TOBACCO REGION REVITALIZATION COMMISSION MEETS IN SOUTH BOSTON
APPROVED PROJECTS WILL EXPAND EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES AND BROADBAND ACCESS FOR RURAL VIRGINIANS
South Boston, VA – The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission met on Wednesday, October 5th, at the Berry Hill Conference Center to approve projects that will expand educational opportunities and broadband access in Southern and Southwest Virginia. The Commission approved 11 funding requests in addition to various extensions and other business including selecting Senator Frank Ruff to serve as Chair.
Tobacco Commission Chairman, Senator Frank Ruff said, “Education has always been a top priority for the Tobacco Commission and with the variety of education projects the Commission chose to support at this meeting it is clear that it remains an area of focus. I’m proud of what the Commission has accomplished here in South Boston, especially since many of the approved projects will directly result in more opportunities for residents of the tobacco region to learn necessary skills and valuable industry-recognized credentials.”
Tobacco Commission Acting Director, Andy Sorrell said, “I’d like to thank South Boston for hosting us as the Commission approved a variety of projects that will expand opportunities for those living in Southern and Southwest Virginia. An educated workforce is critical as we look to attract top employers to the Tobacco Region and these projects will go a long way towards helping us do just that.”
The Commission selected a new Chair. Senator Frank Ruff will serve as Chairman and Delegate Will Morefield will continue to serve as Vice-Chair.
The Commission took a first look at upcoming revisions to the strategic plan with the goal of soliciting input from partner organizations through the fall to take action at the Commission’s next meeting set for January 4-5, 2023 in Richmond.
With a recommendation from the Southwest Virginia Committee, the Commission also approved allocating $2 million for a focused application round on increasing the capacity of meat processing facilities in Southwest Virginia. The Commission’s goal is to focus on projects that produce finished/processed locally grown beef and funding recommendations would be based on projects that present the highest likelihood for sustainability and have the largest impact on regional beef production. An application round is anticipated to open in the spring of 2023 with funding decisions likely in the fall of 2023.
Additionally, the Commission recognized the service of the late Del. Joseph P. “Joe” Johnson who served on the Commission for 13 years and the late Medford Howard, the Commission’s long serving court reporter/stenographer. Both played an important role in the work the Commission has done over the years and will be missed by all.
The following projects were approved for funding by the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (Please see the meeting packet on our website for full project descriptions, staff comments, grant requirements and other business including project extensions and modifications):
Southern Virginia Program
4096, Halifax County
Halifax County Universal Broadband Support 2022 – $540,598 Grant
This project will provide universal broadband coverage for all areas of Halifax County with underserved and unserved residents, where internet access was insufficient to meet the minimum requirements of 25/3 Mbps for the VATI program. Halifax County is requesting the reallocation of $540,598, to be used towards the local Match on a $27.5 million VATI project, for which the contract was finalized in summer 2022. Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative’s ISP subsidiary Empower will deliver broadband fiber to serve 4,007 premises. This project will utilize the foundational fiber backbone deployed on MEC’s electric infrastructure, and will utilize the facilities of Dominion Energy, Southside Electric Cooperative and Mid-Atlantic Broadband where needed to expand broadband coverage outside of MEC’s territory. The Tobacco Commission’s two previous broadband grant awards were from March 2018 for $334,396 (#3534); and June 2019 for $206,202 (#3385) for the $540,598 total requested.
4095, Dinwiddie County
Dinwiddie County’s Universal Broadband Project – $781,820 Grant
Dinwiddie County is requesting $781,820 to be used toward the local match on a $7,532,055 award from the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) for the purposes of expanding broadband coverage to unserved or underserved areas of the County. Dinwiddie County has partnered with RuralBand, a subsidiary of Prince George Electric Cooperative, to implement and complete this project. The VATI project area does not include areas of Dinwiddie County with existing broadband access, nor does it include census blocks awarded to an outside vendor through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction.
Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Training Programs
4084, Mountain Empire Community College
CWIA Expansion II – $419,732 Grant
This project will continue the development of MECC’s Center for Workforce and Innovation in Appalachia, VA. This facility, a former public school building, houses several of MECC’s training programs and provides an opportunity to expand capacity and programming beyond the space constraints of the college’s main campus. The current proposal will utilize TRRC support to develop a machining laboratory resulting in the creation of a Precision Machining program required to meet the demands of local industries. Grant funds will be used for required building renovations and for equipment purchases. The request also supports the expansion of the CDL program. Funding will be used to transition a part time instructor to full time and to purchase an additional commercial vehicle for the program. The expansion will allow MECC to offer four additional cohorts classes each year.
