invest swva

A project aimed at attracting more data centers to the coalfields has been awarded a $50,000 seed grant.

Gov. Ralph Northam Wednesday announced more than $780,000 in Growth and Opportunity for Virginia (GO Virginia) funding for five regional projects.

That includes $50,000 to Wise County and the city of Norton for Project Oasis. The project will evaluate sites within the region suitable to attract data centers. Also, it will explore the possibility of using water pooled in closed mines to provide cooling services for data center operations.

Project Oasis is an initiative of the new INVEST SWVA organization, working with the state Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

At press time Thursday, a press conference was set to take place in Abingdon announcing the launch of INVEST SWVA.

During Wise County supervisors’ Sept. 5 meeting, INVEST SWVA coordinator Will Payne of Coalfield Strategies and Lenowisco Planning District Commission Executive Director Duane Miller explained what the organization will do.

Miller explained that the Virginia Tobacco Commission contributed $400,000 to INVEST SWVA to carry out a two-year regional economic development marketing project for the three planning districts that comprise far Southwest Virginia. Point Broadband contributed matching funds.

The goal, he said, is not to compete with existing economic development programs but to enhance their efforts.

Three marketing firms were interviewed, Miller said. Payne’s group, based in Richmond, was chosen.

Payne pledged to relocate himself to this region and devote full time and resources to INVEST SWVA for two years, according to Miller.

In fact, Payne said he is now a Bristol resident and is eager to get more initiatives moving.