Company News For the Record

For the Record - June 2019

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EASTERN VIRGINIA
BCause LLC, a cryptocurrency mining operation that expanded to a server farm in Virginia Beach over a year ago with help from a city grant of up to $500,000, has filed for bankruptcy protection along with its subsidiary BCause Mining LLC. Before the two businesses filed Chapter 11 to reorganize, they had amassed $1.7 million in past due power bills from Dominion Energy and owed $1.9 million to supplier WESCO Distribution, according to legal filings by Dominion and WESCO. As of April 11, BCause said it had $911,000 in its bank account. (The Virginian-Pilot)

Celebrity chef Guy Fieri plans to bring pizza and tacos to Hampton this spring. The city announced in April that the Food Network celebrity chef will open two eponymous restaurants at Power Plant in June — Guy Fieri’s Pizza Parlor and Guy Fieri’s Dive & Taco Joint. Both will be located between PBR and Bass Pro Shops. The two new spots will join a smokehouse in Norfolk’s Waterside as Fieri-licensed eateries in Hampton Roads. (The Virginian-Pilot)

What could move into the three-level space Nordstrom left behind in the MacArthur Center in downtown Norfolk? Every possibility is under consideration, and the mall has had conversations with Target, Macy’s, potential office tenants and other retailers. “Nobody’s willing to commit as of yet. But never say never,” said Jim Wofford, general manager of the mall. “We feel very strongly that we will get a great retailer for that box.” Wofford spoke to the Downtown Norfolk Civic League to update local business owners and residents on the shopping center. He said the Norfolk city staff and mall administration are working to find a new tenant for the 160,000-square-foot anchor space. (The Virginian-Pilot)

Virginia finally has been given the keys to the former historic military post Fort Monroe. After more than a decade of protracted negotiations between the U.S. Army, the Office of the Attorney General and the Fort Monroe Authority, some 313 acres of land officially are under the state’s stewardship. Fort Monroe Executive Director Glenn Oder made the announcement — met with applause and cheers — during the authority’s board of trustees meeting in Hampton in April. (Daily Press)

Pharrell Williams’ mind was already on next year as the inaugural Something in the Water festival wrapped up in late April. He confirmed there will be another Something in the Water next year. It was a whirlwind week for the megastar, a celebrity ambassador of his hometown. Pharrell pulled off a star-studded feat, hosting A-list performers, including Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliott and Diddy with a surprise visit from Jay-Z, wowing a jam-packed audience on the beach. (The Virginian-Pilot)

SHENANDOAH VALLEY
There is no guarantee that all of the jobs Flow Hydration will bring to Augusta County will go to local residents. The Ontario-based water bottling company announced April 30 that it plans to invest $15.5 million in the county by opening its first U.S. manufacturing facility at the county-owned Mill Place Commerce Park. The announcement said 51 jobs will be created. Just a third of those may go to residents of the state, according to Director of Economic Development and Tourism Amanda Glover. That amounts to 15 jobs that could be available to Augusta County residents. (News Leader)

The pharmaceutical firm Merck & Co. Inc. plans to invest up to $1 billion in stages over the next three years to expand its pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Rockingham County. The Kenilworth, N.J.-based company will add 120,000 square feet to its existing 1.1 million-square-foot operation in Elkton, to increase production of its human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines. The expansion is expected to create 100 additional jobs at the plant, which currently employs 900 people. In connection with the expansion, Blue Ridge Community College and James Madison University will collaborate on programs training biotechnology engineering and computer science workers to address workforce needs of Merck and other life-science industries in the Valley. (VirginiaBusiness.com)

A new interpretative historical experience weaving through New Market is underway after Town Council members agreed to work with the Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation on setting up signs and allowing it to use the town park. Council members have wrestled with the request for the town to allow the foundation to use the park as well as put up signs around town that direct tour-takers where to go. (Northern Virginia Daily)

After nearly 20 years of operation, The Wine Cellar has been acquired by Out of the Cellar LLC this year, according to a news release. The wine and beer shop located at 8 Byers St. in Staunton’s Wharf District has now added more gourmet food items and is expanding its Virginia wine selection. Chip Clarke, the managing partner of Out of the Cellar, said the previous owner was looking to move on to other ventures. (News Leader)

ROANOKE/NEW RIVER VALLEY
Carilion Clinic’s Jefferson College of Health Sciences has graduated its last class, slightly more than a century after the first six women entered its nursing program. By fall, Jefferson will be part of Radford University. Plans to merge Jefferson into Radford were announced last year, but the evolution began about a decade earlier, when the university looked to Roanoke and Carilion Clinic to build its physical therapy doctoral program. (The Roanoke Times)

