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Leaders report on conference

Leaders from the towns of Kenbridge and Victoria, representing Lunenburg County, reported on the events of a conference in West Virginia that focused on the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) currently under construction at Fort Pickett in Nottoway County.

Robyn Fowler

Kenbridge Town Manager Robyn Fowler said participants who asked questions about Lunenburg County at the conference, which took place the week of Feb. 12, seemed favorable toward the county.

She said during the Kenbridge Town Council meeting Feb. 20 she received questions.

“One lady came up, she said, ‘do you have a Walmart?’” Fowler said. “I said, ‘no.” She said, ‘you’re not going to get one, are you?’ I said, ‘no,’ and she was excited about that.”

“A lot of the interest was in the internet,” Fowler added. “A lot of the people wanted to know how our internet was. Of course I said the town is good, a little further out (is) not so much.”

She said she hopes the conference piqued the interest of some families to come to the county.

“Hopefully it at least attracts one family to the area,” Fowler said. “It was a pretty neat experience.”

She said a lot of the employees seemed to be interested in short-term options in place of buying or permanently relocating to an area.

Mayor Emory Hodges said the town could see potential benefits if individuals or families decide to locate short-term or long-term in the town.

“I think it will really take off in the rental market for the houses that are a little more nicer than just your average rental house,” Hodges said. “The internet, I think that’s one thing that makes it more attractive to live in town than live out of town.”

Rodney
Newton

Victoria Town Manager Rodney Newton also said that people at the conference expressed interest in the county, and that area leaders were able to interact with people involved with the FASTC project.

“The trip to WV was very worthwhile in our opinion,” Newton said in an email. “We had many positive interactions with the employees that are looking to move to the Southside Virginia area. We were able to provide information, answer questions and offer resources.”

Lunenburg County Administrator Tracy Gee, in a January interview, said she met in November with a contractor project to discuss potentially housing some of those recruited to the facility.

“We had a nice, long meeting and discussed the attributes of the county and the towns that would be positive for recruits to come and live here, and possibly permanently locate here if they were interested in doing so,” Gee said.

Gee said the area’s close-knit communities was a highlight of the meeting.

“She seemed very positive about our area, that the small-town charm was something that a lot of their recruits look for,” Gee said.

Gee said while the county’s lack of big box stores or entertainment facilities could be a potential drawback, for others it was a plus. Gee said Contractor Mary Ann Eicher expressed enthusiasm about the county and had met some of the small business owners in the area.

“I feel like we had a good, positive meeting and she was excited about our area,” Gee said.

The FASTC facility will consolidate 11 different contracted training sites around the U.S. focusing on hard skills into one facility, a previous Dispatch report cited. That decision was recommended by the Department of State to prepare foreign affairs personnel for increasingly uncertain and perilous conditions overseas.