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Commission OKs $7 million
Grants for Commonwealth Crossing, Patriot Centre projects

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin staff writer

The Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved grant requests totaling $7 million for projects at Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre and Patriot Centre industrial park in Henry County.

That’s according to state Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, who chairs the tobacco commission’s special projects committee.

Of the $7 million, $6.5 million would be used to prepare two sites for building construction at Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre. The other $500,000 would be for a company to build a 60,000-square-foot facility on lot 17A at Patriot Centre industrial park, creating 155 jobs, Marshall said.

At Commonwealth Crossing, one of the proposed buildings would be 100,000 square feet and the other would be 1 million square feet, Marshall said in a previous interview. Local officials have not identified the two potential tenants interested in locating at Commonwealth Crossing nor the company involved in the Patriot Centre project.

Draft minutes of the special projects-megasite committee’s Nov. 25 meeting describe Project Atlantis (the code name for one of the Commonwealth Crossing projects) as a request “to accommodate 100,000-square-foot manufacturing and training facility on lot one for an unnamed prospect. The commission and private foundation funds of $2.5 million each will grade the site and construct the ... 100,000-square-foot building. Commission staff has requested our funds be dedicated to site preparation costs and matching funds for construction of the building so as to not establish a precedent for awarding Megasite grants for building construction.”

According to the draft minutes, the code name for the second project at Commonwealth Crossing is Project Mercury. Funds were “requested to grade 160 acres with a 63-acre building pad on lot four at Commonwealth Crossing to accommodate a one million-square-foot building for another unnamed prospect. ... ”

Grading at the Commonwealth Crossing center has been held up by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ refusal to grant permits for the work without committed prospects for the sites.

However, the draft minutes state, “The applicant indicates the Army Corps leadership has expressed positive support for the required wetland permits, (given) the two active prospects, and the matching funds of $5 million have been committed to accomplish the work, contingent upon approval of commission funds. Staff is recommending an award of $6.5 million(:) $2.5 (million) of our funds for Project Atlantis and $4 million of our funds for Project Mercury,” the draft minutes state.

The special projects committee endorsed grant funding of $6.5 million for Project Atlantis and Project Mercury on Nov. 25, and the full tobacco commission approved it Tuesday.

Marshall said he did not immediately know what the companies’ capital investments or the number of jobs created would be on the Commonwealth Crossing projects.

The code name for the project at the Patriot Centre is Project Bespoke, he said.

“I purposely don’t want to know the companies’ names. These are all confidential projects,” Marshall said.

The company’s capital investment at the Patriot Centre would be $27 million, he said.

In addition to grant funding totaling $7 million for the Commonwealth Crossing and Patriot Centre projects, the tobacco commission on Tuesday approved formula-based funding for those projects through the Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund (TROF), Marshall said. He said he didn’t immediately know the amounts.

The TROF grant fund provides “performance-based monetary grants to localities in Virginia’s tobacco producing region ... to assist in the creation of new jobs and investments. ... Evaluation of award amount ... is based on the following criteria: local unemployment rates, prevailing wage rates, number of new jobs, capital investment levels, industry type and possibility of related economic multiplier effect,” according to the tobacco commission website.

Mark Heath, president and chief executive officer of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on details of any of the projects or any TROF funding.

Speaking generally, he said tobacco commission funding for Commonwealth Crossing “means we can tell the (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) we have named clients interested in Commonwealth Crossing if we get it graded. We’re hoping this will encourage the corps in issuing the permits.”

“It’s certainly good news and it allows us to keep working projects, but we (are) still in the process of working them and we’ll wait and see where this progress takes us,” Henry County Administrator Tim Hall said of tobacco commission funding for the Commonwealth Crossing and Patriot Centre projects.

Hall said local officials will tell the Army Corps of Engineers “financial support is lined up” for the Commonwealth Crossing project.

Permit negotiations with the corps have been progressing, he said. “I wouldn’t want to give you any kind of target date” for resolution of the issue, he said.

Kimberly A. Prisco-Baggett, acting chief, regulatory, Norfolk District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, stated in an email:

“The corps released a public notice detailing the county’s revised plan for development of the Commonwealth Crossing Business Center. This notice included plans for two separate businesses. Since that time, the corps has been working through our process with the county, identifying and addressing remaining information needs. Once complete, we can move to a final permit decision. The issuance of these grants lends further support to some of the information already supplied by the county.”

Prisco-Baggett stated that the corps and county have discussed “remaining issues,” and the corps is confident the county understands what information the corps needs.

“We have been informed by the representatives of the county that this information is forthcoming. Once we receive and fully review this information, we will be in a position to make a final permit decision. The approval of the grant request does not change the process nor answer any currently outstanding issue,” she added.

“The county’s current proposal, with identified users, has allowed us to move forward with our mandated review process,” she stated.

 

 
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