It’s been difficult to attract business and provide more opportunities to some of the more economically distressed parts of Virginia, but there’s hope for those areas through the national tobacco settlement. Although the money is being applied to areas within the Commonwealth’s tobacco region, HOW it's being applied will directly impact surrounding areas and indirectly boost the state's economy.
Tobacco farming was a major source of income for many Southside and Southwest Virginia residents. But the industry took a big hit after the national settlement agreement with cigarette manufacturers was reached.
But each year, the commission that decides how to spend the funds looks for ways to help the region help itself. Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission Interim Director Tim Pfohl says this year there's more money for education and industry.
"In the education fund, there's a 10-million dollar set aside to establish three advanced manufacturing centers of excellence specifically targeting mid-level skills training for welders, precision machinists, and industrial maintenance mechanics."
Pfohl also says high-speed Internet was not readily accessible in these areas, but now, there are plans to build it:
"Well more than two-thousand miles of new robust affordable open access fiber that serves every single locality in the tobacco region."
More than 16-hundred grants totaling close to a billion dollars have been awarded to the tobacco region, with more than 309-million provided to tobacco farmers thus far.