Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Marketing efforts for White Mill site ‘encouraging’

The Danville Industrial Development Authority officially owns the White Mill property on Memorial Drive, with the final paperwork signed Tuesday morning, Corrie Teague Bobe, assistant director of economic development, said.
The IDA announced its plans to purchase the property for $3 million in March. Danville City Council voted in April to appropriate $1.5 million from the general fund to go to the IDA toward the purchase of the White Mill property, which includes eight parcels. The purchase agreement calls for a first payment this year and a second $1.5 million to be paid in 2017-18.
Also on Tuesday, the IDA met and voted to authorize a post-closing agreement to have the final appraisal done by White Mill LLC, Royal Demo LLC or Gibbs International and to prorate the utility bills for the property.
Bobe said recently marketing efforts for the site have been “encouraging,” and there is money in the budget for the upcoming year to create a master plan for developing River District property along the north and south sides of the Dan River.
Those plans include extending the Riverwalk Trail, creating a water feature in the canal in front of the White Mill and find out what they can do with the enclosed bridge that connected the White Mill to the Long Mill years ago.
Many ideas were spawned for the covered bridge during a Span the Dan project headed by the Danville Regional Foundation in 2013, but those plans were put on hold until funding could be found.
Bobe said the IDA also will have to work with the state’s Department of Historic Resources to reuse the covered bridge in a way that maintains its historical aspects, or it won’t get state and federal tax credit assistance to cover the cost of renovating the bridge.
The massive White Mill building is unlikely to attract a single user, Bobe said.
“We’ll be working on a mixed-use concept,” Bobe said.
Also Tuesday, the IDA approved several actions to move the building of the SGS Kyocera facility in Cyber Park, across the street from the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.
Those actions included approval of a design-build contract between the IDA and Blair Construction and loan commitment of $3.8 million from American National Bank to finance the project.
A new parking lot of Craghead Street — behind the 500 block and stretching to Lynn Street — also received attention from the IDA, which to create easements between IDA and Rick Barker Properties; to redraw the property lines for 523-523 Lynn St.; and to rework some retaining walls on the site.
Denice Thibodeau reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact her at or (434) 791-7985.

Noblis Announcement

Noblis renews commitment to Danville, intends to increase personnel

The Noblis Center for Applied High Performance Computing — a high-tech supercomputer company at 527 Bridge St. — announced Monday it has signed a second five-year lease to continue doing business in Danville.

The company plans to install the next generation of big data processors to work alongside the Cray MXT 2 that was activated at the site in 2012.

Brent Gulick — who represented Cray Computers and helped when Noblis brought the supercomputer to Danville — said Cray and Noblis knew they needed partners to help with the project, the brainchild of Dr. H. Gilbert Miller, Noblis’s chief information officer at the time.

Gulick said the project started after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The work the company does is all for the federal government, much of it for the National Security Agency, Gulick said.

Finally all the pieces came together in 2009, about the time the recession hit and funding for almost any project dried up.

“There were no funds for a NSA supercomputer with no track record,” Gulick said.

Eventually, Noblis and Cray learned about the Virginia Tobacco Commission. Located in Northern Virginia, company officials went to meet with Tobacco Commission representatives, only to be told they would not finance a project in the northern part of the state, but if they could find a Southside partner, the possibilities for funding were good.

A memorandum of understanding was signed 14 months later.

Jon Horin, the senior manager at the Danville site, has been with Noblis for 25 years. The company started looking for a manger for the site in 2014. He and his wife — Recent empty-nesters with their son off to college — were able to quickly sell their home in northern Virginia, buy one in Danville and move to the city.

“It’s been a most enjoyable part of our lives … to be so engaged in the Danville community,” Horin said. “[Noblis] is an important asset for our community.”

Miller died in 2015, and Neal Morris — chairman of the Industrial Development Authority, which owns the building — announced Monday a plaque honoring Miller’s efforts to bring the supercomputer to Danville.

“It’s beyond my comprehension what [the supercomputer can do], but it’s great for Danville and great for the nation,” Morris said.

