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Month: November 2019

electronics server

Mecklenburg co-op aids regional broadband expansion

by Kate Andrews

High-speed internet availability sealed the deal for a new
call center, says Michael Dotti. Photo by Mark Rhodes

High-speed fiber-optic internet service still eludes about 50% of Virginians, but the state’s Southside region is making progress.

In the town of Lawrenceville, the former Bank of America branch on Main Street has sat empty for two years. However, in late September, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that Bedford County-based Echo World Communications LLC is set to locate a call center in the former bank building next year. It’s expected to create up to 152 new jobs.

It never would have happened if the building couldn’t have been equipped with high-speed, reliable internet, says Michael Dotti, business director of the Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority. “It’s a huge amount of technology. This was like small-town guys getting it done.”

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) is wiring the bank building this fall at no cost to Brunswick, with funding from Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corp., which started in 2004 as a cooperative to bring fiber-optic networks to rural Virginia. The broadband cooperative also has installed about 90 miles of fiber cables in six Southern Virginia counties, with 45 more miles planned by the end of 2020.

MEC also has proposed the purchase of Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative (BIT) by MEC affiliate Empower Broadband. The merger is contingent on BIT’s 4,500 customers, who have been asked to submit votes by Nov. 13.

“We expect it will speed up the process of putting fiber in this area,” says David Lipscomb, MEC’s vice president of member and energy services and vice president of Empower. MEC’s customer base averages only seven properties per mile, he says, so the greater population density around BIT’s service area in Lake Gaston will provide more revenue and help fund high-speed internet expansion in the region.

The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, which has awarded MEC nearly $3 million in grants, also has been instrumental in building local network infrastructure.

MEC was in a position to help Lawrenceville install high-speed internet at the bank branch, even though it’s not in its service area, Lipscomb notes. As a result, the county was able to attract the call center.

Broadband is “the tool that you need in this world for businesses to want to be in a rural community,” says Carthan Currin III, former director of the tobacco commission and now Brunswick County’s director of economic development. “I think Mecklenburg is really at the forefront of the commonwealth, but we’re coming. We’re making every effort.”

10/10/19 Tobacco Commission Meets In Marion

Written by Jordan Butler


Commission Approves 18 Funding Requests for Projects in Southern and Southwest Virginia

Richmond, VA – The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission met on Thursday, October 10th to give final approval for 18 funding requests. The 18 requests total more than $15.4 million and will support projects across Southern and Southwest Virginia. The total funds awarded break down as follows: $8 million for a potential Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund (TROF) project, $3.94 million for economic development projects in Southwest Virginia, $1.99 million for economic development projects in Southern Virginia and $1.5 million for Research and Development projects. Additionally the Commission authorized various extensions for existing projects. The individual requests approved ranged in size from $57,000 to $8 million.

Tobacco Commission Chairman, Delegate Terry Kilgore said, “It was a pleasure to hold our Commission meetings in Marion. The projects the Commission approved will bring much needed jobs, tourism dollars and other benefits to Southern and Southwest Virginia. I look forward to our January meetings in Richmond as we continue our work to bring opportunity to the regions we serve.”

Tobacco Commission Executive Director, Evan Feinman added, “The Tobacco Commission continues to make investments that will grow the economy of Southern and Southwest Virginia for years to come. From tourism to education and more, I believe the projects the Commission chose to support at our meeting in Marion will keep us on the right path towards a vibrant and diversified regional economy.”

The Tobacco Commission is committed to developing a diverse economy in Southern and Southwest Virginia. The funding requests approved over the two day meeting will continue to move the region toward that goal.

Contact: Jordan Butler
Telephone: 804-786-7692
Cell: 757-692-0878