News Gazette – Ag Tech Center Wins State Grant
Written by Ed Smith
Published on Wed, 12/22/2021 – 12:00am
A GO Virginia grant of $550,000 is being awarded to The Advancement Foundation’s agricultural technology center that is being developed in the former Mundet-Hermetite factory building in Buena Vista.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday that the ag tech center in Buena Vista is one of 13 economic development projects throughout Virginia that are receiving a total of more than $3.6 million in Growth and Opportunity for Virginia (GO Virginia) grants to support initiatives that are supporting workforce development in key industries, fostering business and improving infrastructure. The awarded projects will receive an additional $4.9 million in local and nonstate resources.
“GO Virginia allows us to address the unique needs of localities across the commonwealth,” said Northam. “This targeted support is critical, both for local projects and for encouraging long-term regional collaboration. These 13 projects will foster innovation, support entrepreneurs and drive economic growth across the commonwealth.”
“The city is pleased that this funding has been awarded,” said Tom Roberts, Buena Vista’s director of community and economic development. “This will press down the gas pedal on this project and lead to more substantive economic development programs [at the center].”
The grant, said TAF President Annette Patterson, “will help us advance the region’s agriculture industry through value-added product development, manufacturing and business acceleration service.”
The $550,000, which she said would be received over the next 12 to 24 months, “will be utilized to ignite entrepreneurial activity around value-added product development, scaling activities and manufacturing. This funding will provide the center with high level expertise in the areas of value-added product development, manufacturing and business acceleration. Funding for equipment, programming and region-wide conferences will distinguish the center as a regional asset while infusing talent retention and attraction that will complement Buena Vista’s community revitalization efforts.”
According to the governor’s press release, TAF and partners are creating “a multi-use facility featuring a business incubator and classrooms, agriculture and food tech labs, and a small-scale manufacturing space, as well as a processing and product development space.”
It’s envisioned that the ag-tech center is to transform the 39,000-square-foot former factory “into a flagship, agricultural innovation facility that will grow the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, support Buena Vista’s downtown revitalization and serve as a model for future agricultural enterprise facilities in the Shenandoah Valley.”
TAF acquired the building in September and has begun renovating it with the assistance of students from Southern Virginia University and Dabney S. Lancaster Community. Faculty from SVU and Virginia Military Institute, as well as local government economic development officials, have been involved in planning for the ag tech center.
“The center is open and will set up in-person or virtual meetings with all interested producers, value added product developers, those interested in scaling production/manufacturing or commercializing their products,” said Patterson. “The center is also interested in helping existing businesses in main street manufacturing such as roasters, oils, hemp products, distillers artisans and more.
“The center is seeking all community and business leaders interested in getting involved, especially those with expertise in food/beverage and fiber product development and those with manufacturing expertise to share,” Patterson continued. “The center is interested in talking with volunteers, students, higher education faculty to share ideas, inform strategies etc.
Anyone interested in setting up a meeting (virtually or in-person) with center officials is asked to contact Iris Park at Iris@TheAdvancementFoundation.org.
Patterson noted that the Gauntlet Business Program and Competition, which TAF runs, is seeking applicants for its next classes and competition, which get underway in early February. Applications can be obtained online at www.TheAdvancementFoundation.org