The latest on the programs and projects of
the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission.
Around the Region
 March 2019
Rockbridge County high school students work on the Greenhouse Village project.
50 Years of Regional Housing Assistance

Over the past 50 years, the CSPDC has assisted localities with a variety of programs, housing studies, and funding applications that provide safe, livable housing and access to public utilities. Projects throughout the region have included rehabbing substandard housing, replacing or installing new water, sewer, and indoor plumbing, drainage systems, relocating homes outside of flood zones, and providing  low-interest mortgage loans  and down payment assistance to first time home buyers.
In 1999, the HOME Down Payment Assistance program was established to assist first-time low-to moderate-income households purchase homes. Twenty years later, this program is still available and has assisted almost 250 households in the region.  
Currently Rockbridge County is finishing a three-year housing project that provides affordable housing in the Greenhouse Village neighborhood. Rockbridge County partnered with Rockbridge Area Habitat for Humanity to build 45 new homes and install the necessary infrastructure like roads, water, and sewer to develop the neighborhood. Each year, one of the houses constructed is a modular home built by students at the Rockbridge County High School and moved to the site. The project is funded through the state's Community Development Block Grant program. 

The CSPDC is proud to have helped thousands of individuals within the region gain a safe, decent, and sanitary place to call home.  
Click image to view interview video.
BRITE Bus Launches New Farecards

On March 4 BRITE bus began selling and accepting pre-paid farecards for the convenience of BRITE bus riders. These twelve-punch farecards are  an alternative to needing exact change or a token to ride the bus and are available in 25 cent or 50 cent increments. Riders can purchase either a $3 (25 cent) or $5 (50 cent) card from the driver on the bus, at the BRITE Transit Facility or at the CSPDC offices. Farecards may be used for fare payment on the BRITE fixed routes or for BRITE Access service. 

Learn more about the BRITE transit system from Transit Manager, Nancy Gourley's, recent interview with WHSV TV3. 
Legislation to Improve I-81 

The Governor is expected to sign HB 2718 that creates the I-81 Improvement Program, Improvement Fund, and an I-81 Advisory Committee to the Commonwealth Transportation Board later this month. The Committee will include state delegates and senators as well as the five Planning District Commissions Board Chairs, or their designee, who represent localities   along the Interstate 81 corridor. The Virginia Department of Transportation, Department of Rail and Public Transportation and the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment will staff the Committee that is planned to meet a minium of four times in 2019.  Additional stakeholder meetings will discuss implementation of the Plan, and develop a funding solution for the improvement projects. 
GO Virginia Funds the Shihadeh Innovation Project

The GO Virginia State Board awarded $540,000 to Winchester Public Schools to renovate the former 50,000 square-foot John Kerr Elementary School into the Emil and Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center, an advanced facility for career and technical education programs. Winchester Public Schools and Clarke County Public  Schools will provide the local funding match and partner  with Lord Fairfax Community College Workforce Solutions and regional industries to implement the project. 
Curriculum at the new center will be offered  through a Professional Skills  Academy, a Health Sciences Academy, and an Information Technology  Academy. These academies will be supported by an expanded Work-Based Learning program to connect students to regional businesses filling high-wage jobs within these targeted industries.  The seven-phase renovation project is scheduled to be completed in September of 2020. 
GO Virginia Region 8 is comprised of the 16 localities in the CSPDC and the Northern Shenandoah Regional Commission regions. The CSPDC provides staff support to the Region 8 council and assists with GO Virginia project development and applications. 
Rails to Trails Summit Held

Town mayors, trail advocates, and state, regional and local government staff gathered in Woodstock, Virginia on February 22  to create a vision for a 36-mile trail that would link eight towns following a discontinued rail line between the Town of Strasburg in Shenandoah County and the Town of Broadway in Rockingham County. Citizens from the Town of Woodstock incubated the idea and hosted the Summit. Attendees evaluated the economic feasibility of the trail, and discussed ways to expand local and state government support for the project. The CSPDC is partnering with neighboring regional commission, Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, to support the effort.
Statewide Agritourism Conference: April 3-4

Agritourism entrepreneurs, economic development staff, and local government leaders will gather for the fifth annual Virginia Agritourism Conference on April 3 and 4 in Roanoke, Virginia. The Conference will provide resources, networking opportunities, and new ideas for agritourism entrepreneurs to enhance their business. This year topics will include developing an agritourism operation, managing the challenges of agritourism, delivering exceptional customer service, marketing, ensuring farm safety, hosting events, building a regional approach, and networking. Participants will also have the opportunity to tour local agritourism venues.
First Cohort Completes BRCC Cyber Security Training  

In 2018, the GO Virginia State Board awarded Blue Ridge Community College with a $200,000 grant to launch a Cyber Security Training Program .  The CSPDC provides project management and grant assistance for this project. 

The first cohort of 12 students completed their classroom training in February, 2019. S tudents will continue their studies with the Cybrary online training platform and assist with basic cyber risk assessments  during their hands-on experience with Shenandoah Valley strategic IT consulting firms. M any of the students also earned their CompTIA Security+ certification along with their classroom training. 

To welcome the second cohort of students, a new facility in Waynesboro will open this month. Graduates of the program will be placed in jobs that have an average wage of $54,000. 
Back Creek Farm in Highland County
61st Annual Highland Maple Festival: March 9-10 & 16-17

The annual Highland Maple Festival, March 9-10 and 16-17, 2019 attracts thousands of visitors each year who gather to observe the process of maple syrup-making. It is the  second largest Maple Festival in the U.S. and celebrates the southernmost commercial maple syrup producing region in the nation. Visitors contribute to the area's economy while enjoying an educational experience that portrays a rapidly vanishing way of American life. 
Farm2Fork Affair Showcases the Region's Ag Producers

Over 50 Shenandoah Valley agricultural producers, including 14  Fields of Gold members, exhibited their products during the Farm2Fork Affair on March 5 at the Rockingham County Fair Grounds. Buyers representing restaurants, universities, hospitals, and retail stores throughout Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington D.C. were able to sample and source products from this rich agricultural region. The event was hosted by a collaborative effort of regional economic development and tourism departments. 
The Fields of Gold Farm Trail also showcased a booth, promoting the almost 250 agricultural businesses that make up this trail. 
DEQ Hosts Brightfields Solar Conference: April 9-10

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), in partnership with Brownfield Listings, is hosting Brightfields 2019 - a solar conference - in Richmond, Virginia on April 9 and 10. This interactive two-day conference is a must-attend event for landowners, property managers, policy makers, solar developers, community leaders and individuals who are seeking to learn more about the application of land-based solar power production. Attendees interested in pursuing a solar project for their property will have opportunities to explore options with solar energy vendors and ensure their land is viable in the Brightfields marketplace. Registration is now open .
Community Development Block Grant Due: March 29 

Applications are due March 29 for Competitive, Community Improvement Grants, funded through the Community Development Block Grant program. Competitive grants are available for comprehensive community development, business district revitalization, housing, community facility and community service facility projects.The program is administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 
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