A Halifax County company is keeping its administrative functions in the Weldon area thanks to cooperation between the county’s economic development commission and Roanoke Connect.
“We often hear how important water, sewer, roads, and bridges are to our local economic development efforts, but broadband is equally important and becoming a key factor every day,” Roanoke Connect said. “Access to high-speed internet is of critical importance to employment of residents of Halifax County. Internet service is a key component of our infrastructure that now plays a daily role in job creation and retention.”
Meherrin River Forest Products, a hardwood lumber producer located outside Weldon, approached the Halifax County Economic Development Commission with an internet issue in which low speeds were hampering the company’s ability to perform back-office functions and affecting video conferencing, along with VOIP phone calls.
If they could not find a solution, the company’s administrative functions would need to move to their Alberta, Virginia location.
The economic development commission offered to help find a solution that would retain those functions and those jobs.
Halifax County Economic Development Director Cathy Scott reached out to the incumbent provider for a solution.
That solution’s price tag was close to $100,000.
“Looking at the return on investment, spending $100,000 was not a feasible route for Meherrin to take,” said Don Bright, president of Meherrin River Forest Products.
It looked like the only option would be to transfer this function to Virginia.
Scott asked for more time to pursue other options.
In late 2021, Scott then reached out to Roanoke Connect, a local provider that was steadily expanding their broadband network in Halifax and surrounding counties.
At the time Roanoke Connect’s fiber build was about three miles from the Meherrin facility.
Scott then reached out to colleagues at the North Carolina Department of Information Technology to try to identify a solution.
Neither route provided a solution to Meherrin’s issue as it was difficult to undertake a project to serve one business project.
In June of this year, Angela Gordon, director of marketing and sales for Roanoke Connect, contacted Scott by email, saying the company would be serving Weldon and planned on serving Meherrin. “I could not believe my eyes,” said Scott. “I immediately called Don Bright and gave him the news.”
The build was completed in September and now Meherrin can perform many business functions at the Weldon location that have not been possible in the past.
“We have been looking for an internet solution in Weldon for years.” Bright said. “I am grateful for the partnership with Roanoke Connect and the Halifax County Economic Development Commission that is helping our business be more productive here. Roanoke Connect offered a price that was very reasonable and will allow our company to continue to grow.”
Marshall Cherry, president and CEO of Roanoke Electric Cooperative said, “In the same way railroads, highways, and electricity stimulate commerce among communities, broadband enables small businesses to increase productivity.”
Said Cherry: “As broadband connectivity is more readily available in our region, the business climate will enhance, thus creating more opportunities for our workforce.”