The Pulaski County Board of Supervisors voted to commit up to $100,000 to a program that allows some high school graduates to attend New River Community College tuition-free. If everything works out, Pulaski County will join the city of Radford and Floyd, Giles and Montgomery counties in offering the Access to Community College Education program to graduating high school seniors in spring 2020. The program is a partnership with New River Community College to offer qualifying full-time students a tuition-free two years at NRCC with students having to foot the bill only for books and tuition and fees for credits over 15 hours per semester. (The Roanoke Times)

U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen in May sued nearly two dozen coal companies owned by or affiliated with West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice — including Roanoke-based Southern Coal Corp. — to collect nearly $4 million in unpaid fines for miner-safety violations. The lawsuit seeks an additional $821,386 for administrative costs and interest stemming from 2,297 citations in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama since May 2014, according to a news release issued by federal prosecutors. (The Roanoke Times)

Virginia Tech projects its incoming freshman class will smash the record for its largest ever. The fall 2019 freshman class, which Tech anticipates will be 7,500 to 7,585, would top a previous record set in 2017 of 6,836 students. Tech had announced that officials anticipated about 6,600 freshmen in the incoming class. The university is dropping its first-year, on-campus housing requirement due to the high number, and town officials and faculty members are expressing concern about how the total student population at Tech will be adequately served. (The Roanoke Times)

Virginia Tech’s Biocomplexity Institute is closing about nine months after its former executive director abruptly resigned to take a new position at the University of Virginia. The institute will follow a “voluntary termination” procedure as outlined in university policy. The institute’s resources — including people, facilities and equipment — will then be evaluated and moved to the Fralin Life Sciences Institute on the Blacksburg campus, according to Tech spokeswoman Tracy Vosburgh. The changes come in the wake of former Biocomplexity Institute Executive Director Chris Barrett’s departure last fall. Barrett — along with 37 full-time research faculty members — left the Tech Biocomplexity Institute to found a similar initiative at U.Va. Officials in Charlottesville offered Barrett a 15 percent pay bump and a $30 million startup package. (The Roanoke Times)

SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA
A lawsuit filed in May in U.S. District Court in Greeneville, Tenn., claims there are conflicts of interest and antitrust violations involving board members of Ballad Health and East Tennessee State University. It names Ballad Health, Medical Education Assistance Corp. (MEAC) doing business as East Tennessee Physicians and Associates and University Physicians Practice Group as defendants. It also names all individual members of Ballad Health’s board of directors, including Ballad CEO Alan Levine, ETSU President Brian Noland, Scott Golden and Scott Niswonger. Specifically, the complaint claims that Golden and Niswonger have direct conflicts of interest because each also serves on the board of trustees of East Tennessee State University. Ballad operates 21 hospitals in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia plus other clinics and diagnostic centers.  (Bristol Herald Courier)

The partners of a proposed resort casino have established a political action committee, Betting on Virginia Jobs, according to information on the Virginia Public Access Project website. To date, the committee has two contributions of $50,000 each from The United Co. and Clyde Stacy, both of Bristol, Va. Stacy and Jim McGlothlin, chairman and CEO of The United Co., are partners in the Bristol Resort and Casino project proposed for the vacant Bristol Mall. They were successful in helping get legislation passed during the last General Assembly session that could pave the way for casino gambling in the state. If the next General Assembly re-enacts the legislation, it would establish the framework for the Virginia Lottery Board to oversee gaming and would allow certain localities, including Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth and Richmond, to conduct voter referenda. (Bristol Herald Courier)

The Washington County Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Carol Jones of BHSS Jones Property Group in late April. The  full-service brokerage firm in Abingdon is now a member of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. (SWVAToday.com)

Customers of the former BVU OptiNet telecommunications network will see a new name on their bill and some new service options. Sunset Digital and Sunset Fiber, the Duffield-based firm that purchased OptiNet last year, has been rebranded Point Broadband. That is the West Point, Ga.-based firm that financed the August 2018 purchase. The change was announced in a written statement. The company will offer an increase in speeds for streaming video and a new home security Wi-Fi product that supports “smart home” devices, according to the statement. (Washington County News)

Bristol leaders approved two special exception permits in April that will allow Dharma Pharmaceuticals to operate in the Bristol Mall’s former J.C. Penney store and an alternate site on Gate City Highway. Those approvals pave the way for Dharma to establish a cannabidiol oil pharmaceutical processing operation with a retail location to sell products to qualified Virginia residents. The local company is one of five approved by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to grow Cannabis sativa plants in a secured area, extract the CBD and THC-A oils and refine those oils into pharmaceutical products. As proposed, Dharma would occupy about 40,000 square feet, primarily on one level of the former retail store, with about 5,000 square feet in the former Eckerd Drug location. The plan would include spaces for retail pharmacy, offices, security control, plant growing, extraction and testing labs. People take cannabidiol for anxiety, bipolar disorder, muscle disorders such as dystonia, seizures, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia, according to the website WebMD.com. (Bristol Herald Courier) 

