while $250,000 has been set aside for design and bidding expenses tied to a proposed $3.3 million upgrade of the regional water authority system. Mecklenburg will be required to put up a $100,000 match.

Officials are not divulging the identity of the company that is seeking to expand, but the grant summary does indicate that XYZ Company already has created 50 jobs and expects to add an additional 30 jobs at an average annual salary of $44,311 over the next three years.

The Company XYZ expansion project is “confidential and has not been announced to the public,” said Tim Phohl, grants program director for the Tobacco Commission.

The grant request is one of two Mecklenburg County proposals to be approved by the Southside Economic Development Committee, which includes most of the Southside’s membership on the Tobacco Commission. The committee also backed a $180,000 study into possible reuses of the Mecklenburg Correctional Center site after the shuttered prison is demolished.

The full Commission will take a final vote on the funding requests at its meeting on January 8.

The Company XYZ grant will be used to purchase of a 125-acre tract — at a cost of $5,800 per acre — and improve the county’s water system capabilities through the Roanoke River Public Service Authority. According to Pfohl, XYZ Company has tied its future expansion plans to having the proper amount of water supply and pressure. In order to meet that need, the county must upgrade its water system.

B & B Consultants, Inc., with offices in Chase City and South Hill, has estimated the cost of the project will come in at nearly $3.3 million.

With $250,000 from the Tobacco Commission, Mecklenburg County has the bulk of the money lined up for the project — a 2001 Southside Economic Development [SSED] grant of $1.2 million, a more recent grant from SSED of $400,482 to build a water storage tank for XYZ Company, and Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds [TROF] from the Tobacco Commission to assist in the creation of new jobs and investments.

The other grant request — for the prison reuse study — is not new, but it does represents a modification of an earlier request. The earlier request sought a study of possible redevelopment of the MCC prison facility. This revised request would amend the study to consider how the property can be used once the prison is torn down.

The $180,000 would pay for environmental studies and engineering of the site once the structures have been demolished and the property deeded back to the county.

After a tour of the site in April, officials from Mecklenburg County, the Department of Corrections, Tobacco Commission and the Governor’s Office concluded that the existing facility was outdated, despite recent upgrades to the plant, including its HVAC system. These same officials decided that the site was not very marketable as long as the buildings remained on the property.

Tobacco Commission staff recommended awarding $180,000 for 90 percent of the cost of environmental assessment and engineering of the cleared prison site when property title has been returned to the county.

In other Tobacco Commission business, the Agribusiness Committee was forced to table a recommendation that it invest $29,410 in Old Dominion Resource Conservation & Development Council Inc. for a regional agribusiness marketing initiative — the Heart of Virginia Buy Fresh/Buy Local Initiative.

The committee did not have a quorum. It will revisit the funding request at its Jan. 7 meeting.

The bulk of the grant would be used to print 40,000 food guides, 20,000 each for the spring and fall of 2013-14.

Tobacco Commission staff recommended funding the request, suggesting that it would “increase marketing for producers in ten Southside tobacco region counties — Halifax, Mecklenburg, Brunswick, Lunenburg, Charlotte, Prince Edward, Cumberland, Buckingham, Amelia, and Nottoway.”

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