In mid-November, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft feasibility study recommending a nearly $322 million project to dredge the Port of Virginia’s main shipping channels to at least 55 feet. The Virginian-Pilot reported that the project would cost an estimated $321.9 million, with about $146.9 million being paid

REGIONAL VIEW southern virginia D

iversification makes good business sense, according to

Virginia’s 2017 Farmer of the Year.

“I have cattle, poultry,

four different types of tobacco. I’m not focused on one particular market,” says Robert Mills Jr., whose 2,244- acre Briar View Farm in the Callands area of Pittsylvania County also produces vegetables and winter wheat. Mills was nominated

for the award by Stephen Barts, a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent in Pittsylvania. “Robert’s intensive management of all aspects of his operation has been vital to Briar View’s success,” Barts said in a statement.

Mills is not from a farm

family. He took an agriculture class and joined the Future Farmers of America when he was in the eighth grade. “After about three weeks, I told my mom and dad,


Arrington Performance will close its doors in Martinsville and move to Michigan under new ownership, according to the company’s CEO, Tim Krauskopf. Arrington Performance builds hemispherical combustion cham- ber (HEMI) engines and custom, high-performance parts for late model Chrysler vehicles. Kraus- kopf said that Arrington employs 22 people, but it is unclear how many employees will relocate to Michigan. Krauskopf said that one of the major factors in the sale was the challenge Arrington has faced since Chrysler left NASCAR at the conclusion of the 2012 racing season. (Martinsville Bulletin)

Averett University laid off 12 employees in a cost-cutting

‘I know what I want to do with the rest of my life.’ They laughed and said, ‘We don’t have money, land or equipment.’”

Mills pursued his

ambition initially by renting a few acres of land to grow vegetables that he sold directly to customers. “That became the start of my farming career,” Mills said. “I started with zero capital and

measure that targeted staff and administrative positions, spokeswoman Cassie Williams Jones confirmed in September. The layoffs were done to address increasing competition for higher-achieving students apply- ing for college and decreasing enrollment of adult students, Jones said. The job cuts hap- pened within weeks of the start of the new school year. (Danville Register & Bee)

Bank of McKenney and Citizens Community Bank announced in September that the bank created by their merger will be called Touchstone Bank. The merger, which is expected to be complete by the end of the year, will create a bank based in Prince George County. It will have 13 offices in Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Prince George, Brunswick and Mecklen-

12 NOVEMBER 2017

by the federal govern- ment and $175 million being paid by the commonwealth. The study recom- mends deepening the Atlantic Ocean Chan- nel — the approach to the port — to 59 feet from 52 feet. The Thimble Shoal Channel would

Robert Powell Army Corps of Engineers recommends dredging Virginia shipping channels VIRGINIA’S SOURCE FOR BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE SEPTEMBER 2017 $4.50

be deepened to 56 feet from 50 feet and wid- ened to 1,200 feet from 1,000 feet.

Tight squeeze

Big ships prompt calls to expand Hampton Roads’ channels

Award-winning farmer doesn’t put all his eggs in one basket by Stephenie Overman

Mills is a contract grower

for Perdue Farms, raising pullet breeder chickens in his 20,000-square-foot pullet house. “Perdue gives me the birds. It gives Perdue the flexibility to do what they need to do,” he says. “It gives me a steady income every month.”

Robert Mills (left) was nominated by Virginia Cooperative extension agent Stephen Barts.

took a risk with each loan.” Today he oversees a herd of about 300 Angus-cross beef cattle. “We watch the market. We have price risk protection; we lock in the price,” he says. “That gives us a little more insurance. I can keep myself flexible on when I’m going to sell. When the price goes down, I get rid of calves right off of their mama.”

burg counties and Franklin, Hali- fax and Vance counties in North Carolina. The combined bank will have assets of $441 million, based on financial reporting as of June 30. (

Commonwealth Crossing Busi- ness Centre is officially open for business and ready to attract companies. Local and state offi- cials and economic developers made that declaration in Septem- ber while breaking ground for a manufacturing training center to be part of the industrial park, which is under development on 720 acres off U.S. 220 South at the Virginia-North Carolina line. Commonwealth Crossing has four lots on which companies can locate. However, EDC officials have said that if necessary, lots can be combined to meet a company’s needs, or the entire

Mills also sees the advantage of growing different types of tobacco. “We contract with multiple companies. Today I took a certain type of tobacco to sell. With another type, I

wouldn’t have had as good a sales day,” he says. Mills is a Virginia Tech alumnus and a member of the university’s board of visitors, its governing authority. As a former conserva-

tion specialist, he practices environmentally sustainable farming and his farm earned a clean water award from the Virginia Department of Con- servation and Recreation.

park could be made to accom- modate a single large industry. (Martinsville Bulletin)

A new precision machining program has begun at George Washington High School in Dan- ville. Modeled after a program at Danville Community College (DCC), the two-year training program will serve as a feeder for high school students who want to continue their studies and finish their degree at DCC or another institution. (News release)


Dr. Kenneth Giusto has joined Friedrichs Family Eye Center, which has offices in Martinsville and Chatham. Giusto previously worked at a large eye-care and surgery center in Akron, Ohio. (Martinsville Bulletin)

Nancy Overton has joined The Lester Group in Martinsville as the director of human resources. Overton was human resources manager at FreightCar America in Roanoke for three years. (Martinsville Bulletin)

Photo courtesy Virginia Tech

The Martinsville City Council appointed Andrew Hall, a dep- uty commonwealth’s attorney, to the Martinsville School Board. Hall will fill the unexpired term of Lawrence Mitchell, which continues through June 30 next year. (Martinsville Bulletin)

Richard Hicks has been named assistant county administrator in Pittsylvania County. Hicks worked as the town manager of Farmville, N.C., for 22 years. (Danville Register & Bee)

of the Year.

Mills, a member of the Virginia Tech board of visitors, was named the overall winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo award in Oc- tober at the Sunbelt Expo farm show in Moultrie, Ga. He competed against nine other state finalists. Owner of the 2,244-acre Briar View farm in Pittsylvania County, Mills was named the 2017 Virginia Farmer of the Year during the summer. After winning the state honor, he was profiled in a story on the Southern Virginia regional page in the magazine’s November issue.

In its September cov- er story, Virginia Busi- ness looked at the port’s plans to deepen and widen channels to ac- commodate to the grow- ing use of much larger ships.

12 New president remaking Sweet Briar College

55 Making a

living in a gig economy

Pittsylvania grower named Southeastern Farmer of the Year Virginian Robert Mills Jr. has been named Southeastern Farmer

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