Accusing the company of engaging in an illicit nationwide scheme to increase prescriptions for profits, a federal grand jury in Abingdon has indicted, Indivior Inc., the manufacturer of Suboxone film, an opioid used to treat opioid addiction. The U.S. Department of Justice said the grand jury indicted Indivior, formerly known as Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, a company that had sales of about $1 billion in 2018, primarily from Suboxone film. The indictment charges Indivior with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and health care fraud. In addition, the indictment charges the company with one count of health care fraud, four counts of mail fraud and 22 counts of wire fraud. (Bristol Herald Courier)

Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission in May named the private consulting firm that will assist in its review of gaming regulations nationwide. Meeting in Richmond, the commission identified The Innovation Group, a global research and advisory firm in the gaming, entertainment, hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors with offices in Las Vegas, Denver, Orlando and New Orleans, as its consultant. Together, they will conduct the study required in legislation that passed during the most recent session of the General Assembly. Joe McMahon, the commission’s principal legislative analyst, told commissioners the firm will review how other states govern gaming and other aspects of the gaming issue. “The Innovation Group will analyze several scenarios for the potential expansion of gaming in the state, including different types of gaming, including casinos, sports wagering and online casino offerings,” McMahon told the council, according to the audio recording of the meeting on the JLARC website. The JLARC study team, in collaboration with its consultant, will examine the governance, regulatory and administrative structures of legalized gaming in other states to identify effective structures and policies that should be considered in Virginia should the General Assembly enact legislation to expand gaming activities, according to a JLARC document. (Bristol Herald Courier)

A group of business and government leaders want a new regional name for a area that includes eight counties of Northeast Tennessee and about that many in Southwest Virginia. About 50 people have been meeting for more than a year, seeking to develop a more descriptive, appealing brand for the area that stretches from Morristown eastward to the coalfields. The group has picked up the support of all three Tri-Cities chambers of commerce and a number of city and county officials, according to Beth Rhinehart, president and CEO of the Bristol Chamber. The goal is to select a name by July, according to Jerry Caldwell, vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee and chairman of the Bristol Chamber board. (Bristol Herald Courier)

SOUTHERN VIRGINIA
Danville-based American National Bank & Trust Co. has bought and assimilated HomeTown Bank in Roanoke. The changeover took place in late April. The process of moving customer accounts, activating new bank cards and transitioning HomeTown customers to the online platforms of American National is wrapping up. HomeTown CEO Susan Still, who has been with the bank since its start, agreed to stay on. Her new title is president of Virginia banking for American National, a job she contracted to perform through 2019, when she plans to retire. She’s also among three HomeTown directors to receive seats on the board of American National. Her merger-related compensation is given in a federal filing as an estimated $977,000. (The Roanoke Times)

Local church leaders are not thrilled with the possibility of Danville taking a gamble on luring in a casino. Most ministers who talked to the Danville Register & Bee are morally opposed to the idea, saying a betting establishment will encourage residents, especially the poor, to spend money they don’t have and become addicted to gambling. The Rev. Meredith Williams, pastor at Ascension Lutheran Church, said a casino would pose a risk for those struggling with gambling addiction and would tempt poor people into spending money to try to strike it rich. (Danville Register & Bee)

The Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors put an end in April to a seven-month battle over the proposed Lady Bug solar facility in Bracey, voting to deny a special use permit to the relief of project opponents who gathered for the board’s monthly meeting in Boydton. Cypress Creek Renewables made the request for a special exception permit, for construction of a 65-megawatt utility-scale solar facility on 1,200 acres of farmland abutting Lake Gaston in Bracey. (Mecklenburg Sun)

Essel Propack America has announced the sixth expansion of its Danville plant. Changes include installation of a new tube-manufacturing machine. The plant opened in 2002. Essel Propack manufactures packaging tubes for oral care, beauty and cosmetic, food, home/industrial and pharmaceutical applications. (Star Tribune)

Halifax County may have placed an effective cap on new solar generation facilities, but that hasn’t totally ended interest in building more projects. The Halifax County Planning Office has received an application for a conditional use permit to operate a 6.8 megawatt solar array on 35 acres located off the highway on 6071 Mountain Road between Halifax and Vernon Hill. Solar panels would be nestled behind a strand of trees near the highway, blocked from motorists’ view. The permit request was submitted by Inman Solar, which also sought in March to build a 5 MW facility a short distance outside the Town of Clarksville. That application was rejected after neighbors expressed their concerns to Mecklenburg officials about the impact on the community. (News & Record)

