Centre to add to utility portfolio with natural gas

Map of County Economic Status and Distressed Areas in the Appalachian Region for fiscal year 2021. Dark red counties are categorized as distressed counties; light red counties are at-risk; white counties are transitional counties; light blue counties are competitive counties; and dark blue counties are attainment counties.

By Brandon Martin

Henry County will have a new tool to attract manufacturers to Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre (CCBC) after being awarded a grant through the Appalachian Regional Commission’s (ARC) Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative.

Through the grant and partnership with the Harvest Foundation and Southwest Virginia Gas Company, the county will allocate $1.5 million of federal funds to complete a steel natural gas pipeline from the Patriot Line to the CCBC and associated facilities.

“Manufacturers will not consider localities that don’t have what they need in order to do business. These days no one will wait on a community to catch up,” said County Administrator Tim Hall. “We need to be ahead of the pack and have things in place that allow a company to hit the ground running.”

James McClain II, president and chief executive officer of Southwest Virginia Gas Company, said when the project is completed, approximately 17,000 feet of pipe will be placed in the ground to service CCBC.

“Hopefully construction will begin in 2021,” McClain said, adding that it “should take 12-18 months to complete.”

CCBC is currently fully built out with all utilities, except for natural gas, according to Hall. This includes “water, sewer, broadband and electricity” for any client that wishes to set up shop.

“Once we get natural gas extended to the park, we will be in another category of interest,” Hall said. “There are fewer than 10 sites in the Commonwealth that have a publicly-owned site of more than 100 acres with all of the utilities literally on the doorstep. We think the extension of natural gas puts us in the upper echelon.”

The ARC grant will only pay for a portion of the overall project which is expected to cost approximately $7.5 million.

Hall said that the county is looking to address the funding gap through “engaging other local, state and federal partners,” adding that he is hopeful the gap will be addressed.

ARC uses congressionally appropriated funds to invest in the Appalachian region’s economic and community development through grants. In Fiscal Year 2020, Congress appropriated $175 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The POWER Initiative targets federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.

Since 2015, ARC has invested over $238 million in 293 projects touching 353 counties across Appalachia through the POWER Initiative. Together, these investments are projected to create or retain more than 26,000 jobs, leverage more than $1.1 billion in additional private investment into Appalachia’s economy.


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