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Virginia Economic Roundup: Sweet Briar Alumnae Mobilize to Save College

 

More than 700 alumnae of Sweet Briar College (SBC) have raised more than $3 million and hired a law firm in an effort to prevent the school from closing.

Citing “insurmountable financial challenges,” interim president James Jones Jr. announced March 3 that the school would shut down permanently in August. SBC, a 700-student, all-female college located in Amherst County near Lynchburg, had operated continuously since 1901.

An alliance of alumnae and faculty are fighting the closure, but worry that current and prospective students will move on to other schools and hurt their efforts. Stacy Lukanuski, a 1985 SBC graduate whose daughter is a freshman at the school, told The Washington Post “Give us time.”

Several other colleges have representatives at SBC this week to help students who wish to transfer. Many schools have waived application deadlines for SBC students, including Randolph College and Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Hollins University in Roanoke and Mary Baldwin College in Staunton.

Defense Department Open to Changes in Base Closing Process

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is open to changes in the way it handles military base closings headed into another round of analysis targeted for 2017.

The changes would not alter the purpose of the Base Realignment and Closure commission (BRAC) as a Pentagon-requested nationwide analysis looms in 2017. The DoD presented its ideas to a Senate panel last week, but no vote was taken and no final decisions were reached.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a member of the panel, proposed his own solution: allow the Pentagon to recommend base closures to Congress, then let lawmakers settle the issue. John Conger, the DoD official who presented his organization’s proposal, said that a nonpartisan commission would remove politics from the base-closing process.

Army and Air Force officials have said that another round of base closings, the first since 2005, is justified by excess capacity. The 2005 process led to the closure of Fort Monroe in Hampton and led to the creation of two joint bases — Joint Base Langley-Eustis, a joint Air Force-Army base on the Peninsula, and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, a joint Army-Navy-Marine base in Northern Virginia.

VDOT Looks to Build I-66 Toll Lanes Inside Beltway

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) kicked off a project Thursday to build toll lanes on Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway in Northern Virginia.

Construction is set to begin in 2016, and the lanes are expected to open in 2017 with some key differences from existing toll lanes, which are managed by Australian company Transurban. The I-66 tolls would be managed by the state and would be in effect only during peak hours.

The lanes will run from Interstate 495 to U.S. 29 in the Rosslyn neighborhood in Arlington.

February State Revenues Up 21 Percent from 2014

Virginia tax revenues rose 21.7 percent year-over-year in February, fueled primarily by reduced tax refunds and increased income withholding.

Tax refunds were down 18.8 percent in February, due in part to an earlier opening to tax season. Income withholding was up 3.5 percent in February.

“We’re where we expected to be at the end of the month and year to date,” House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Hampton Roads Real Estate Experts Optimistic for 2015

Local real estate experts predicted that outside buyers would invest money in Hampton Roads properties in 2015, particularly in grocery stores and multi-family real estate.

Scott Adams, president of the Mid-South region of CBRE, told the crowd at Old Dominion University’s Center for Real Estate and Economic Development market review that five of the top-grossing properties sold in the area in 2014 were bought by outside investors. Fellow panelist Bill Throne, a vice president at the industrial division of Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer, indicated that industrial properties would see a similar level of investment.

Report: Bristol Motor Speedway Generated $417 Million From 2012­-2014

According to numbers released by the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, Bristol Motor Speedway generated $417 million in direct economic impact from 2012-2014. That figure reflects racing and ancillary activities held at the track, as well as charitable events, contributions and tax revenue.

The track’s indirect impact, factoring in the way money from speedway events moved through the area economy, totaled more than $1.4 billion.

“Visitors who come to our area for a race experience are also spending money in our communities, and it’s made a significant impact on our region and all neighboring states,” chamber president and CEO Joy Madison said in a statement.

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