Highland County EDA July Meeting
The Highland County EDA met for it’s monthly meeting on July 18.
The EDA welcomed it’s newest member Dail Fields, who was in attendance for his first meeting.
Robbie Huff of MGW discussed the status of its fiber installation in the area. MGW received a Virginia Telecommunications Initiative Grant in the 2021 cycle for fiber installation in Highland and Augusta Counties. From that grant, MGW is currently working on installation in the Doe Hill and Bullpasture areas and will be working in the Davis Run area through the rest of the year. This past spring, MGW received another Virginia Telecommunications Initiative Grant for 2022 for fiber installation for both Highland and Bath Counties. Completion of that entire project is set for 2025. Huff explained that some areas will not be eligible for fiber installation now and are not included in the grants, because they already receive certain DSL speeds, but MGW plans to go back to do fiber installation in those areas also.
It was reported that the Bath-Highland Network Authority is now focusing on finding cell companies to provide service for both Bath and Highland Counties. U.S. Senator Mark Warner indicated at his meeting in Monterey last Friday, that his office will assist with getting contacts and will encourage cell companies to talk with both Bath and Highland about coverage.
There was an update on the Rural Community Development Initiative remote work project. Committee members said a report done on available housing in the area is showing higher than it actually is, due to second homes. Work is also underway on marketing and branding for the project. Studies that Highland has done in the past, including resident attraction, have been gathered to use as a resource on this current project. It was also reported that Highland County is ranked 4th in the nation with having the oldest population. According to the Census Bureau, the median age in Highland is 59.5 years, which is about 21 years higher than the national median age.
Work on the Industrial Revitalization Fund planning grant for The Highland Inn is continuing. That includes financial analysis, identification of an operator, and finalizing plans for the remainder of the funding. EDA Economic Development Officer Betty Mitchell reported that she met with Senator Mark Warner Friday when he was in Monterey and will work with his staff on the availability of federal grants for renovation of the inn.
Following the meeting, EDA members went into closed session to discuss a 2021 Incentive Grant. According to information received after the closed session, a recipient of a 2021 Incentive Grant is in default of the terms of that Agreement. Betty Mitchell was given the authority to engage legal counsel if an agreement could not be reached within the next two weeks. The reason for the default is that the grant recipient relocated out of Highland County within two years of receiving grant funds, so they must repay 50% of the total grant award.