The company agreed to have at least 15 employees. During the announcement Horin said they are now up to 23 employees and look to hire even more as need arises.
Horin said he can’t talk specifics on the work they are doing, however, “Noblis has the Cray and other supercomputing resources, which allow us to answer problems of national significance.”

Denice Thibodeau reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact her at or (434) 791-7985.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Yappy Hour

Grab your leash and bring your pup for an after work Yappy Hour at the Crossing at the Dan! Yappy Hour 2017 is sponsored by Leggett Town & Country.

Various dog and pet product vendors will be giving demonstrations. The event will also feature live music, beverages and activities. Enter your dog into the “Pup Parade” and show off their cutest outfit! 

We are excited to be working with Ballad Brewing for their Grand Opening! Special prizes will be given out from Ballad and both events will take place at the same time!

Admission and parking are both free. Dogs must be on a leash during the event. Call (434) 799-5150.

Grand opening of Ballad Brewing

Bridge Street Food Truck Rodeo

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Perry joins economic development office

Kelvin G. Perry has joined the Danville Office of Economic Developmentas project manager.

His responsibilities include the recruitment and retention of businesses and developers to the River District, assisting with the management of grant and loan programs, assisting with industrial and technology-based recruitment, managing properties owned by the Industrial Development Authority, and enterprise zone administration.
Perry assumed his responsibilities with the City on April 3. Prior to joining the City, he was employed for 16 years by First State Bank as chief operating officer and then as president and chief executive officer. In addition, he assisted small businesses in southern Virginia with business and financial planning through his role as an independent consultant with the Longwood Small Business Development Center. Telly D. Tucker, director of the Office of Economic Development, said Perry has a wealth of experience in the finance and business development arenas, which will be a valuable addition to the economic development team.
"We are delighted to welcome Kelvin Perry onboard as project manager,” said Tucker. “His professional experience will broaden and diversify the expertise of the Office of Economic Development staff, and will allow us to improve our service delivery to new and existing business and industry.”
“I am very happy to be a member of such a dedicated and committed team of individuals,” said Perry. “These are critical yet exciting times for the Danville region. I look forward to bringing my expertise as a former banker and advocate for small businesses to encourage and promote opportunities for entrepreneurship and sustained growth.”
Perry is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a major in banking and finance. He also serves on a number of boards and organizations, including the Delta Nu Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., the Hughes Memorial Foundation, the Danville YMCA, and Big Brother Big Sisters.

Danville, VA Local Government News and Announcements

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dan River Flooding by River City TV

Credits to River City TV

The Dan River in Danville,Virginia crest at 25.3 ft. in the early hours of Wednesday Morning. This was the 3rd highest crest in the past 20 years. We captured a few spots from the air on Tuesday Afternoon where the mighty Dan spilled its banks.

