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Johnson takes helm as IDA meets

SoVaNow.com / September 20, 2021

Kristy Johnson of Halifax, the newly hired executive director of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority, presided over her first meeting of the IDA board on Friday, two days after officially starting the position Sept. 15.

“It’s been a busy 48 hours,” said Johnson, a longtime IDA employee who takes over leadership of the authority from interim director Mike Davidson. Davidson did not attend Friday’s board meeting, but he has agreed to be on stand-by for the next 30 days to help with any matters that may arise.

The public portion of Friday’s IDA meeting was relatively uneventful — directors met in closed executive session for two hours, but took no action afterwards — and board members reviewed the upcoming meeting schedule and discussed IDA properties and lease agreements.

One apparent piece of good news is that an oil stain on the floor at the Daystrom building — renamed the Southern Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Center (SVAMC) — appears to be caused by a leak from the ceiling overhead, rather than oil seeping up from the ground.

Johnson offered directors an update on conditions at the SVAMC. Using funding from a brownfield restoration grant program, the IDA hired Draper Aden Associates, an engineering and environmental services firm, to assess site conditions at the repurposed factory building. The company will be taking another water sample from the retention pond on Tuesday to see if there are any seasonal differences in the oil stain contamination.

“The results from the first water sample have not been received, but I don’t think there is any reason to be alarmed there,” said Johnson.

The IDA has received cost estimates for cleaning up the oil stain, but is waiting on a formal package with all of the details worked out by finalizing the spending of the brownfield grant. Next, the IDA will work on steps to certify completion of the building clean-up through the voluntary remediation program.

“I understand it is an oil stain from above, it us not from underneath the ground,” said Johnson, adding the process is moving forward.

“RTP is in section A, it looks great,” said Johnson, referring to the lease agreement between the IDA and RTP, a next-door thermoplastic compound industry that is using the SVAMC space for storage. “It’s amazing the difference with new lighting in place and a full facility.”

Johnson added that Section C of the SVAMC building has an updated fire alarm system, allowing that portion to become operational again.

Johnson recently participated in a zoom meeting with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) regarding the Economic Gardening Program. Grant funding to identify and resolve distinctive growth problems will be made available to businesses that have survived through the initial start-up stage and not yet reached maturity.

“At least one industry in our county is working on economic gardening,” said Johnson. The Virginia Economic Gardening Program pilot program began in 2017, with then-governor Terry McAuliffe awarding grants to 12 businesses including Blue Mountain Brewery in Nelson County and Solid Stone Fabrics, Inc. located in Martinsville.

Also, Johnson had conversations with VEDP members regarding the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program (VBRSP), which has $7 million to help industries that have a minimum of 100 contiguous acres that can be developed.

“This is something I think we can strive to participate in the future with, I don’t think we will have anything ready for this round,” said Johnson.

Together, Johnson and Operation Director Blair Jeffress will begin working on a one-year report for Golden Piedmont Labs, the hemp oil extraction plant that launched September 2020. Johnson said she hopes the anniversary will trigger some good movement on that project.

Also, the IDA recently hosted an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Brownfields coalition team meeting in preparation of the upcoming November deadline to apply for a brownfields study grant. The brainstorming meeting included leaders from the Town of South Boston, Town of Halifax, and Halifax County, taking a regional approach with the best chance to obtain the maximum amount of money available.

If the application is awarded, the Brownfield Assessment Grant would fund redevelopment work at abandoned industry sites and pay for studies on other sites. Johnson said.

“This would be a Brownfield Assessment Grant, nothing to do with Daystrom,” said Johnson. The deadline to apply this grant is historically before Thanksgiving.



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