The Tidewater News sells longtime office to Camp Community College
Published 6:08 pm Wednesday, May 3, 2023
For 45 years, the service rendered to area citizens out of the building at 1000 Armory Drive has been one of community journalism. The building has been the home of The Tidewater News since April 1978.
Tidewater Publications LLC, which publishes the newspaper and related print and digital products, has sold the 13,000-square-foot building to Paul D. Camp Community College and has moved its office to 217A North College Drive, where it is continuing its full range of service to the public without interruption. Operations formally began at the new office Monday, May 1.
The facility at 1000 Armory Drive, which was sold to the college for $750,000, will continue to be used to serve the people of Western Tidewater, but that service will be transformed into one directly responsible for building a pipeline of workers for the allied health care and nursing fields, courtesy of Camp.
For many years, all aspects of The Tidewater News’ production process took place at the Armory Drive building, but that process has become simplified over time, and then in October 2016, printing of the paper was moved to The Virginian-Pilot and later delegated to Adams Publishing Group in Greenville, North Carolina.
Betty Ramsey, publisher of The Tidewater News, noted that these changes are what prompted the decision to sell the Armory Drive facility.
“With today’s technology and printing of the paper being done elsewhere, we just don’t need all that space,” she said.
A few years ago, Tidewater Publications, which is affiliated with Boone Newsmedia Inc., began leasing a 1,000-square-foot area in the back of the building to CCC that became the college’s Regional Warehouse and Distribution Training Facility.
CCC President Dr. Corey L. McCray said when the rental arrangement came about, there was some discussion then about the possibility of a building sale.
“That was prior to my administration, but there was a conversation about if the building was to be sold that the college would have first rights of refusal,” he said.
McCray was hired as CCC’s ninth president in October 2021, and he spent his first 100 days in office meeting community leaders. One of those leaders was BNI Vice President Steve Stewart, a former publisher of The Tidewater News and the current publisher and owner of affiliate publication The Smithfield Times.
“In our discussion, I talked about the need for expanding allied health care and the like, and Steve mentioned that the building could potentially be up for sale,” McCray said. “So he really kind of introduced the idea of the building, and I needed a space to expand allied health care and nursing.”
THE NEW FOCUS OF THE BUILDING
“As you know, the building is perfectly located, literally across the ditch from the Franklin campus, so it’s, in essence, on the campus,” McCray said.
With the building, he noted that CCC will be transitioning its allied health care and nursing programs from five or six classrooms in the main building of the Franklin campus to the 13,000-square-foot facility on Armory Drive, allowing Camp to expand the programs, “to grow beyond what we currently offer, have more flexibility around how and where and when we offer programs to build that talent pipeline for the health care community and our health care partners.”
McCray emphasized how 70% of community college students stay in the community, and the Armory Drive facility affords Camp the ability to “grow that talent pipeline to be able to support our hospital systems and our independent providers in the Western Tidewater and Hampton Roads area in a way that we weren’t able to do before. Because if you think about it, there’s nothing comprehensive between Southside Virginia and the Portsmouth offerings other than Camp Community College.”
He said the space that CCC’s allied health care and nursing programs are currently in does not allow the college to provide those programs at the level that it should. The newly purchased facility solves that problem.
“It will also allow us to offer some collaborative opportunities with our K-12 partners and with our university partners, as well as our hospital systems and partners,” he continued. “So this space has such potential that we’ve got a plan, but I have a sneaking suspicion that that plan is going to grow even more as we bring in more partners around this work.
“And so it’s exciting because the allied health care community, the hospital systems and the like have all expressed deep interest in being partners with us around this effort, because that is going to provide them with the workforce,” he added. “And unless you’re under a rock, you know what that demand is, and so it’s incumbent upon us at Camp to step up and meet that need, and so we’re committed to that.”
THE FUTURE OF THE WAREHOUSE AND LOGISTICS FACILITY
The 1,000-square-foot section at the back of the Armory Drive building will remain the Regional Warehouse and Distribution Training Facility for the coming months while renovations take place and the allied health care and nursing programs move into the rest of the building.
“But we have a second plan around expanding our capacity for skilled trades workforce,” McCray said. “So this warehouse and logistics component fits better in that space that we’re looking at currently. So eventually the goal is to have a skilled trades facility where it will include the warehousing and logistics programs, as well as things like robotics, manufacturing, ship repair and maritime programs that get to that need, as well as our highway or should I say transportation workforce and the like.”
Later, McCray added, “Our next phase is focusing on that infrastructure and skilled trades component that’s going to really meet that workforce demand as well, and so what we envision is shifting the location from the logistics and warehouses component in the (Armory Drive) building into the skilled trades building…”
Then all 13,000 square feet of the Armory Drive facility will become dedicated to the allied health care and nursing programs.
“It’s certainly, I believe, going to have a positive impact on the allied health care community but also the community overall because it’s going to become a pipeline literally from K-12 up through university partners in order to make certain that students who could not have previously seen a way forward can enroll in this program on our Franklin campus and go as far as their heart’s desire,” McCray said.
REFLECTING ON A BUILDING’S LEGACY
Loretta Lomax began working for The Tidewater News as a typesetter in 1989 when the publication was under the leadership of Hanes Byerly.
“I have been in this one building pretty much all of my life,” Lomax said, referring to the Armory Drive facility.
She noted in her more than 30 years as a part of The Tidewater News, she has been a typesetter, classified advertising representative, a prepress operator, and she currently holds the position of ad and page designer, while also serving as a part-time customer service representative for affiliate publication The Smithfield Times.
“Since the day I walked through those doors I have learned so much and am still learning,” she said. “I have met some of the most wonderful people in the world, coworkers, advertisers and customers alike. This transition to a new location, leaving behind so many fond memories, is bittersweet. I am really going to miss being in this building, but I’m excited and looking forward to working in our new place and creating even more incredible memories.”
Ramsey has worked for The Tidewater News for nine years. She was hired by Byerly in February 2005 as the advertising director. In October 2009, she was named general manager, and she returned to the paper in 2019 as its publisher.
Reflecting on the newspaper leaving its longtime home, she said, “In some ways it brings great sadness — there is a lot of history within these walls. However, we are very pleased that the building will be used in service to the community and the region’s workforce. I can’t think of a better community partner than Camp Community College to occupy this space.”
And customers of The Tidewater News will not have to roam far to find the paper’s new office.
“We have moved just around the corner, directly across the street from Camp Community College’s Regional Workforce Development Center,” Ramsey said. “Look for us at 217A North College Drive.”