Growing trend: Community gardens part of local food movement

Community gardens have sprouted throughout the city and more could be on the way.
There are about a dozen in the city, according to a master garden list from Danville Housing and Development Planning Specialist Jackie Wells.
A lot of cities, including Danville, are looking to revitalize themselves and have more vacant land to grow food, said Annie Martinie, senior program officer with the Danville Regional Foundation.
The DRF has provided grants for groups to start community gardens in the city, and is talking to people who want to start others, Martinie said.
“It’s picking up,” she said.
The DRF provided a $10,000 Make It Happen grant for the Community Market’s garden in 2011. It also provided $10,000 for Camp Grove Baptist Church and about $2,000 for Moffett Memorial Baptist Church to start gardens. There also was a $17,598 investment for a garden under Grace and Main Fellowship in February 2016, Martinie said.
There are more likely to come, Martinie said.
Community gardens are part of a local food trend in which people know where their food comes from and they want it free of pesticides and chemicals, Martinie said.
Also, they enable community members to come together to grow food and eat healthier, she said.
“People who live close to community gardens and participate in community gardening eat more fruits and vegetables,” Martinie said.
The garden at the Community Market on Craghead Street has 15 plots, and provides residents the opportunity to plant their own produce, get in touch with nature and teach their children about gardening, said Kenny Porzio, program coordinator with the Crossing at the Dan.
“Most of them live in the River District,” Porzio said.
It’s convenient for them to walk over, plant, harvest, and go back to their apartments, he said.
Tomatoes and greens are the primary crops, Porzio said. Danville Parks and Recreation funds the garden, maintains it and helps clean it up. Porzio oversees the administration of the plots.
The garden started in 2011 and has an application process every March for those interested. Applicants are selected through a lottery system and assigned plots, Porzio said.
Like farmers markets, community gardens let residents get fresh local food and know where it’s coming from, Porzio said. 
Grace and Main Urban Farm — under Grace and Main Fellowship — has at least 20 beds for people to grow food at Moffett Street. Habitat for Humanity donated the land to the fellowship in 2014.
About 60 percent of space is reserved for the community to grow food — including that for the 70 community meals a year the fellowship hosts — or to be given away to the needy, said Joshua Hearne, director of Grace and Main Fellowship.
The other 40 percent is for those who have their own small gardens, Hearne said.
Everything is chemical-free, sustainable and inexpensive, he said.
“They can come and garden with us for a few seasons and if they’re ready to start their own gardens elsewhere, we’ll help them out,” Hearne said.
The space at Grace and Main Urban Farm is about 1.4 acres, with food grown on about 3/4 of an acre, he said. The farm has fruit trees and herbs and grows a plethora of vegetables including tomatoes, squash, zucchini, peppers, cucumber, watermelons, onions, potatoes, carrots, turnips, beets, green beans, October beans and a variety of greens.
A leadership team oversees the gardens — some have gardening and farming experience and others have overcome homelessness, Hearne said. The organization works with those experiencing poverty, addiction, hunger, homelessness and other injustices, he said.
The idea for the urban farm started after the fellowship planted six gardens for individuals in the north part of the city. Those gardens were the seed for the urban farm, Hearne said. 
Danville Parks and Recreation oversees community gardens at Coates and Stonewall recreation centers. Coates has three raised beds, and Stonewall has two.
Last summer, they grew basil, parsley, tomatoes, squash and zucchini, said Health and Wellness Program Coordinator Danielle Montague.
Parks and recreation provides parents with produce and recipes and teaches the children how to cook with the vegetables, Montague said.
“Sometimes, they will even come up with their own recipes,” she said.
Arugula and bok choy are being grown, as well as more fruit including strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, and blueberries, she said.
Wells started and oversees the city’s Lots of Potential community garden program, which works to change vacant and under-used, city-owned property into sites for food production.
The program connects churches and organizations with available plots of land they can apply for.
Some of the vacant lots in the city may not be ideal for development, so they could be used temporarily for gardening until a developer comes along to buy the property, Wells said.
“If there is an interested developer wanting to build homes or apartments on those lots, they would still be able to do that, but in the meantime, why not have some useful purpose for the land?” Wells said.
The gardens would be removed if a developer decides to build on the property, she said. 
Another community garden could be coming to the corner of Worsham and Wagner streets.
The Rev. Tommy Crews, of Right Touch Christian Church, plans to operate a community garden in partnership with the Lots of Potential program.
The Danville Planning Commission voted April 10 to recommend that City Council approve the plans.
Crews told commissioners during the meeting the garden would be not only for the church, but for the community at large. It would include fruits and vegetables, he said.
The garden would be on two parcels totaling about a half-acre at Worsham and Wagner streets. Useable garden space would be about 450 square feet.
Right Touch Christian Church would license the parcels from the city for up to a year, renewable at the end of each term.
It would increase “access to fresh foods in an area where there are few health food options for residents,” Wells said.
“There is increased awareness of what are commonly called ‘food deserts’ — or areas where nutritious food is difficult to obtain due to availability, distance, affordability or some other factor and the effect that these areas have on low- and moderate-income families, including increased health risks,” Wells said during an interview earlier this month.
Community gardens are one way to tackle that issue, she said.
“I’m excited that this local food movement is really taking off and people are interested in growing their own food,” Martinie said.
John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at or (434) 791-7987.

