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By SHAINA STOCKTON, Staff
Last year, the Blue Ridge Crossroads Economic Development Authority (BRCEDA) requested help from the Virginia Tobacco Commission to attract a potential business to Wildwood Commerce Park.
The tobacco commission had offered BRCEDA a $6 million grant to help with the development of Wildwood, contingent upon the unnamed prospect agreeing to locate in the commerce park, located at the Exit 19 intersection of Interstate 77 and Virginia 620 in Carroll County.
Now, that requirement has changed, said Ken McFadyen, regional economic developer with BRCEDA, and the grant could be awarded regardless of whether the company picks Wildwood.
No other details have emerged about the prospect, but tobacco commission documents said last year that the potential new company could bring 450 new jobs and $100 million in private investment to the Twin Counties.
McFadyen said in February he expects a decision from the prospect about locating in Wildwood later this month or in June.
He noted that the site consultant that had been working with the prospect “considers our location and environment to be an excellent candidate for the project.”
The unnamed prospect needs a total of 150 acres, tobacco commission staff said.
The $6 million grant would help BRCEDA buy 106 acres and add it to a pad at Wildwood that’s already been graded to make up the parcel the prospect would need.
The land at Exit 19 that BRCEDA would buy with the grant is owned by local developers Mike Turman and Don Branscome. The authority has an option on that property.
After this purchase, BRCEDA would own the entire acreage at Exit 19, said Galax City Manager Keith Barker.
At Galax City Council’s May 13 meeting, Barker announced that the Special Projects Committee of the tobacco commission had recommended maintaining the $6 million grant award for Wildwood site acquisition.
“Whether the full commission will approve as well, I don’t know,” Barker said, but the committee recommendation gives him confidence.
In addition, the Special Projects Committee approved the transfer of $905,000 from engineering costs to construction costs in a previously awarded Wildwood grant.
McFadyen said the criteria for landing the new $6 million grant have changed.
“The tobacco commission is now awarding that funding regardless of the [company’s] decision,” he explained. “We needed to update the tobacco commission and ask them to renew or reaffirm the grant award for us.”
Now that the land purchase seems likely, further steps are being taken with construction to make the area even more attractive for potential businesses. Construction of fiber optic networking is scheduled to begin this month, and the design scheme for an access road is in its planning stages.
Construction on the road, water and sewer lines are going to bid in June, with construction beginning as soon as August, McFadyen said.