4086, Patrick & Henry Community College Foundation
Career and Technical Education Credentialing – $40,425 Grant
These funds will cover student certification costs within the high-demand fields of advanced manufacturing. Despite the value of industry recognized credentials in validating and confirming student skills to future employers, current state policy prohibits P&HCC from embedding student certification costs into tuition, which eliminates the ability to use most scholarship funds to cover these costs. While most certification testing fees are $150 or less, these fees represent a significant financial burden for students and limits their ability to earn certifications that would assist them in the job market.
4085, Southern Virginia Higher Education Center
Welding Program Expansion – $236,222.50 Grant
This project will expand the Welding@SVHEC Training Program to include 1) new and enhanced curricular components focused on planning and executing a metal fabrication project (these components will be embedded in the currently-offered Welding Levels 1 through 3 courses); and 2) the addition of Welding Level 4 curriculum for aluminum and stainless steel welding. This expansion is a direct response to employer-specified needs for advanced skill sets and abilities.
4091, Virginia Technical Institute
Advanced Industrial Maintenance Mechanics Laboratory – $25,285 Grant
This project will create an interactive laboratory incorporating local methods/practices most commonly found in local manufacturing industry. Requested funding will be used toward the purchase of interactive trainers in pneumatic, hydraulic, electro-hydraulic, and electrical disciplines; as well as initial fees with Smart Automation Certification Alliance offering specialist certifications for Industry 4.0 technical skills.
High School Equivalency Programs
4087, Southside Virginia Community College – Adult Education
Southside Race to GED/NEDP – $70,000 Grant
Southside Virginia Community College’s Regional Adult Education program leads a partnership with the four regional adult education and literacy programs that serve Southern Virginia (Regions 11, 12, 13 and 14). The program provides an incentive to cover credentialing testing fees for individuals pursuing a high school equivalency diploma. To receive a GED individuals must receive a passing score in four subjects- Math, Science, Social Studies, and Reasoning through Language Arts. The objective of the Southside Race to GED/NEDP program is to increase basic education attainment levels in order to help families move out of poverty, into jobs, and towards self-sufficiency. The majority of the requested funding, $60,000 is to support scholarships for the GED test fees which ranges from $10 for a retake test and $30 for each subject, for up to a total of $160 per person depending on the number of retakes. Another $10,000 of grant funding is requested to support marketing and promotional efforts to reach participants.
Healthcare/ Post-Secondary Programs
4089, Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center Foundation
Southwest Va. Higher Education Center Virtual Cadaver Lab – $100,000 Grant
This project will support the development of a Virtual Cadaver Lab at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center. The Lab will provide opportunities for interprofessional training across five programs including Doctor of Pharmacy, Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia, Family Nurse Practitioner, and RN & RN to BSN. Governor’s School students will also utilize the lab in their programs. Two Anatomoge Virtual Cadaver Tables will outfit the lab and feature numerous support task trainers (skeletal system, brain, joints, heart, respiratory system, reproductive system, etc.). The total cost for the tables and related task trainers is $211,754. Commission funds will be used for the purchase of one table ($100,000).
4092, Wytheville Community College
Advancing Wytheville Community College’s Health Programs – $100,324 Grant
This project will support enhancement of several of WCC’s healthcare programs. Simulated training opportunities will be expanded through the use of virtual reality technology. Additionally, the Pharmacy Technician program will be expanded through the creation of a simulated pharmacy lab space. The simulated lab space will create the capacity for the Pharmacy Tech program to offer an advanced credential.
Workforce Training Programs
4082, Institute for Advanced Learning and Research
ExTRA: Expanding Talent through Registered Apprenticeships – $497,890 Grant
This project will support development of a regional work-based learning program for the creation of new apprenticeship opportunities by employers within the 15 localities of Southern Virginia that are included in Go Virginia Region 3. Virginia’s Registered Apprenticeship program is an occupation specific training model designed to produces highly skilled workers to meet the demands of employers, through a combination of on-the-job training and related technical instruction with a paid job experience for the employees. IALR is proposing to focus on expansion of apprenticeships for occupations in construction, healthcare, early childhood education, manufacturing, and information technology.
4088, Southside Virginia Community College Foundation
Fiber Technician Training Program – $478,253 Grant
This project will support the creation of a two-pronged Fiber Technician Training Program to address critical workforce demand for fiber technicians. This program will support needed workforce for broadband fiber installation in the region, and information technology workers to support fiber industry installations and services for data center operations.
About The Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission
The Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission is a 28-member body created by the 1999 General Assembly. Its mission is the promotion of economic growth and development in tobacco-dependent communities, using proceeds of the national tobacco settlement. To date, the Commission has awarded over 2400 grants and loans totaling more than $1.4 billion across the tobacco region of the Commonwealth, and has provided $309 million in indemnification payments to tobacco growers and quota holders.
Contact: Jordan Butler
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE