Highland County EDA Hears Report on Economic Recovery Data


At the Highland County Economic Development Authority’s December meeting, Grace Blanchard of the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission gave a presentation on economic recovery data from the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Commission began tracking the data in January and it will continue through 2021.   Blanchard pointed out some interesting points from the data, such as Highland’s most recent unemployment rate is 2.5%, where it was 3.1% before the pandemic.  From 2019 to 2020 there was a $17,000 increase in sales tax revenue in Highland.  Also, in showing the breakdown of how the CARES Act money was spent by the county, 51% of it went to business recovery.   This economic recovery data can be found on the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission’s website at www.cspdc.org and click on the COVID Recovery tab.   The website features interactive graphs where you can view the data from all localities or specific localities.

Incentive Grant Applications are available now and, with the assistance of the Small Business Development Center, a supplement will be put out to go with the applications to help applicants prepare the applications.  Fifteen thousand dollars is available for the Incentive Grants and the EDA discussed the possibility of asking the county for more than that if needed, since in a previous year the EDA did not use all of the $15,000 allotted for the grants.  The EDA voted to have Jessica Glendenning, Kirk Billingsley and George Hogshead serve as the Review Committee for the Incentive Grant applications.

The EDA voted to recommend Christoph Herby to the Board of Supervisors, for appointment to the Tourism Council.

Betty Mitchell reported on the Emergency Business Grants that the EDA awarded.   She said that out of the twenty-seven grants awarded, six entities have not turned in all their information.  The grants came from the CARES Act money and information is needed to confirm that the money was spent in accordance with the CARES Act and to meet the requirements of the EDA’s grants.   The EDA voted to extend the date to December 31 for paperwork be turned in or the grant money will need to be returned.  The original grant application had the deadline of December 1st.

There was also discussion about the Tourism Council not offering any virtual options for its meetings.   The EDA uses the Blue Grass Resource Center ZOOM account to offer it’s meetings virtually and Betty Mitchell said she was happy to extend the use of the Blue Grass Resource Center account to the Tourism Council for their meetings.    EDA member Bryan Obaugh suggested the EDA get it’s own ZOOM account or talk with the county to see if it might get a ZOOM account to be used by county agencies for virtual meetings.

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Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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