What’s on the horizon this year in the region’s 5 dynamic localities?
City of LYNCHBURG
The City of Lynchburg is growing faster than ever before—it’s actually one of the fastest growing cities in Virginia—and shows no signs of stopping. In fact, city officials expect there to be an additional 17 percent population growth by 2040, on top of the 25 percent growth we have seen since 2000. Alongside this rapid growth is a team effort to attract and retain millennials, bring in new businesses, and grow current businesses.
A Young Crowd
While other, larger cities have bottomed out in terms of growth, Lynchburg is just getting started—and this is part of a national trend. Around 2000, millennials were flocking to big cities such as New York and San Francisco. Now, they’re gravitating toward places like Richmond and, yes, Lynchburg. Rated #1 this year for Best Places for Millennials to Move by Reviews.org, Lynchburg is a very young city with a median age of 28.6.
“Our city is growing rapidly and is crazy young from a demographic perspective, so there is definitely a vibrant dynamic here and a certain energy that other cities may not have,” says Anna Bentson, Assistant Director of Economic Development for the City of Lynchburg. “You can feel it. This energy is what is really going to propel us forward. This millennial age group wants to see investment in downtown development, great neighborhoods, and good schools.”
The City of Lynchburg Office of Economic Development & Tourism launched a five-year strategic action plan in September 2018 consisting of five main goals that serve as Lynchburg’s “blueprint for opportunity” to “build tomorrow’s City of Lynchburg.”
These goals are to expand and support Lynchburg’s existing company foundation; engage and collaborate with city anchor institutions; support talent and in-demand skill development for target industry clusters; create, embrace and promote community; and tell the City of Lynchburg’s story.
“Smaller cities like the City of Lynchburg require a deliberate strategy for competing for new investment and talent,” says Bentson. “Talent is attracted to affordable locations where jobs are plentiful and quality of life is high. By following the five priorities behind our economic development plan, Lynchburg will forge a brighter, more sustainable future for the city and its partners, transforming the community into one of the best small cities in the country.”
The Old and the New
Much of the focus in 2020 will continue to be on Lynchburg’s existing businesses. In 2019, existing manufacturers created well over 600 new jobs in the area—a big win. According to Bentson, about 70 percent of a city’s growth comes from existing businesses.
“We have about 3,000 businesses in the city,” Bentson says. “Of those, about 50 percent of businesses are over 10 years old, which is a really healthy statistic.
Businesses are staying here and growing and that shows a lot of promise, so we want to work on strengthening those existing relationships. There are a couple expansions currently in the pipeline that should be announced [in January 2020].”
The Office of Economic Development & Tourism and the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance will also continue to work hand in hand to attract new businesses.
“When it comes to business attraction, our office works very closely with the LRBA. We partner on marketing and outreach efforts to sell the region and then we close the deals locally,” says Bentson.
According to Megan Lucas, CEO and Chief Development Officer for the LRBA, planning for the future and bringing in new businesses are long-term games.
“We continue to work to bring primary jobs to the region through marketing and recruitment, but it really is a marathon,” says Lucas. “We could have three active projects going on with certain areas competing for the same business to come in, and we really have no way of knowing exactly which jobs or how many jobs are going to come to the area until it actually happens.”
Of course, Downtown Lynchburg will continue to be a thriving spot in 2020 with four total brewery announcements coming by spring. We will see Starr Hill Brewery, 3 Roads Brewing Company, Champion Brewing, and then a fourth, which will be announced soon, all hit our downtown area this year. Arrivals such as these are a driver for other new developments—from restaurants to retail.
“Downtown has changed so much in the last 20 years; it’s night and day,” says Bentson. “Globally, people want vibrant, urban downtowns. They want options to stay in a boutique hotel, visit a brewery, and also be able to walk the trails of the Blue Ridge. Lynchburg will be able to offer all of that plus more.”
Everything in Between
“Initiatives for 2020 continue to be around workforce, increasing awareness of our area and what we have to offer and getting industrial parks ready,” Lucas says. “There will also be a lot of movement on entrepreneurship.”
Bentson adds that a sports tourism strategic plan is something they will be very focused on, as Liberty University’s world class facilities continue to attract national sporting competitions, which bring in thousands of spectators and lots of tourism dollars.
It is an exciting time for Lynchburg as 2020 will bring expansion of existing businesses, introduction of new businesses, increased development of the city’s workforce talent, and so much more.
