A recent Breakfast with Your Community Leaders, sponsored by the Patrick County Chamber of Commerce and the Reynolds Homestead, was so successful that organizers are considering making it an annual event.
Rebecca Adcock, executive director of the chamber, said conversations with individuals who were either not aware of projects happening or confused them with one another was the impetus for the event.
“We also felt that with all of us in our silos during COVID, with writing grants, or working on projects, there was a lack of community-wide distribution of information. Our goal with this event is to have as many updates as possible,” she said.
Adcock, who hopes the Oct. 5 breakfast becomes an annual event with a rotating lineup of speakers, was among the dozen local leaders to address attendees.
Chamber of Commerce
Adcock said the chamber is working with the Homestead, STEP Inc, and One Family Productions to bring the Dolly Parton Imagine Library to the county.
“This program is open to any child 0-5 in the county, who after being enrolled will receive a book mailed to them each month, encouraging reading in the home, and ensure kids get off to a great start at our schools and will transition into a better educated workforce and more equitable better life for our county residents,” she said.
Adcock said the chamber also is partnering with Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC) and the Longwood University Small Business Development Center to host the PCVA Business Builders class, an entrepreneurship program to get more people to open businesses in the county. This fall, the program will be hosted in conjunction with Martinsville-Henry County.
The chamber also hosts Lunch and Learns on a variety of subjects, including social media, grant writing, marketing, and professional development.
“With the help of our community partners, we’ve been able to host many events in different programs,” she said.
The organization maintains a community calendar for residents and tourists and a website listing for local businesses, creates a community resource guide, and has the only all-inclusive county email list of weekly newsletters.
Patrick County Economic Development
Sean Adkins, director of Economic Development, said the county experienced several firsts in the past year.
“We got our first brewery coming to Patrick County in the historic Cockram’s Mill,” which is located in Meadows of Dan; “a centralized Business Development Recovery and Resource Center in the old True Value building, and façade grant” program for local businesses, he said.
The county has a quietly growing network of regional partnerships that “is going to take us really far. Working with our neighbors strengthens every grant application we’ve got, and what we will have in the future. It just strengthens the whole network in general,” he said.
Patrick County Board of Supervisors
Since his election to the board three years ago, Clyde DeLoach, chairman and of the Blue Ridge District, said he is proud of what the board’s accomplished.
“In this time, we balanced the budget every year, and we have had one increase in taxes. But given that, we are in much better shape,” he said.
DeLoach noted the board is speaking to officials in other counties and has better relationships throughout the county.
“We are working much better with the schools, and we appreciate their help,” he said.
While many may not think so, DeLoach said the board is also making the effort to be more transparent with residents regarding its decisions.
Ninth Congressional District
U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, said economic development requires team effort and cooperation at all levels.
When the House opened up spending bills to request from members for project funding, Griffith said his office reached out to all jurisdictions for ideas that would benefit residents.
“Patrick County put in a good and needed proposal” for mobile health units “to expand access to care for county residents,” he said, adding that $600,000 in federal funding was secured for the units.
On a broader level, Griffith said he hopes future legislation will help with the economy, and he wants to help address the high cost and living and energy prices.
“We’re going to have some real problems this winter with people trying to heat their homes. It’s going to hurt everyone, but it’s going to those who are least able to afford it” the most, he said.
Griffith said he believes manufacturing needs to be brought back to the United States and Southwestern Virginia. “Southside Virginia once and can be again, a manufacturing powerhouse,” he said.
James Houchins. coordinator of Tourism/Recreation, said his job is to sell and promote Patrick County to attract visitors to the area who will spend money.
“What we need to work on as a whole is to make sure we can get tapped into those tourism dollars by highlighting all the uniqueness that we have here,” he said.
In 2021, Houchins said travelers spent $69 million a day in Virginia in tourism, with Virginia tourism revenues reaching $25.2 billion, making an 87 percent recovery to pre-pandemic spending.
Houchins said he recently promoted Patrick County at the International Bluegrass Association (IBMAs) in Raleigh, with more than 15,000 people passing through the Southwest Virginia Section of the event.
“I told them we have everything from primitive camping to a five-star resort,” he said, adding that in the future, he wants to bring agritourism to the forefront, and work to highlight the Crooked Road Heritage Trail, a 333-miles area that stretches throughout Southwest Virginia that focuses on the music of the Appalachian region.
“Music can be the golden child for Patrick County,” he said.
