By Alex Bridges
FRONT ROYAL -- Efforts to bring new businesses to Warren County and the town are paying off.
The Warren County-Front Royal Economic Development Authority expects to see two businesses open soon, according to Executive Director Jennifer McDonald. The EDA chief gave a report to the Front Royal Town Council on Monday.
Baked Bagels and More on Main Street in downtown Front Royal could open in the next few days, McDonald told council. The shop is located in the former site of Memories Engraving.
Blue Wing Frog picnic market and brew, at 219 Chester St., also plans to open soon.
The EDA also continues its efforts to attract larger employers to the town and county that, if successful, could bring hundreds of jobs to the area. "Project PJ Blue" could mean 200-300 jobs and "Project Osprey" would bring 35-50 jobs. The EDA is in discussion with two prospective businesses looking at the former North American Homes facility on Va. 55, according to McDonald.
The EDA is working with a state agency on "Project Wax," a manufacturing firm that could bring 150 jobs to the area.
"We just don't know yet what they manufacture," McDonald said.
"Project Basil," a food processing company, is a $40 million investment with up to 325 jobs, according to McDonald. Two prospects are considering two spaces totaling 40,000 square feet that would bring 40-50 jobs each, McDonald said.
The EDA also is actively marketing the McKay Springs property. McDonald told council the authority so far has received nine inquiries and made three site visits to the historic property. McDonald noted county staff cleaned up the site.
The EDA continues to receive inquiries about possible business sites downtown. A coffee roaster has identified space on Main Street and the EDA is helping the proprietor seek financing for the business that they hope will be finalized by the end of February, McDonald said. The EDA also is working to find space for a photographer and a company that specializes in rehabilitating foreclosed properties into homes for low-income residents.
The EDA has shown the Second Chance and Vintage Swank spaces to a retail business.
In response to a question by Councilman Hollis Tharpe, McDonald told council a prospective sports bar would not locate in the former Victoria's restaurant as previously reported. However another restaurateur is eyeing the property, McDonald said.
Councilman Thomas Sayre commented that the town still faces a problem with empty properties. McDonald noted that the EDA receives a lot of inquiries that are for smaller spaces.
"Buildings like Second Chance or Vintage Swank or the Kibler building are the larger spaces and they're for sale and not for lease, so that's some of the issues we run into, but we are constantly working with businesses to find space on not just Main Street but Chester Street, the Royal Plaza Shopping Center, all of the places in town that are struggling," McDonald said.
McDonald has said she can't identify the prospective businesses for confidentiality reasons.
The EDA continues to work on the engineering for the former Avtex site. Patton, Harris, Rust & Associates completed the design for the roads and utilities, McDonald said. The authority hopes to complete the building and site plan by Feb. 15 and then submit the documents to the town and county and the other stakeholders of the Avtex site, McDonald said. The work is funded by a $50,000 grant from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
The EDA hopes to hold a ribbon cutting for the site sometime this year, McDonald said.
The authority also has been working with prospective businesses looking at the Avtex site, now Royal Phoenix, as well as property in the Happy Creek industrial park area.
The EDA also is working with a Shenandoah University student on a study aimed at identifying the best companies to try and recruit to locate in Front Royal and Warren County based on demographics. McDonald said she expects the EDA and the intern to complete the study in the spring.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org