By Matt de Simone
The Botetourt County Chamber Commerce held its fourth annual State of the County address last Thursday at the Botetourt County Administrative Offices in Daleville.
Chamber Executive Director Khari Ryder acted again as master of ceremonies by opening the event recapping the business growth in Botetourt County during 2022. The area saw businesses large and small open their doors to the community during seven ribbon-cutting ceremonies put on by the chamber. Additionally, some chamber events highlighted their year that included their BOCOTalks quarterly events, their networking programs, and signature events like the State of the County, Botetourt County Fair, annual golf tournament, and the First Bank Tinsel Trail.
Ryder thanked the chamber’s currently active 282 members, their sponsors and partners, and their new members added last year.
“We look forward to a successful 2023 as we reach out to small and home-based businesses which is our 2023 initiative,” Ryder added during his greeting to the event’s attendees.
Market Manager of the Daleville Retail Center of Member One and Buchanan resident Jenna Bill updated the audience on Member One’s activities in Botetourt and expressed their appreciation for the community and their members.
Lumos Director of Market Development Catherine Mosley spoke briefly about her experiences in Botetourt and her amazement in the growth of the county. She shared information about the ongoing broadband expansion within the county. Mosley also shared some of Lumos’s new rates for local subscribers expressing that Botetourt is “far ahead” of the rest of the nation in getting connectivity to as many homes as possible.
Botetourt County Administrator Gary Larrowe introduced the informative portion of the session. He shared his appreciation for the county’s administrative staff.
“It is a team effort, a group effort to actually work together to make this such a wonderful place. Without the team, it would be impossible to do,” Larrowe said.
Larrowe noted the “pleasure” of working in Botetourt County. He recognized the board of supervisors being “absolutely awesome” stating that if there were “board of supervisors contest,” he would enter the county and they would win said contest.
“They do it because they want this place to be better,” Larrowe said of the board’s ongoing efforts within the county.
Former Board of Supervisors Chair and Fincastle board representative Dr. Richard Bailey served as the keynote speaker for the event.
“The state of our county is very good,” Bailey noted. “Much like everyone, we’ll have challenges like many other communities– inflation, supply chain shortages, and with labor shortages. We are doing our best to work towards work force development. That is certainly one of our priorities.
“Botetourt County is very thankful for our community and business partners. Our dedication and commitment to the progress in Botetourt are to be commended and we are happy to serve along side of you.”
Bailey commended his fellow board members, county staff, and noted the county’s efforts in broadband expansion, the board’s approval of the ongoing Botetourt County Courthouse renovations, the arrival of the Munters Group’s new facility at Greenfield, and the completed construction of the new, 8,900-sq.-ft. Virginia Western Community College (VWCC) expansion at the Greenfield Center addition to the County Administrative Offices.
He also noted the grant funding efforts in the county including the $166,667 grant from GO Virginia for the installation of 10 new welding booths at the Botetourt Technical Education Center (BTEC). Bailey thanked the Botetourt Economic Development Authority (EDA), Botetourt County Public School (BCPS), the Botetourt Education Foundation, and Craig County Public Schools for their work on getting the funding.
Bailey also noted the closing of the county landfill with zero cost to county taxpayers. The county’s partnership with Green For Life (GFL) will save the county approximately $34 million over the term of the contract. He also mentioned the opening of the new citizen convenience center near Cloverdale.
He updated attendees on the new county website established last year, the county’s memorial dedications in 2022 (William H. Preston, Norvel Lee), Virginia’s Blue Ridge’s efforts in the county presenting events like the Ironman 70.3, USA Cycling Championships, the BOCO Wild fishing carnival in Buchanan, the county’s many library programs and their 88,000+ visitors in 2022, and Botetourt Fire & EMS receiving the 2021 Governor’s Award for Outstanding EMS Agency.
Bailey added his excitement for Botetourt’s Andrew Seibel becoming the 2022-23 FFA National President stating that it’s “fantastic” for a local resident taking to the next level and shared his congratulations.
Looking forward at 2023, Bailey mentioned the continued progress for broadband expansion, more economic opportunities in Botetourt, establishment of a “remote worker support group,” the new and enhanced library recreation program, the ongoing circuit courthouse renovations, the Craig-Botetourt scenic trail, and the new history museum in Fincastle’s Courthouse Square.
BCPS Superintendent Dr. John Russ was the next to speak during the event. He shared a few of BCPS’s academic highlights in 2022, BCPS librarian/media specialist Angela Myers being recognized as the Region VI and Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year, and Lord Botetourt science teacher Dr. John McLaughlin being BCPS 2022-23 Teacher of the Year.
BTEC Principal and Supervisor of Instruction Mike Ketron briefly spoke about ADM & BTEC enrollment, BTEC’s 2022 eSports achievements, and expounding a bit more on the GO Virginia welding grant.
Russ continued by explaining BCPS’s strategic planning process, which was comprised of surveys and discussions with family members and school leaders about the learning process, culture, and teamwork within school. He made a brief overview of timeline and completion of various projects like the new weightroom at Read Mountain Middle School and other school maintenance throughout the county like roof replacements and ramp installations. Russ also gave an overview of BCPS’s budget and expenditures.
Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge (VBR) President Landon Howard, Director of Public Relations Kathryn Lucas, and Director of Sports and Sales John Oney gave a presentation about VBR’s development, marketing, and management strategies. They noted that in order to be a tourist destination, Botetourt must be and is a “place where people want to visit.” They spoke about VBR partnership benefits, target markets, and noted 2022 benchmarks.
At the conclusion of the event, Assistant County Administrator Jon Lanford and Economic Development Director Ken McFadyen answered a few questions posed by the community about the landfill closure at zero cost to residents, the county’s plans for supporting remote workers, influx of school attendance due to the new development plans, the impact of the Exit 150 apartments on schools, and more.
For more information stemming from the State of the County 2023, visit www.botetourtva.gov/808/State-of-the-County.