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40 jobs, $10 million investment with hemp processor

SoVaNow.com / June 22, 2020
Blue Ribbon Extraction, Virginia’s first large-scale hemp processing facility, is coming to the Town of South Boston.

The new industry, led by Halifax County natives Sterling Edmunds Jr. and Rick Gregory with local businessman Steve Mize serving as its president, is expected to bring more than 40 full-time jobs and investment of more than $10 million to the county.

The Halifax County IDA will purchase the former Blue Ridge Beverage building in the Houghton Industrial Park and upfit the 33,000 square foot facility for the company. Blue Ribbon Extraction will fill a market need for the region’s burgeoning hemp farming sector by providing on-site processing and extraction of cannabidiol (CBD) oil for consumer health and lifestyle products.

The company has already begun securing contracts with local farmers as it seeks to become a regional hub of hemp processing.

“We look forward to partnering with farmers to establish a local market for a new agricultural crop right here at home in Halifax County. We currently have 1.2 million pounds of hemp under contract with farmers for the 2020 growing season,” said Edmunds, who with Gregory is the company’s co-chief executive officer.

“We are looking forward to being part of the solution for the revitalization of South Boston and the rest of southside Virginia. Agriculture has been our strength in this area for many years, and we feel that hemp is the product to further Halifax County’s farming legacy,” said Mize.

Last year, the Community Strategic Plan identified hemp farming as a potential growth industry for turning around the local economy. Key to that rise, however, was establishing a local hemp processing facility rather than shipping the local crop outside the region or state to sell to buyers. The IDA has been working with Edmunds and Gregory since August on the Blue Ribbon hemp project.

“The Halifax IDA is pleased to partner on this project. The economic benefits to the agricultural community and business community are significant and will provide needed jobs and investment,” said Brian Brown, executive director of the IDA.

“The willingness to collaborate has been incredible. The partnerships and assistance provided by the partners is the reason for this successful project,” said Brown. “This is truly been a team effort and I believe this project will serve as an example of the success we can have together.”

Blue Ribbon Extraction has been a collaborative effort between the Halifax IDA, Halifax County, the Town of South Boston, the South Boston IDA, the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance, Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. The Halifax County IDA is purchasing the building for $1.7 million. An additional $1.5 million will be spent upfitting the facility for operations.

The Halifax IDA has secured bank financing of $2.35 million for the project. A $250,000 grant from the Agribusiness Committee of the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission was secured earlier this year to assist with building improvement.

“With the support of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, the county administrator, the Halifax County IDA, and the South Boston IDA, Blue Ribbon is off to a great start. Approximately $10 million primarily raised from private sources will be invested in bringing this project to reality for southern Virginia, said Gregory.

Edmunds and Gregory, lead investors in the project, each have carved successful careers in Richmond financial and development circles. Edmunds is a former president and chief executive officer of SunTrust Mortgage Corporation. He later joined Edmunds Private Capital, LLC, a privately held money management firm in Richmond. Gregory is a veteran Richmond real estate developer and founder of Lynx Ventures, which focuses on bringing innovative economic development projects to Virginia. He is a board member of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), Virginia’s economic development authority.

The Halifax County Board of Supervisors provided $150,000 in grant resources to the project to cover improvements necessary for operation of the facility. Blue Ribbon Extractions plans to start production this fall. However, the project is much bigger than the investment and job totals.

“This is a great day for Halifax County, the growth of the hemp industry in our region is just beginning. The county’s early participation to help implement and sponsor the Industrial Hemp Summit has paid off with the location of Blue Ribbon Extraction in our wonderful county,” said Hubert Pannell, chairman of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors. “We are very excited to welcome these community partners to Halifax and look forward to their many successes in the industry. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the IDA of Halifax County for their never ending efforts to secure this project.”

County Administrator Scott R. Simpson said, “Our local and regional farmers are the winners today, Blue Ribbon Extraction has committed to purchase 3.3 million pounds of hemp over the next 3 years, this equates to $77,000,000 which will be come back to our local farmers and growers. The production of CBD oil and the many other products to be derived from hemp over time make this a huge win for Halifax. I look forward to their building upfit and to see the process firsthand.”

The Town of South Boston provided the final touches to the project offering a $300,000 loan to cover the remaining cost of the building upfit. The ten-year loan will be interest only for one year.

“The Town of South Boston and the Industrial Development Authority of South Boston are pleased to support the economic development in the Town of South Boston along with the County of Halifax and the Industrial Development Authority of Halifax County. The new jobs created and the investment in our Town is why we exist. This announcement shows that our community is committed to the future of Halifax County,” said Town Manager Tom Raab.

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