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Community Profile: Southern Virginia


Tom Raab, South Boston’s town manager, says it is trying to fi ll empty spaces downtown.


Manna “The Natural Experience,” clothing boutique Southern Frills, Sweet Cee’s gift store and Joe and a Bow, a coffee shop and children’s boutique. “The owner moved from


Houston three years ago, and she had a small children’s store there. We did a survey on what types of business people wanted, and num- ber one was a coffee shop. So she did both in the same store,” Raab says. “She has already expanded to the town of Halifax.” South Boston is seeing


spinoffs of the new businesses already. The husband of Joe and a Bow’s owner, for instance, is open- ing SoBo Burger downtown. The town also has received


Filling empty spaces Meanwhile, South Boston


is seeing an increase in new local businesses, thanks to a $60,000 community business launch grant through Virginia Main Street, a program administered by the Vir- ginia Department of Housing and Community Development. The program offers services and assis- tance to communities that want to revitalize a historic district. The town added more than $10,000 to the project.


Population (2016)


221,400


Per-capita personal income (2015)


$34,075 “It’s about business recruit-


ment. We are trying to fill empty [locations] downtown,” says Tom Raab, South Boston’s town manager. South Boston handed out six


grants totaling $52,000 for one business expansion and five new businesses. One of those businesses, KJ’s Cake Creations, “took a derelict building and fixed it up,” Raab says. “She is doing really good.” Other new businesses include health-food store and vegan café


Southern Virginia at a glance


Change since 2006


Unemployment (Sept.)


Down 4.1 percent 4.9 percent


Adults (25+) with bachelor’s degrees


14.5 percent High school graduation rate (2016) 89.4 percent


Source: Virginia Economic Development Partnership (Region includes Halifax, Henry, Patrick and Pittsylvania counties and the cities of Danville and Martinsville)


an Industrial Revitalization Fund grant of $475,000 to renovate the John Randolph Hotel downtown. “It has been derelict for about 20 years,” Raab says. “In September, we received a Tobacco Commis- sion grant for $600,000 toward the remodeling of the hotel.” Built in 1929, the hotel will


include a restaurant and 27 guest rooms as well as a rooftop bar. “We are in the process of talking to developers,” Raab says. “We esti- mate $8 million to redo the hotel. We can use historic tax credits.” Imperial Lofts will be going


into the former Tultex/Imperial building near downtown. The town will partner with the devel- oper on the 135,000-square-foot project. In October, Town Council approved all the documents needed to borrow $5.6 million for the project and was waiting to sign the actual bond documents. The project will create 40 to 50 market-rate apartments as well as commercial space and storage. “The hotel renovation and the


new lofts will be a big shot in the arm,” Raab says. “We are growing. Things are looking positive. These new businesses are all younger, enthusiastic people. It’s exciting to bring new enthusiasm to the area, which we needed.”


90 DECEMBER 2017 Photo by Steven Mantilla


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