VCEDA seed capital grant helps North Tazewell business

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  • Doug Hutchinson
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Jan. 4—NORTH TAZEWELL, Va. — Assisting commercial businesses, homeowners and agricultural businesses in growing their use of solar energy in the region is one of the primary goals of a new company in Tazewell County, according to officials with the Virginia Economic Development Authority (VCEDA).

North Tazewell residents Sharon Thomas, John Thomas, Jack Thompson and Doug Hutchinson formed Southwest Virginia Energy Consultants, Inc. earlier this year and were recently approved for a $6,500 VCEDA seed capital grant, according to VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher.

"As renewable energy projects gain additional traction in Southwest Virginia's e-region, the timing is right for businesses eyeing ways to enhance that energy usage," Belcher said. "Southwest Virginia Energy Consultants, Inc., is seeking to do just that and projects to provide three full-time jobs within five years."

Thomas worked with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) in the development of the application to VCEDA and received a letter of support from the Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority.

"The Small Business Development Center at Southwest Virginia Community College was happy to provide Sharon with guidance in applying for the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund program," said Margie Douglass, SBDC program manager at SWCC. "Sharon's innovative and entrepreneurial spirit has provided many jobs for our region. Sharon has proven that networking and partnerships are key components to success.

"The Seed Capital Matching Fund program not only provides funds for startup businesses in the VCEDA region but also provides access to vital business resources," Douglass stated." By working with the SBDC (a requirement for any applicant), business owners receive guidance from experienced advisors and learn how to utilize available tools to evaluate their business and develop a formal plan of action. As a result, applicants are better prepared to apply for funding and better equipped to make their business a success."

One of the new business's goals is to bring a solar panel manufacturer to Virginia. Thomas said additional goals are to pair solar projects with former abandoned mine property in the region in need of reclamation and to work with farmers to consider the development of solar grow houses to produce organic crops, thereby making the growing season year-round.

"We sold our first solar panel job in late November," Thomas said. "Southwest Virginia Energy Consultants will not only introduce renewables to the area, but will also focus on training and show the benefits, savings and economic growth that can be obtained from renewables. There are so many things that can spin off from this."

Thomas said the VCEDA funds have been used for administrative purpose, including working capital and to secure office space for the consulting firm which is located at 192 Shire Lane in North Tazewell.

"With the support of the VCEDA Matching Seed Capital program, Southwest Virginia Energy Consultants was able to open its office and the new office was the first business in Tazewell County to introduce solar," Thomas said. "The matching funds also allowed us to develop an engineering build-out plan. Our first installation, through one of our partners' distribution companies, was completed earlier this month.

"Without the VCEDA grant, we would not have been able to move as quickly as we did," Thomas added. "It has helped us tremendously."

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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