Drakes revitalization a possibility

Published 12:36 pm Friday, May 6, 2016

The Commonwealth Regional Council held a meeting on Wednesday, April 27, at the Drakes Branch Town Hall to facilitate discussion on how to provide resources for business owners to revitalize downtown Drakes Branch.

Presentations were given by representatives from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (VDHCD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Business owners, prospective business owners and business property owners were invited to attend the discussion.

Commonwealth Regional Council Regional Planner Melody Foster facilitated the meeting. “Rodney Moon contacted our office back in February,” Foster said.

According to its website, the Commonwealth Regional Council is a regional planning agency which serves the counties of Charlotte, Amelia, Buckingham, Lunenburg and Prince Edward.

Foster said Moon was seeking assistance in securing funding to aid in revitalizing vacancies in Drakes Branch.

“In the course of talking to him, we put together a couple of agencies to come to a meeting in our office …,” said Foster. This meeting included a few business owners and Drakes Branch Council members Noah Davis and Roscoe Eubanks, she said.

Foster said it was decided that a larger meeting within the town was needed to attract more local business owners and discuss the revitalization.

During Wednesday’s meeting, VDHCD’s Associate Director of Community Development Policy Tamarah Holmes discussed different funding options available through the agency in key areas, including planning, community and economic development, workforce development training, as well as water and sewer infrastructure.

“Based on the email I received from the planning district, the community is interested in learning a lot about our water and sewer resources as well as our entrepreneurship and business development,” Holmes said.

In the pre-planning phase, she said grant money could be received and utilized for assessment. “That may be potentially a resource for Drakes Branch,” said Holmes. In addition, Holmes spoke of the different grants offered by VDHCD and the requirements to obtain funding. Holmes said cohesiveness makes these projects successful.

“It’s getting a community behind the project,” said VDHCD’s Matt Weaver.

USDA Area Specialist Cindy Bomar said RBS Specialist Laurette Tucker also attended the meeting to discuss programs offered by the USDA.

“Rarely will you find a grant directly to a business,” Tucker said. The USDA has grants that may be received by a non-profit and the non-profit would have the responsibility of establishing a loan fund to lend out to small businesses.