River District Tobacco Mural

River District tobacco mural ‘a great reminder of the history of this area’

A mural highlighting Danville’s tobacco history was dedicated in the River District on Friday morning.
The 20-by-30-foot Tobacco Heritage Mural was painted in December on the side of 308 Craghead St. that faces Patton Street and is visible from the River District’s busiest intersection at Main and Craghead streets.
Community leaders, city officials and those active in historic preservation attended the dedication held in front of the mural painted by artist Wes Hardin, who also painted the transportation and Wreck of the Old 97 murals in the River District.
“This gift makes our city a better place in which to live,” Danville Mayor John Gilstrap said during the dedication. “This gift educates, inspires creativity, beautifies and promotes interest in our community.”
The mural is the third commissioned by the River District Association, which raised $20,000 over several years for the artwork.
Jerry Amburn, River District Association board member and chairman of its mural committee, said the group has worked to implement the mural program to showcase the city’s heritage through historic public art.
JTI Leaf Services and others donated money and contributed to the project.
Preservation Virginia Field Representative Sonja Ingram praised the rendering of the tobacco barn image in the mural and connected it to Preservation Virginia’s tobacco barns preservation project, which will have repaired more than 60 barns in the Dan River Region by the end of 2018. JTI has been funding the project.
William Gentry Jr., whose father William Gentry Sr. is depicted in the mural as a tobacco auctioneer, owns the building at 308 Craghead St. and gave the association permission to use the side of the structure for the project. The building houses Gentry Lofts and offices that face Craghead Street.
JTI President Steve Daniels called the mural “a great reminder of the history of this area.”
The mural includes a flue-cured tobacco barn at the top, a man in a bateau transporting tobacco and a tobacco auction featuring William Gentry Sr. as the auctioneer.
“I appreciate my Dad letting me put his face up here,” William Gentry Jr. said.
The tobacco industry has changed over the years and the auction system no longer exists, but U.S. tobacco – especially tobacco from the region including Danville and Southside Virginia – is the best-flavored tobacco in the world, Daniels said.
“Tobacco put Danville on the map, and it served as an economic catalyst for our city,” Gilstrap said.
Billy Yeargin Jr., a tobacco historian, pointed to tobacco’s role in Virginia since the early 17th century, when John Rolfe introduced it as a commercial crop.
Ernecia Coles, executive director of the River District Association, said the mural is something people can connect with.
“We’re hoping this will be part of people’s visits downtown,” Coles said.
The association’s next mural will honor Wendell Scott, the Danville native who became the first African-American NASCAR racecar driver.
John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at or (434) 791-7987.

‘Danville Hokie Nation has come together’ Several dozen gather in River District for VT remembrance service

Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, spoke during the ceremony, reading part of poet Nikki Giovanni’s “We are Virginia Tech” convocation address from April 17, 2007, and urging everyone to keep those affected by the tragedy in their prayers.
The incident didn’t occur at a campus in a city in another part of the country, he pointed out.
“This tragedy took place in our own backyard – on the grounds of the Hokie Nation campus,” he said.
The lives taken that day were those of students and faculty who – as Pat Daniel said – “were at the top of their game,” Gilstrap said.
“They personified great promise and great accomplishment,” Gilstrap said.
Chatham businessman Ben Davenport Jr., a 1964 VT graduate, recalled that he was serving on the university’s Board of Visitors when the shootings happened. He received a call from his wife telling him about the incident.
“I got in my car and drove to Blacksburg,” Davenport said.
The victims were a cross-section of our nation and the world, Davenport said, before reading Giovanni’s convocation address from 10 years ago. “We will prevail, we will prevail, we will prevail. We are Virginia Tech.”
Kenny Lewis, who played football for Virginia Tech and the New York Jets, gave the prayer during the ceremony. His son was attending VT at the time and was in a building next to where shootings took place, Lewis said. His son had no idea what was going on, he said.
Virginia Tech alumni Chuck Vipperman and Fred Shanks read the names of the 32 victims — all “wonderful souls,” Vipperman said. He encouraged attendees to go online and learn about them.
The event included the ringing of a small brass bell 32 times and a balloon release.
Shanks, a city councilman and a 1982 Virginia Tech graduate, told the Danville Register & Bee after the event he had studied hydraulic engineering under one of the professors killed in the shootings – G.V. Loganathan, a civil and environmental engineering professor.
“He was a young and energetic professor when I was in school,” Shanks said, adding he was stunned when he heard about the shootings and Loganathan’s death.
The tragedy was especially emotional for Shanks, who grew up visiting Blacksburg because his father was from there.
“It [the shootings] was one of those moments like 9/11 where everybody knows where they were and what they were doing,” Shanks said.
Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee.
John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at or (434) 791-7987.

