Highland EDA April 2023 Meeting
The Highland County Economic Development Authority held it’s monthly meeting on April 17.
Debbie Melvin, from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, was in attendance at the meeting. She, along with Nathan Garrison with the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, spent that day in Highland touring businesses and the school. Melvin said the overall message she heard was the interest in trying to retain people in Highland and in getting people to come back to Highland. She also said there was a need for enhanced communication within the business community and a need to connect school students and school programs with the business community. During the meeting, there was discussion about companies, such as Amazon, seeking locations for data centers and how Highland could present itself as a possible location. Melvin explained that what is needed to be considered for one of those businesses is electricity, water and planning and zoning support. For a small data center, the electricity needs to be on site, or within a mile of the site, with a minimum of ten megawatts of power and the water capacity needs to be at least 100,000 gallons a day. There was also discussion on business licenses, with Melvin saying that the majority of localities have them, but not all localities require them. She will provide the EDA with a list of localities without business licenses, so the EDA can research why those localities chose not to require them. There was also discussion on housing availability and EDA members said they have heard stories of people not taking jobs in Highland, because there was no place to live. Melvin said that is currently a problem being experienced everywhere.
Later in the meeting, it was reported that the Town of Monterey is working with the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission on submitting a grant through the Virginia Department of Housing to do a feasibility study on a property in town that could become apartments. If the project is funded through the grant, work could be completed in about six to eight months.
There was also discussion about ways, other than a business license, to get a complete list of local businesses, in order to improve communication in the business community. A list will need to be compiled, as there are no existing lists that can be shared with the EDA. The list would contain all businesses, including those that are not members of the Chamber of Commerce.
The EDA voted to approve a list of goals it will be responsible for as part of the Rural Community Development Initiative Project. With this project, the EDA, The Highland Center, the Tourism Council and the Chamber of Commerce have been meeting to develop a Strategic Plan for community and business development. When the RCDI group meets again, it will work on developing priorities among all of the goals and developing a time line for completion.
Two EDA members, Patti Hrovat and Aaron Thaler, have terms that are expiring in June. Hrovat announced that she does not plan to continue serving on the EDA.