It will be no surprise if we see our city on more top 10 lists this year.
Three exciting projects are on the horizon for Bedford County in 2020, according to Bedford County Economic Development Director Traci Blido.
With the help of the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, the Bedford County Economic Development Authority, and the Bedford County Board of Supervisors Capital Improvement Program, the Bedford County Office of Economic Development is in the process of building a 40,000-square-foot shell building in the New London Business & Technology Center park off Route 460.
“The idea of [the building] is that we can attract a new business to Bedford County to add new jobs and investment,” Blido says.
The shell building will have a finished exterior and parking area, but the business that purchases the space will be responsible for finishing out the interior to suit its needs. The shell is estimated to be completed by the end of February 2020.
Only about 50 percent of Bedford County residents currently have access to high-speed internet, according to Blido. Through a partnership with Blue Ridge Towers and Briscnet, Bedford County is planning to build 10 new broadband towers throughout the county. By the end of 2020, county leaders hope that 95 percent of residents are connected to high-speed internet.
Having widespread access to high-speed internet, Blido says, will benefit Bedford County’s population of telecommuters as well as its businesses. Many businesses, especially those in rural areas, have never had access to high-speed internet. However, K-12 students are one of the largest groups this change will impact.
“Now that the students are using Google Chromebooks throughout all of Bedford County Schools, the idea is that when they go home at night, they can continue doing homework on their Chromebooks like they did at school,” she says.
RETAINING TEVA EMPLOYEES
Teva Pharmaceuticals announced in 2019 that it will be closing its Forest plant by the end of 2020. The Bedford County Office of Economic Development is working with Jones Lang LaSalle, Teva’s real estate firm, to market the building globally and is hoping to relocate employees to other Bedford County businesses.
“We accept that these employees who worked at Teva Pharmaceuticals may find work in the Lynchburg region or even the Roanoke region,” Blido said. “It’s ideal that they can find jobs in Bedford County, and we’ll do our best to link them to those jobs.”
Blido said they are working to bring other Bedford County businesses with open jobs into Teva Pharmaceuticals to talk with employees who will be laid off, giving them an idea of other job opportunities in the area. She said they are also working to inform them of their options for training and education to work in another area.
• Bedford EDA worked with seven manufacturing or service companies, which added $10 million in investment and 65 new jobs to the community
• Groundbreaking on a broadband tower in Big Island
• 50+ students participated in the Bedford ONE program
Information from Bedford County Office of Economic Development
As the Central Virginia region continues to see growth and expansion, Campbell County Director of Economic Development Mike Davidson says the county is reaping the benefits. They continue to set new goals for economic expansion.
“The county is in good financial shape,” he says.
Open for Business on Route 29
According Davidson, developing the Route 29 Corridor continues to be a priority. Over the past few years, the area has seen several new hotels and restaurants in the area.
“We have a lot of ability to provide businesses, whether they be manufacturers or businesses, convenient places with a lot of traffic flow so they have their customer base coming back and it’s easy for their customer base to find them,” Davidson says.
One of the first projects Campbell County will see completed in 2020 is the grand opening of the new Tru by Hilton hotel on Simons Run located across from CarMax. While many other major projects for 2020 remain under wraps, Davidson said the county continues to court businesses and corporations to either set up or expand in the area.
Room to Grow
The main reason Campbell County can reach out to developers is because the locality has land to spare, making it the perfect place for manufacturers to relocate.
“Campbell County has plenty of land that is zoned industrial that can be developed into industrial properties,” Davidson says. “That way, you don’t have to go through three to six months of rezoning land to get things in order.”
Several major manufacturers in the region call Campbell County home such as BWXT, Abbott, BTF, Georgia Pacific, and Progress Printing.
“Campbell County is where we make things for people,” Davidson says.
But it’s not just about looking for a brand new company. Thanks to a partnership between the county and the City of Lynchburg, Davidson said they have brought in EWI, a premier engineering and technology organization that offers offering engineering and research expertise to accelerate progress, help manufacturers overcome technical barriers, and find advanced solutions to make their products more quickly and efficiently. Not only will they be assessing existing businesses in the area, but EWI will partner with Central Virginia Community College’s workforce initiatives to help fill gaps in the area for more technical trades.
“Ultimately, EWI helps manufacturers use the technology that they already have to the fullest extent and help them innovate more with their existing equipment,” Davidson says. “We look forward to fully implementing this partnership.”