Council approves purchase of White Mill property

Danville City Council voted Tuesday night to appropriate $1.5 million from the general fund to go to the Industrial Development Authority toward the purchase of the White Mill property, which includes eight parcels.
Councilmen voted 7-2 for the motion, with Fred Shanks and Madison Whittle voting against the idea.
Shanks said the IDA has done a good job bringing properties back to useful life, but he is not ready to commit $1.5 million from unreserved fund balance knowing the city has critical needs.
The city has already allocated money for a football stadium renovation at George Washington High School and has a police station in dire need of replacement, Shanks said.
Also, there is no commitment in the property from a developer, Shanks said.
“How can we justify rushing into this?” Shanks said.
The IDA has $36 million in property and the purchase of the White Mill would bring that up to about $40 million, he pointed out.
Other councilmen supported purchase of the building.
Sherman Saunders said he understood Shanks’ concerns but given the momentum in the River District, “it seems like a good time to make an investment.”
“We are seeing progress in Danville,” Saunders said. “I think this investment is a good choice to make. Nothing in life is guaranteed.”
Lee Vogler said he is in favor of private sector investment, but he asked everyone to think about what downtown looked like before IDA investment. The River District’s progress didn’t happen without IDA investment, Vogler said.
“The demonization of the IDA is not warranted,” Vogler said.
Larry Campbell Jr. said downtown was “dark and gray” six years ago. Now money has been invested in the area, and the city is seeing possible development of a river front park.
“We want to make sure we get the right clientele in the building,” Campbell said.
He added that he was thankful for the IDA.
“This will be a major piece of turning this community around,” Campbell said.
The White Mill property is going to become very valuable to develop with a downtown river front park just below it, said Councilman Gary Miller. It’s imperative the city gets control of the property so Danville can control what goes into that property, he said.
Shanks said his feelings about the purchase of the White Mill property are not meant to be disrespectful toward city staff and the IDA.
“I just don’t see the hurry to do this,” Shanks said.
Vice Mayor Alonzo Jones said he was thankful the Economic Development Director Telly Tucker, the IDA and City Council are working to provide answers to citizens about what will be done with the White Mill building.
Whittle said the decision whether to purchase the property needs a little bit more thought.
Mayor John Gilstrap said of the proposal, “Opportunity involves risk. You can’t steal second by keeping your foot on first.”
The purchase agreement calls for a $1.5 million payment the current fiscal year and a second $1.5 million payment next fiscal year.
The city is seeking funding from several sources for the purchase, but until the sources are confirmed, the general fund balance will be used to pay for the purchase.
In another matter, City Council adopted an ordinance providing money for University of Virginia sub-recipient funding in amount of $237,832 to cover three years of spending from March 1 to Feb. 29, 2020.
The money from UVa and the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute will be used to continue investigating child obesity treatment programs on a community level.
The city will support the grant in kind through providing workspace for staff, information and technology needs, use of facilities for programs and implementation of grant and support from the Community Recreation Division director.
Councilmen also voted, following a public hearing, to rezone 407 Holbrook St. from old town residential to transitional office commercial.
The property will be developed into the Williams Community Resource Center, a mixed use development with two residential units on the upper level and two offices, a conference room and an exhibit hall on the lower level.
Construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2018.
John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at or (434) 791-7987.

