On Tuesday, January 14, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam was the keynote speaker at the Ribbon Cutting for Echo Communications, LLC which is located at 300 North Main Street, Lawrenceville, VA (Old Bank of America Building). Pictured below with the governor are members of the Brunswick County Board of Supervisors, Gloria Mene-Weather Woods, IDA Chairman Brunswick, Vice Chair Morris D aylor County IDA, Mayor Scott Martin, Business Director for IDA Mike Dotti CJ Dean, Town Manager, Lawrenceville Town Council, and Kristin Muzzy Echo World, Carl Townsend CEO Echo World Communications.
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.”
Written by Jordan Butler
TOBACCO REGION REVITALIZATION COMMISSION MEETS IN MARION
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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Excerpt from the EPA:
Recreation Economy for Rural Communities is a new planning assistance program to help communities develop strategies and an action plan to revitalize their Main Streets through outdoor recreation.
Outdoor activities are increasingly popular across the United States. Communities can take advantage of this trend to revitalize Main Streets. By conserving forests and other natural lands and making them available for outdoor recreation, small towns can boost air quality and water quality and focus development downtown. Promoting outdoor recreation can also create jobs and offer new opportunities for people to connect with the natural world. For more information on the outdoor economy, read the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2016 report Federal Outdoor Recreation Trends: Effects on Economic Opportunities.
Echo World Communications to establish new customer service center
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Echo World Communications, LLC, a newly formed company in Virginia, will invest $550,000 to establish a customer service center in Brunswick County. The company will receive funding from the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP) to support the hiring and training of 153 new employees.
“We are thrilled to welcome Echo World Communications to our Commonwealth and to the vibrant region of Southern Virginia,” said Governor Northam. “Our economic development partners in Brunswick County and the surrounding area have worked to cultivate a supportive environment for companies like Echo World Communications, and this expansion demonstrates the positive impact of their efforts. We look forward to continued growth for Southern Virginia’s corporate services industry.”
Echo World Communications offers insurance products through several insurance carriers, handling thousands of service requests for Medicare, medical cost-sharing products, and major medical insurance needs. Echo World Communications has established customer service centers in seven states over the last 30 years, with clients including the United States Army, National Football League, United Healthcare, Aetna Health Care, and Paramount Studios.
“For a start-up corporate services business such as Echo World Communications, there is no better place to put down roots than Southern Virginia, where low business costs and a dedicated workforce provide a competitive advantage to customer service centers in the region,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “We are confident of Echo World Communications’ success in Brunswick County, and we look forward to a mutually beneficial partnership between the company and the Commonwealth for many years to come.”
“We are thrilled to be expanding Echo World Communications’ operations into Brunswick County, where we will be hiring 153 new employees in the community,” said Carl Townsend, CEO of Echo World Communications. “After careful review of several states and locations throughout Virginia, the City of Lawrenceville was selected because of the incredible workforce and generous support from our economic development partners in the region.”
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority to secure the project for Virginia and will support Echo World Communications’ job creation through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP). VJIP provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs in order to support employee recruitment and training activities. As a business incentive supporting economic development, VJIP reduces the human resource costs of new and expanding companies. VJIP is state-funded, demonstrating Virginia’s commitment to enhancing job opportunities for citizens.
“We are so very pleased to welcome Echo World Communications to our region, and we are thankful to the company for investing its time, energy, and significant resources in our County,” said Michael R. Dotti, Director of the Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority. “Carl Townsend and the Echo World staff had the vision to see what our area offers, and we are very pleased to be working with them. The Brunswick County Industrial Authority, in partnership with the Mayor of Lawrenceville, Scott Martin, the Governor’s Office, and VEDP, worked tirelessly to make these jobs a reality. A special thank you goes out to Dr. Barbara Jarret-Harris, Chairman of the Brunswick County Board of Supervisors, for her always appreciated and valuable input. We work hard each and every day to bring quality full-time jobs to our wonderful community.”
“I am delighted to have Carl Townsend’s business, Echo World Communications, as a part of our town,” said Mayor of Lawrenceville Scott Martin. “This is a giant step on our path to creating jobs, encouraging more businesses to locate in the area, and revitalizing downtown Lawrenceville. I thank Echo World Communications for investing in our community.”
“I am excited to join with the Governor in celebrating 153 new jobs with Echo World Communications in Brunswick County,” said Senator Louise Lucas. “These new jobs will surely contribute to the economic and job growth in the Southwestern part of my District.”
“I am thrilled for Brunswick County and the 153 new jobs being created by Echo World Communications,” said Senator Frank Ruff. “Congratulations to all those who played a part in securing this new company.”
“The announcement that Echo World Communications, LLC will be locating in Brunswick County and creating 153 new jobs is exciting news to my District,” said Delegate Roslyn Tyler. “Job development in Virginia is a priority of state and local governments, and I am pleased that Echo World Communications will be offering job opportunities that this will certainly boost our economy in Southside Virginia.”
Brodnax, VA was recently featured in Cooperative Living Magazine
Here’s an excerpt, and a link to the story:
For sale in the Brodnax Town Office is a promotional T-shirt that reads “Tail of Two Counties.” Seeing as how the Brunswick-Mecklenburg county line runs right through the small Southside Virginia town, Brodnax has long been the brunt of such sayings.
“Back in the day, everybody said we were at the ‘tail end’ of both counties,” Brodnax Clerk Beth Moore explains.
But the actual tale of Brodnax is a story of how a 0.71-square- mile town of only several hundred, during the course of a little more than 100 years, made such a huge impact on residents of the town, both counties, and people all over the region, that folks still wax poetic when they talk about Brodnax in its heyday.
Please read the full article at: https://www.co-opliving.com/articles/crossroads-september-2019/