NORTHERN VIRGINIA
Amazon said its second headquarters in Arlington will not aggravate housing problems here as the company has in Seattle because it now is better prepared to plan for growth. Jay Carney, an Amazon senior vice president, said the company chose the Washington region partly because it is “a much more racially diverse area than the Pacific Northwest.” There is concern in the Washington area that Amazon will drive up housing costs and displace low- and middle-income residents. Amazon executives noted that it has contributed $80 million to support affordable housing in Seattle. But Carney said it is primarily the government’s responsibility to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing.  (The Washington Post)

The Arlington County Board agreed in April to give an $11.5 million grant over the next 15 years to the landlord that houses the Drug Enforcement Administration in order to keep the federal agency in Pentagon City. Board members reluctantly voted for the deal, which was negotiated in 2016, saying that it was odd to have to offer incentives to a federal agency to remain in Arlington. But without the grant, the DEA could leave and increase the county’s 17 percent commercial vacancy rate another 1.3 percent, taking 3,000 jobs with it. (The Washington Post)

Fredericksburg is close to getting a new brand identity. HUB Collective, a Portland, Ore., design firm has been working since December to develop a plan for the city. The project is expected to be finished by the end of July. City officials decided that Fredericksburg needed a unified brand for the entire city because it currently uses a variety of images that have been created over the years. They range from the city’s official seal to a stylized silhouette of the downtown skyline.  (The Free Lance-Star)

Nestle SA’s U.S. unit will dismiss about 4,000 workers as it stops delivering frozen pizza and ice cream directly to stores and transitions to a warehouse model that’s becoming an industry standard for big food companies looking to trim costs. The change, announced at a shareholder event in Arlington, means the elimination of an operation that now includes 230 facilities, 1,400 trucks and 2,000 different routes.  As part of the transition, Nestle USA will close eight company-owned frozen distribution centers. The change should be complete by the second quarter next year. Nestle’s U.S. headquarters are based in Arlington. (Bloomberg)

CENTRAL VIRGINIA
U.S. health officials in late April said Philip Morris International can sell a cigarette alternative that heats tobacco without burning it, a key decision in the tobacco industry’s shift toward newer products.  The Food and Drug Administration has not yet decided whether to allow the device, IQOS (pronounced EYE-kose), to be advertised as less harmful than cigarettes. A decision on that key marketing pitch could come later this year. Henrico County-based Altria Group Inc., the nation’s largest cigarette manufacturer that owns Philip Morris USA, will sell IQOS in the U.S. for Philip Morris International. (The Associated Press)

Brace yourself, downtown Lynchburg. The multi-block Main Street Renewal project is set to begin in earnest in September, with a projected end date of finishing before Thanksgiving 2021. The estimated $17 million renewal blueprint is the second phase of the city’s downtown water line replacement and streetscape project and will involve work on Main Street between 8th and 12th streets as well as on 10th Street between Church and Main streets.  (News & Advance)

After months of consideration, the Bedford Town Council voted to approve a performance agreement with a Petersburg developer Waukeshaw Development Inc. to transform the former Bedford Middle School site into apartments and a boutique hotel. The town has been in negotiations with Waukeshaw owner Dave McCormack since 2017 on the long-term lease agreement. (News & Advance)

Richmond-based luxury fashion retailer Need Supply Co. has merged operations with another retailer — Seattle-based Totokaelo. Need Supply’s Chris Bossola is leading the merged company called NSTO.  The combined company’s headquarters is in a 20,700-square-foot space in the HandCraft cleaners building at 3301 W. Moore St. in Scott’s Addition, where Need Supply has its operations. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Horse racing, gaming fans and local officials welcomed Rosie’s Gaming Emporium at Colonial Downs in New Kent County with open arms at the facility’s ribbon cutting and public opening ceremony in April. Rosie’s at Colonial Downs features 600 historical horse racing machines along with a restaurant, bar and off-track horse race betting opportunities. (The Virginia Gazette)

Changes to the parking areas of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport are starting this year to support an increase in passengers. According to numbers from the Federal Aviation Administration provided by airport staff, the airport has seen a 97% increase in the number of passengers who have boarded planes between 2008 and 2017. Executive Director Melinda Crawford said the airport has a stable travel base. “I think a lot of that has to do with the entrepreneurs that live in this area, and the school and the military,” she said. (The Daily Progress)





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