Gov. Terry McAuliffe made two grant investment announcements at the Springfield Distillery on River Road Wednesday afternoon with funds coming from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund (AFID). The AFID Fund is administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS).
The first was a $12,000 grant approved from the AFID to assist Slick Rock Lumber owned by Kenneth Hodges, in opening a new sawmill, which Halifax County is matching with local funds.
The check was presented to Matt Leonard, executive director of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority.
Slick Rock Lumber plans to invest $535,000 in the new sawmill needed to open the new hard and softwood sawmill that will create 12 new jobs.
The company’s primary products will be railroad ties and large planks to be made into mats for use by utility, construction and logging companies.
Slick Rock also is committing to purchase more than $5 million of Virginia timber over the next three years, or 75 percent of the forestry inputs needed for the new production venture.
“That’s great leadership,” said McAuliffe. “He started in this business when he was 10 years old, and he bought his first tractor when he was 12 years old. He has been in this business for about 40 years,” the governor said of Hodges.
McAullife also presented Hodges with a flag that flew over the capital, saying, “When this sawmill is completed, we ask that you proudly fly this flag. We want to thank you for your continued investment in job creation, not only here in Halifax County, but in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Following the presentation, Hodges thanked the governor, saying, “As the owner of H&M Logging and Slick Rock Lumber Company, I would like to thank the governor for the great introduction he gave to me. I’m thankful to be a part of the growth of Halifax County, and I’m thankful to be a part to employ people in this county. I am just glad to be here to help this county grow because I was born and raised in Halifax County, and I plan to stay here and stay in business in this county. Thank you.”
The second investment was a $10,000 grant approved from the AFID to assist Springfield Distillery owned by James and Kelly Gordon, in opening their new whiskey distillery on River Road, which Halifax County is matching with local funds.
That check was presented to Leonard as well.
Springfield Distillery plans to invest $160,000 in the site improvements and equipment needed to open a new distillery, tasting room and remote-licensed ABC store on the historic Springfield Farm, built in 1842. The investment will create five new jobs.
Springfield Distillery also is committing to purchase almost 150,000 pounds of Virginia corn and barley over the next three years – 100 percent of the agricultural products needed for the new production venture.
The new craft distillery will serve as the central attraction to an agritourism operation that will feature log cabin lodging, farm-to-table dinners and whiskey tasting and production classes.
McAuliffe said, “It will create five new jobs, but more importantly is when you have these type of facilities it brings the tourism in. Tourism brought in 400 million visitors last year, and billions and billions of dollars come in through tourism. So it’s not only going to do what is sold here, but it’s going to be bringing in folks to Halifax County.”
The governor also presented the Gordons with a flag that flew over the capital saying, “I can’t wait to get back when we’re in full production, and we will be back. This is a great honor for Todd (Haymore) and I. On behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia here is another check to help grow the Halifax tourism and distillery business here. I can’t wait for this to be all finished up to fly this flag. Thank you for your continued investment here. I just know this is going to be a game changer bringing folks in.”
Following the presentation Gordon thanked the governor saying, “Thank you very much. We appreciate you taking the time to come out here today. Every time people come here, I tell them how proud I am to be in Halifax County. Out of all the choices in the world, I chose Virginia, and I chose Halifax County. I learned very early in life that no man is an island, and we can’t do anything here without the help of our friends and neighbors. All the businesses in the area are helping us move along. We hope to be up and running by the 4th of July weekend. Governor, thank you very much.”
Prior to the check presentation, guests heard from Leonard and Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore.
Calling agriculture and forestry legacy industries in the county, Leonard noted the long history that locals have for making “the most of God’s green earth for the betterment of ourselves and the rest of the world.”
Recognizing that agriculture and forestry industries have “taken their hits” over the last few years, he noted that locals have “remained as sure as ever as their abilities, their worth when it comes to cultivating, producing, harvesting, marketing the bounties of their labors.”
He continued saying, “We are very fortunate to have a governor and a state administration who believe in ag and forestry as strongly as we do in Halifax County, Virginia. They have challenged us and whole-heartedly supported us as we work to expand our opportunities and diversify our offerings.
Halifax IDA has worked very closely with the board of supervisors and our local ag and forestry community to find ways to take advantage of the positive spirit and real investment this governor’s administration have offered us. Today’s event highlights two examples of that sincere support.”
Haymore also recognized agriculture and forestry as two large industries, and called the commonwealth blessed to have economic powerhouses in ag and forestry.
Turning his attention to the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, he said it was created a little more than three years because “we recognize that those two industries are sometimes not qualified for the great incentives and programs that the commonwealth has to offer so we need to cultivate new business opportunities so we move to correct that.”
Since the beginning of the McAuliffe administration, 622 economic development deals have been closed in Virginia with $10.21 billion in capital investment, which is more than any previous governor in the first 25 months in office.
“We’re talking about historic, record breaking economic opportunities here in Virginia,” said Haymore, who added that the unemployment rate is at 4.2 percent, the lowest in the southeast, and the most jobs in Virginia’s history at 3.86 million jobs.
“I can assure you that’s not good enough for this man. He will continue to push.”
Following the check presentations, guests were invited to enjoy refreshments in Springfield Distillery’s tasting room.