• Continue to work through bridging the gap for a stronger workforce in technical trades such as welding
• Setting sights on securing funding for new school renovations and expanding the technical education program
Amherst County residents can look forward to several redevelopments in 2020, including new apartments and entertainment options. However, the priority for 2020, according to Amherst Economic Development Authority (EDA) Director Victoria Hanson, is the redevelopment of the Central Virginia Training Center (CVTC).
CVTC Redevelopment Plan
CVTC will shutter its doors on July 1, and the Amherst EDA and other authorities in the area are working to get the state-owned property ready
“You don’t want crime and other things happening in this location. You want to see it used at its highest and best use,” Hanson said. “That’s why we’ve been working with the [Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance] and our local government council to get a redevelopment plan done by an international company, and that’s going to cost us about $500,000.”
Hanson said they are about $150,000 short, and they hope to raise the additional funds in 2020. The Amherst EDA also worked with local developers over the past few years to complete a two-phase plan to assess the land’s condition and ensure there were not any severe environmental concerns.
“This groundwork, it’s not as exciting as saying, ‘We have the announcement,’ but all this is setting it up to be redeveloped at its highest and best use,” Hanson said. “Development takes time [because] we are doing it step by step. We are following a plan.”
New Life for Historic Properties
Amherst County residents can look forward to some new developments in the county. Waukeshaw Development, Inc. of Petersburg is working to breathe new life into three historic properties.
The former Phelps Road school building will be developed into apartments, the former Amherst Milling Co. building will become Camp Trapezium—a brewery and restaurant—and the Winton Country Club and Golf Course was purchased with plans to continue and improve its current offerings.
Though not a new program for 2020, Amherst EDA is also excited to graduate its third Leadership Amherst class in May. Leadership Amherst is an eight-month program for Amherst County residents or workers who display leadership potential.
Participants have opportunities to learn about their community by taking classes about economic development and meeting with government officials and business owners, according to Hanson.
“We try to reach out to our businesses, and say, ‘As you see emerging leaders, please consider putting them into this program. It’ll make them a stronger employee’,” Hanson said. “It’ll also help with a lot of the millennial workforce that tends to bounce from place to place. This will root them into the community and then help them find other folks like themselves to connect with.”
• The Startup Emerging Business Assistance program, an education and mentorship program for startups and entrepreneurs in Amherst County, welcomed its first entrepreneur
• Overhaul of the Amherst EDA website, which improved usability and online services
Information from Amherst EDA
When assessing growth in the Central Virginia region, Appomattox County is no exception. Bursting with history and a major national park, this locality stands out with its unique offerings.
“It is a quaint community,” said Susan Adams, economic development and public safety administrator. “And is centrally located within three hours travel of the Virginia urban markets.”
Adams also touted the county’s “small scale professional theater, unique shops, great home-style to eloquently prepared food, an accredited education system, modern day to historical lodging, and activities for all ages.”
Focus on Tourism
Adams said that in 2020, the county’s main goal is increase tourism marketing efforts through the newly created Experience Appomattox Tourism Committee, a nonprofit organization that markets and supports local attractions and events. The county’s 2020 budget includes $7,500 for the nonprofit so they can continue their mission of promoting Appomattox.
“We realize that Appomattox has to evolve into a destination that meets the needs of the millennial families, visitors of all ages to Appomattox, and be open-minded in our efforts to promote our culture and quality of life,” Adams said.
Another goal of the Experience Appomattox Tourism Committee is to continue to increase exposure for the Appomattox Center for Business and Commerce and encourage utilization of this business park, located a few miles off U.S. 460. Currently, the business park is home to Martin Printwear, the Delta Response Team, Lynchburg Redi-Mix, and the headquarters for Penelope, which sells women’s apparel and accessories.
“We want to capitalize on opportunities to support and grow local businesses, while also continuing discussions with prospects interested in locating their business there,” Adams said.
Adams echoes other business experts in the region: when the surrounding Lynchburg counties prosper so does the region as a whole.
“The economic impact has a domino effect,” she said, adding that every locality has a niche or uniqueness. “Through the collaboration, we can create an inner connectivity.”
Highlights of 2019:
• Increase in usage of the trail system infrastructure, State Parks, and National Park through increased media attention
• Continued work promoting Appomattox as a regional arts destination
• Worked with new ventures to enhance tourism activities and developed Courtland Festival Park to promote tourism activity