Wrapping up 2018

Published 2:24 pm Saturday, December 22, 2018

by Amanda Jarratt

Looking back on our calendar year, the Franklin Southampton Economic Development (FSEDI) staff is extremely grateful for all the community support we’ve received and the accomplishments we can celebrate together. As the year ends, we wanted to take some time and look back at the exciting expansions, new businesses around town and the opportunity for future economic growth.

FSEDI was greatly pleased with the result of a regional partnership with the Isle of Wight County Economic Development office that allowed the expansion of Quality Aire and the rehabilitation of the former skating rink property.

Additionally, we were delighted to announce Belmont Peanuts was awarded $30,000 from The Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) fund, a division of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Secretary of Forestry and Agriculture, the honorable Bettina King presented the Marks family with the award money and shared her well wishes from the state organization.

This was the first AFID award for Southampton County. We look forward to celebrating the new construction of the Belmont Peanuts processing facility and retail store over the next year.

Another significant economic announcement came from Hampton Farms. A division of Severn Peanut Company, the organization announced their intent to invest $5.7 million to install a bulk peanut butter production line at its peanut processing operation in Southampton County. The additional production space will create 14 new jobs and increase both significant peanut purchases and tax revenue. The project led to the second AFID award of $100,000.

On a community development note, our partnership with the Downtown Franklin Association led to another hugely successful community business launch competition, STARTUP Downtown Franklin.

We were able to award three incredible businesses funds to begin operating their respective entities in the Historic Downtown Franklin area. Katrina Sykes-Manley of Spoken Interior Homes won the grand prize of $20,000. Spoken Interior Homes offers home décor, accessories and gifts to consumers wanting to create a personalized home environment. Sykes-Manley also offers interior decorating services and educational design workshops.

Kim Mallon of Children’s Therapy Concepts was awarded second place with $10,000. Children’s Therapy Concepts provides outpatient services to children over the age of three in the following: pediatric physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Andrea Epps of Tiers to You took home the third place award of $8,000. Tiers to You provides custom and affordable cakes and cupcakes for any occasion.

FSEDI also oversees the management efforts of the Franklin Business Center. The business incubator program welcomed nine new businesses in 2018 and currently is the home to 31 individual businesses. The program houses entrepreneurs, start-ups, and expanding businesses looking to grow for-profit businesses. For more information on our program, or to tour our building, call our office at 562-1958.

To end the year we were thrilled to host Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball to make the announcement of a $75.7M expansion of Enviva. Enviva Partners LP, a global energy company specializing in sustainable wood biomass, will invest at least $75.7 million to expand its operation in Southampton, Virginia. In addition to increasing wood pellet production by a third, to approximately 750,000 metric tons per year (MTPY,) the expansion will allow for the processing of sustainably sourced pine at the existing facility, significantly augmenting the company’s usage of fiber (or raw material) from Virginia forests. Virginia successfully competed with several states in the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coast to be the next state in which Enviva would increase the production capacity of one of its facilities. This is a huge win for Southampton County.

From the entire FSEDI staff, we are extremely grateful for the partner support we receive. We wish you all a wonderful holiday season and anticipate another year of exciting economic growth and progress as we prepare for the 2019 calendar.

AMANDA JARRATT is the president and CEO of the FSEDI. Contact her at 562-1958 or ajarratt@franklinsouthamptonva.com.