Houchins said a $45,000 T-Mobile Hometown Grant was recently awarded for the Stuart DeHart Park.
He applied for the grant with the idea of an ‘All Play All Day’ inclusion park.
“It means that if you have a child that has a disability, wheelchair, or handicapped, we’re going to be buying at least three different pieces of equipment that will be put in the existing facility where those kids can come in and belong with everyone else and don’t feel left out,” he said.
Foresight Hospital and Health Systems
While Foresight is attempting to meet its first quarter opening deadline, COO and General Council Joe Hylak-Reinholtz said he believes a more realistic opening date will be the second or third quarter of 2023. He said the delay is partially due to supply chain issues.
“We are working with selecting a new architect for the project, a Virginia licensed architect. We’re going to be working to replace the construction firm we were going to use (with) a regional provider with extensive healthcare experience in building buildings,” he said.
Hylak-Reinholtz the delay could be for the good, especially when making the complex decision on selecting an Electronic Medical Records vendor.
“In talking with them about what our timeline was going to be if we opened too early in 2023, they wouldn’t have been ready to go. We would have had to use paper records at the hospital, and then transition to electronic medical records,” he said.
Foresight has received more than 200 applicants with some interviews having already taken place.
“One of the challenges about rural health is trying to find the staff, and we have not only folks locally that want to work here,” but also “folks interested in relocating from Chicago and other places we have contacts with,” he said.
Foresight also started a contract to acquire the Fresenius Kidney Care Patrick County Dialysis Clinic.
“We have a nephrologist from Chicago that’s interested in relocating his practice here, so we look to reestablish a dialysis center,” he said.
Foresight’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) was also filed and deemed complete. It’s currently in the review process to add a psychiatric unit in the hospital.
He estimates a decision could be made as early as mid-December, barring no opposition.
Hylak-Reinholtz said construction on the facility should also start closer to the end of the year. “So don’t expect to see cranes and tractors and stuff like that until later,” he said.
Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)
VDOT Assistant Resident Engineer David Kiser said work is still on track to finish construction on the 7.4-mile U.S. 58 project in the spring or summer of 2026.
“We continue to be clearing and doing grading work. and hopefully in the spring, start seeing some actual construction of the new roadway beginning,” he said.
Throughout the project, Kiser said there will be some lane closures and flagging operations, with blasting set to continue for some time. “You’ll see some short closures of the roadway and hopefully, the impacts will continue to be minimum,” he said.
Work on the Vesta section, a 4-mile stretch of road, of the project will hopefully start sometime in 2025.
Kiser said the bridge on the south end of Stuart is currently in the works to be replaced, with the design set to start in 2024-25.
The county also received funding for two safety-related projects through the Smart Scale program. One of the projects, expected to start in 2024, is to add a turn lane and widen the road on Ashby Drive, Virginia 8. The other project is an intersection improvement and realignment on Virginia 103.
Primland General Manager Rajiv Malhotra said the rumors about Primland being sold are false.
“Primland has not been sold. The original owners, which is the Prima family, continues to own Primland wholeheartedly.”
The founder of Primland “passed a few years ago, but know all of his eight children based out of Geneva are very much involved with this in the day-to-day,” he said.
Malhotra said Primland plans to add two more treehouses, one of the group’s most popular rooms, in the upcoming year. This will bring it to a total of five treehouses.
A customer-inspired project that has yet to be finalized is the creation of an outdoor pool, outdoor fitness center, and outdoor restaurant.
“That’s feedback that has come directly from the customers, and it’s an amazing opportunity to have some great returns,” he said.
Because there is an opportunity to develop social business, Primland is also looking to create an event barn that could accommodate 150-200.
“Last week, we had one wedding. We don’t do enough weddings, and it’s spread out enough we could create those spaces over there, and have a magnificent return on investments,” he said.
Town of Stuart
Stuart Town Manager Bryce Simmons said the town is currently working on a comprehensive plan with the West Piedmont Planning District Commission (WPPDC), the first time since 2006 when the town expanded its borders.
The town also is working on a feasibility study for the Star Theater, which Simmons said he believes will go well with the county’s Downtown Revitalization Project. He estimates the study will be completed in early 2023.
“I really believe the Star Theater could be an anchor institution for Patrick County and for the Town of Stuart to bring in tourism dollars. Everyone keeps harping on how we need a place that we can showcase the musical talent we have here in our community,” he said.
Simmons also is working to gather support to replace the Virginia 8 bridge that spans the Mayo River.
