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HILLSVILLE — Striking water in Lambsburg is like striking gold, because water availability was essential to bringing at least a $7 million investment and 70 to 90 jobs from Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores to Carroll County.
Carroll County officials and the developers have worked for about two years to get utilities to the site off Exit 1 on Interstate 77, and they're not done yet, but the Supervisors' Chairman Sam Dickson, Love's representative Rick Shuffield and developers Greg and LouAnne Crowder felt it was close enough to officially announce the new Love's store last Thursday morning.
Water was key, Dickson noted, and he recognized the work of the Public Service Authority officials, as well as the assistance from Mount Rogers Planning District Commission in the form of a $150,000 grant to get the utilities to Lambsburg.
It wasn't easy, but the work is now starting to pay off, Dickson told the crowd gathered for the announcement in the board of supervisors meeting room.
"In the arena of economic development, we're constantly striving to achieve days like today; however, it's a long, hard road to get to an announcement of any kind," he said.
This project, for example, has been two years in the making.
"It takes dedication, resources, vision, planning and confidentiality to bring all the pieces together — It's hard to keep it confidential, that's the hardest thing for me," he said. "This board of supervisors is committed to the development of the assets we have in the exits of I-77."
While Carroll is blessed with four Interstate 77 interchanges, only one — Exit 14 at Hillsville — has all the infrastructure needed to promote development, he said. But, Exit 1 will soon have the water and sewer availability, as well as commercial businesses.
"Exit 1 is a golden opportunity, and today we're opening up the vault," Dickson said.
Love's will bring an investment of between $7 and $9 million to the interchange, along with 70 to 90 jobs.
It is a leading national company with sales of more than $6 billion at more than 200 locations in 30-plus states.
Carroll officials are happy to welcome Love's to the county, Dickson said.
"It's been our desire as a board to work hard in preparing areas in the county for economic development and prosperity.
"We are working hard to make more announcements like today and bringing high caliber operations to Carroll County — We are truly blazing business trails," Dickson said. "The work is not complete, but we as a team will continue to work for the completion of the Love's project and others."
Shuffield, Love's director of real estate and development, called the effort to open a location in Carroll "tedious" — so much so, it wouldn't have come to fruition without the hard work by County Administrator Gary Larrowe, county and state officials, representatives of the Virginia Department of Transportation and others.
Love's Carroll facility will be about 10,000 square feet, with fueling stations for 16 cars and eight tractor-trailers and recreational vehicles on about 10 acres. It will have both a Subway and a McDonald's inside, he said. There will be room for another potential development behind the Love’s location that's being headed up by the Crowders.
"We're very excited about being part of Carroll County," Shuffield said. "We're hopeful, too, this will be the first of many developments out of that interchange, with us being the first one to break ground. And Lord willing we'll have this thing open by the end of 2009."
Dickson, introducing Carroll native and entrepreneur Greg Crowder, called him the "sparkplug" of the entire project.
Crowder, who's also a wholesale distributor of NASCAR memorabilia and owner of the Hillsville Marathon station, expressed his appreciation for all the cooperation from the Carroll officials.
"I'd just like to thank the board — nobody realizes how hard Gary, and the previous board and this board have worked to make this happen. And the PSA, they've all just worked very hard to make this happen," Crowder noted.
This won't be the last thing that his company, Bear Ridge Properties, LLC, brings to Carroll County, Crowder said.
LouAnne Crowder said she and her husband are dedicated to causing good things to happen in the community that they love.
She feels proud that this project will benefit the people who live here by boosting economic development.
In a written release, Greg Crowder said his truck stop effort began in April 2006 when the Crowders bought 20.4 acres at Exit 1.
Realizing the huge undertaking involved, Crowder contacted leading companies in the field, and Love's showed immediate interest.
The company had concerns, though, about the commercial assess and availability of water and sewer, Crowder noted. With assistance from business associate and friend Franklin Jett, Crowder met Larrowe with the goal of moving the project forward.
Love's officials had conditions about developing a Carroll location — they stipulated that a commercial access, water and sewer and an erosion and sediment plan had to be completed before they could proceed, Crowder recalled.
Larrowe help pave the way with department of transportation officials to get the commercial access, Crowder said. It may have taken several hundred thousand dollars and hundreds of man-hours of work, mostly after-hours, but the major part of that is now 99 percent complete.
Larrowe also helped make sure that water and sewer services would be secured, with help from the boards of supervisors then and now.
"Jeff Evans showed great leadership on making motions and moving forward on this project," Crowder said. "We personally would like to thank him and all of the previous board members who helped make this happen."
And the new board picked up right where the old one left off, he added.
"Love's required in our purchase contract a confidentiality clause, due to the competitive nature of this business, and also personally asked Gary and the board members not to reveal the people or corporation involved in this transaction until a formal announcement was made," Crowder said.
Dry wells made it difficult to get water to the site, but that's now been resolved, Crowder noted. The county officials had several closed meeting sessions to resolve these matters.
"One or more of those meetings may have caused some concerns or inconvenience to some individuals, but I can assure you that these meetings were very necessary, so that Love's and ourselves could meet our construction and contract deadlines," Crowder said.
A lot of people worked hard and to good purpose, he said. Crowder is positive that Carroll County and its citizens will benefit greatly from those efforts.
About his other projects, Greg Crowder said he would like "to bring some NASCAR to Carroll County," such as a national-celebrity-backed, 7/16-mile dirt track with about six races a year.
Those kinds of tracks have a huge tourism impact, bringing in thousands of race fans, he said. Crowder would also like to bring his NASCAR memorabilia business back to Carroll.
He believes a motel will come to Exit 1 in the future.
Shuffield expects the Lambsburg Love's location to bring in 600 trucks and 1,800 cars a day, with the restaurants being a big driver of the car traffic.
Love's model for gas and diesel sales is to keep prices low and go for volume, so those prices will be competitive, Shuffield said.
The closest Love's north of Hillsville is in Max Meadows, and the next closest on Interstate 77 to the south is in South Carolina.