iScribes gets $250,000 boost from The Launch Place, looks to hire locally

The Launch Place is investing $250,000 in a company that enables doctors to record patient encounters using an app and have the medical information documented and entered into their medical records by remote writers.
Representatives with Durham, North Carolina-based iScribes and The Launch Place announced the investment Friday morning at Spectrum Medical in River District Tower.
The money is to further iScribes’ operation capacity and technology for delivering its virtual services, said Jimmy McGarry, who serves on the board of directors for The Launch Place.
“It’s an investment, which means we have confidence in their company,” McGarry said during the announcement.
Community leaders attended the event, including city officials and Delegate Danny Marshall, R-Danville.
iScribes, which started in 2014, has 27 employees in Virginia and is in eight states, said CEO and founder Dr. Jared Pelo. He hopes to hire scribes in the Dan River Region who would work from home.
“I plan on bringing lots of jobs to the region,” Pelo told the Register & Bee.
Christopher McGuire is the co-founder and head of sales at iScribes.
The company will have a satellite office at The Launch Place, Pelo said.
With iScribes, health care providers record patient encounters using the mobile app, and remote, virtual writers listen to the interaction, write medical documentation and enter it into electronic medical records for the providers. It saves physicians hundreds of hours per year of clerical work, according to Pelo.
Doctors spend 40 percent of their time documenting patient visits in electronic medical records, decreasing available time for patient care, Pelo said.
The use of medical records has been an important step in the modernization of health care, but it has posed challenges for providers. It has also affected the doctor-patient relationship, with some physicians conducting exams facing a computer instead of their patients.
“iScribes exists to make health care functional and efficient,” Pelo, an emergency medicine doctor for Centra, said in a prepared statement. “Virtual medical scribes enable providers to conduct patient encounters naturally and efficiently with exceptionally high-quality documentation.”
No dictation is required and the scribes complete documentation directly in the provider’s electronic medical records.
Two physicians at Spectrum Medical use iScribes, Pelo said during the announcement.
“The problem of time-consuming documentation for every patient office visit has been reduced,” said Dr. John Mahoney, orthopedic surgeon at Spectrum Medical, who has used iScribes since October. “I can focus more on my patients instead of spending long hours at a computer or working with dictation services.”
Dr. Jonathan Krome at Spectrum Medical also uses iScribes, Pelo said.
iScribes has continued to grow since it began in March 2014, Pelo said.
“We love this region, we love Southern Virginia,” he told attendees. “We want to grow the ecosystem in this area.”
“It’s exciting even to be in this building today,” McGuire said, referring to the new River District Tower.
The Launch Place led the investment deal in which Triangle Angel Partners II, LLC (TAP II), an angel investment fund in the Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, co-invested for a total of $410,000.
“We have had a strong relationship with TAP for multiple years and look forward to continuing our work together,” said Launch Place President and CEO Eva Doss, in a prepared statement. “iScribes’ use of technology to improve a health provider’s productivity and accuracy as well as overall patient satisfaction has shown tremendous traction in the last year by the number of customers that have selected to use iScribes for their medical documentation.”
iScribes is the 12th investment for The Launch Place, totaling $2.25 million.
As for providing jobs, Pelo said the company is hiring. A medical background is not needed for positions, he said.
Applicants must be hard workers and decent writers, Pelo said. Those interested can apply online at
The Launch Place, from a $10 million grant received from the Danville Regional Foundation in 2012, helps with entrepreneurship and business development, and job creation and retention through its business consulting, mentoring and training, residential and office subsidies, and two seed investment funds in the Dan River Region.
John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at or (434) 791-7987.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Riverwalk Trestle Bridge has reopened!

Danville Parks and Recreation announced this morning that the Riverwalk Trestle Bridge has reopened.  Thank you to the construction crews who were able to repair the bridge a day early. Enjoy your day on the Riverwalk!

Photo Credits: River City TV