“I really hope that we can turn that structure into a gateway facility into the town of Stuart, the Crooked Road, and the Parkway (Blue Ridge Parkway). You know, we have this beautiful vista that passes right through the town, and I hope that we are able to showcase that as a true piece of infrastructure that is impactful to Patrick County and the town,” he said.
Simmons said two issues he continues to hear are people wanting something to do to increase resident fellowship and wanting to feel safe when walking and traveling through town
“I hope these three projects that I’ve highlighted will touch on these two aspects as we try to increase the revenues for the town and the county through visitor spending, but also to provide equitable access to the aging population that lives here,” he said.
Julie Walters-Steele, director of the Reynolds Homestead, said the agency recently received matching gifts of $400,000 from the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation and the Virginia S. Reynolds Foundation for the construction of a community kitchen.
Not only will the kitchen serve the Homestead to help it with programs that involve food, Walters-Steele said it will also be a teaching kitchen.
“We’re already in talks with our partners at Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC) that they’re interested in teaching culinary classes there. It will have eight teaching stations, and we’ll also have other folks coming in to do classes,” she said.
The facility also will serve as an incubator for those interested in starting a food-based business.
“A place where they can come in and use a certified kitchen to start developing a product that they can prototype,” she said.
Since 2018, the Homestead’s been working on the Air Shift Collaborate, a community workshop to bring residents together to develop ideas to benefit the county.
Walters-Steele said the most recent workshop was with Envision Critz, a local non-profit.
“The Reynolds Homestead has partnered with them, and we wrote and received a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to do a feasibility study for a community center in Crtiz,” she said.
Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC)
P&HCC Vice President Chris Wikstrom said the college is working to be more intentional about its program offerings and pathways to ensure students are on a focused career pathway as soon as possible to meet their career goals.
One way the college has worked to achieve this is through its partnership with Patrick County Public Schools and the Tobacco Commission for the welding lab at Patrick County High School.
“What started as six students in the fall of 2019 is now maxed out at 15 students, with four students who will earn their welding credentials this year when they get their high school diploma,” he said.
Wikstrom noted the solid numbers in the evening welding courses, which he hopes will continue with the evening automotive courses offered in the spring semester.
Wikstrom said P&HCC is proud of its Reynolds-Balilies Center, which houses mechatronics equipment and lab.
“We have dual-enrollment there in the mornings and traditional mechatronics program there in the afternoons and evenings, as well as our other programs”, he said.
Wikstrom added the recently opened Stuart site Fabrication Laboratory provides design software, digital fabrication equipment, and other services to residents and small businesses.
Ninth House District
Since he started campaigning for office, Del. Wren Williams, R-Stuart, said the number one issue he’s heard is the need for a hospital.
“I appreciate what the Foresight guys have come in and done for us. It’s a real boost to our local economy and just our local community in general,” he said.
Williams said he feels like the COPN license bill he created and helped get passed helped seal the deal “because I think like two weeks after the governor signed it, I hear that they closed on the hospital.”
Williams added that he continues to help Foresight in the hospital process.
Another big concern is the need for housing. “From what I understand there are only about 40,000 active listings across the entire Commonwealth. That was as of like two months ago,” he said.
Williams said this is particularly bad for Southside Virginia, which is lacking in housing and is one of the only locations seeing an increase in population.
“We are starting to work with private and public developments to do senior housing like patio homes. People want to downsize, and we’re looking at the gap of housing which $150,000-$300,000 purchase price areas, working with Virginia Housing to help with funding design, mixed-use commercial and residential properties, and things like that,” he said.
Patrick County Public Schools
Schools Superintendent Jason Wood said the division ranks 7th in the state on Standards of Learning (SOL) scores.
“When you look closer at the data over 60 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch. So, when you look at that, we are second in the state in performance of schools that have over a 60 percent of free or reduced rate,” he said, adding the graduation rate is 94.5 percent.
Wood believes having a strong school system means the county has a strong community.
“We have great parental support, a great community, we’ve got great employees, and I talked to other superintendents, and they still have countless openings,” he said.
Unlike other school divisions, Wood noted Patrick has never had to turn away students because it didn’t have bus drivers. The division also has few job openings.
Wood said the school system is also looking to start work on its tennis courts and upgrading its stadium. The projects will be part of Phase 1 proposals that rely on funding from the one percent sales tax.
“We’re going to look at six new tennis courts. We should have requests for proposals (RFPs)” going out soon, he said.