What's Happening in Tazewell County

The Well, VCEDA seed capital, Tazewell, Virginia

Lebanon, VA (July 7, 2017) — When Venus Laney was driving down Main Street in Tazewell a little less than a year ago, the idea came — seemingly out of the blue — to open a coffee shop in one of the historic buildings there that she passed every day on her way to work at the Tazewell County Probation and Parole Office.

Not only that, she says, but the name of the shop, “The Well,” came to her at the same time and she had no way to explain it other than it was something she was being led to do by a higher power and as she says without hesitation, “politically correct or not, it was God speaking to me and telling me what my next step should be.”

When the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority announced the opening of applications for its Seed Capital Matching Grant program shortly thereafter, Laney says things begin to fall into place for the coffee shop dream to become a reality.

After her drive down Main Street, she went to her husband, Mike, and convinced him to go with her to look at the empty building on Main Street which once housed the old Clinch Valley Bank and later two jewelry shops in succession. Their business neighbor, Between Friends, located just down the street, helped to arrange a meeting with the landlord of the space the Laneys identified and soon they had their first look at the space.

“It was empty. It was rough and it was unfinished, but we could see right away it was the place to put the coffee shop,” she says. “We wanted to build a place of fellowship, a place where people could connect and we started to see the possibilities.”

But like most business endeavors, the financial realities crept into play and Laney says the couple, both of whom are Tazewell natives, began searching for ways to finance their dream. Mike began researching coffee houses, demographics, watching coffee house YouTube videos and checking into other things the couple would need to run the business. That all took place in the evenings when he got off work from his day job at Power Trac where he works as a purchasing agent. And along the way, the couple met Margie Douglass with the Small Business Development Center.

“Margie really helped us in guiding us through the practical steps to bring our dream to life,” Venus Laney says. “She is also the one who told us about the VCEDA grant so that we could apply.”

Working with Douglass, they applied for the VCEDA grant and learned in June their project was one of five in the region approved to receive $15,000 through VCEDA’s Seed Capital Matching Grant program.

Funds from the grant will be used to buy equipment needed to run the shop and to complete the renovations inside the building which were extensive and most of which were completed by Mike, who put in the sweat equity to get the space refinished. Elements of the old building were highlighted to allow a brick wall to be sealed and left exposed which adds to the historic charm of the space.

“My daughter says he builds my dreams,” Laney says.

The old bank vault is still in place and is now used by the Laneys as a pantry of sorts to store supplies. Mike made the dining tables out of pallets. Two church pews used for seating are a nod to The Well’s subtle theme and chairs purchased from M&E Antiques and More became a flea market flip of sorts, as their wood bases were painted with paint leftover from a previous color used in their home and seat cushions were reupholstered with burlap coffee sacks. An eclectic group of comfy chairs and a rocking chair line one wall opposite a long bar Mike fashioned out of reclaimed wood. He used leftover pieces of stamped tin from the ceiling as a backsplash for the condiments area. Burlap coffee sacks, like those used on the chair seats, were stretched to develop the art which hangs in the shop and large chalk boards display a menu of lattes, espresso, teas, smoothies, bagels, ham rolls, pepperoni rolls and pastries.

“We gave a lot of old pieces new life and new purpose, which is really the whole theme of The Well,” Venus Laney says.

“We named it the Well, because in historic times, the water well was the place of gathering and we want this to be a place where people can gather — where they can discuss their ideas and find common ground,” adds Mike Laney.

The use of “Common Grounds” as a tagline to their business name is not by accident.

“We all have different stories and different backgrounds, but we all have stories and we hope The Well provides a place for people to share their stories with each other,” Venus Laney says.

The Laneys are quick to acknowledge the help of Zazzy Z’s coffee house in Abingdon, which has provided the Tazewell entrepreneurs with lots of advice and staff training prior to the store’s official opening last month.

One of their first employees was Zoe Frank, who had moved back to Tazewell after having graduated from college. Frank was not sure what her next move was going to be when her path crossed with the Laneys at a small business workshop in Tazewell. The rest was history. The twist came when Frank found out the apartment a friend had found and leased on her behalf was actually the apartment located above the coffee shop where she now works.

Currently, the Laneys have a staff of five part-time employees in addition to themselves and they utilize a Burkes Garden Amish baker, Mattie Schlabach who provides the fresh pastries they offer with their coffee and smoothie selections daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday; from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays; and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The shop is closed on Sundays. Catering is available to government offices and businesses surrounding the Main Street business and additional opportunities to grow have also been identified.

“We hope to begin offering acoustic music on the weekends in the not too distant future and we will extend our hours when there are Main Street Tazewell events ongoing,” Venus Laney says.

VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher notes The Well project was a perfect fit for the seed capital matching grant program.

“VCEDA was pleased to be able to approve the seed capital funding for The Well,” Belcher says. “The fund was established to help local entrepreneurs with matching funding needed to help them realize their project goals. The Well presented a good business plan and solid market research, making them just the kind of project the seed capital fund was set up to assist.”

“We are so appreciative of the VCEDA seed capital grant,” Venus Laney says. “Not only does it help us, but it helps us to employ local people and it’s a validation that someone believed in us and believed in our dream to invest in our area like this.”


About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education and emerging technologies. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. or

About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region businesses three years and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $15,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in or plan to operate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton.

Raven Theater Museum Project

Lebanon, VA (May 19, 2017) – Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Executive Director Jonathan Belcher delivered some brief remarks at a press conference Friday at the site of the new Raven Theater and Coal Museum in Tazewell County regarding VCEDA’s involvement in the project. It was announced the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission had agreed to provide the match funding which was needed to allow the renovation and restoration project to move forward.

“VCEDA was pleased to approve the initial grant of $125,000 for this project in late 2016, but noted the grant fund award was subject to the Raven Theater and Coal Museum non-profit group’s ability to secure match funding from another source,” Belcher, who also serves as VCEDA general counsel said. “The announcement of the Tobacco Commission funding approval paves the way for VCEDA to close on its grant award to the non-profit as early as next week.”

Last December, VCEDA approved up to $125,000 for the project through the VCEDA Tourism Capital Improvement Matching Fund provided the non-profit group was able to secure at least $125,000 in matching funds from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission or some other source to be used to renovate and restore the historic Raven Theater. The matching funds requirement is a requirement of the fund from which the VCEDA funds are being allocated.

The Raven Theater was originally built during the Great Depression and was a highlight of the community for many years, operating as a movie theater, with an ice cream parlor being added around 1948.  During these years, it featured westerns and black and white movies popular during that era.  In recent years, a group of local citizens came together interested in renovating and re-opening the theater as a means of bringing tourism to the area.

It was noted that due in large part to donated time, materials and private contributions, much work has already been accomplished on the restoration.  The marquee sign has been restored, the building has been cleaned out and stabilized, new concrete flooring installed, and several other improvements have also been made.

The grant funding will allow the non-profit group to complete the first phase of the project which includes completing the renovation of the theater building, paving the parking lot, acquiring and installing the needed furniture, fixtures and equipment and adding new restroom facilities.

Plans are to show classic movies on a regular basis as a revenue source, as well as hosting musical performances such as bluegrass and gospel music at the theater.  The group would also like to reopen the ice cream parlor, which was popular during its time due to a special recipe for the ice cream. Plans call for the second floor of the building to be used for rental space for meetings and other functions, as well as having a dedicated space for the public to use a computer to assist with job searches and job applications.  Phase II of the project, which would come later, would involve a possible outdoor amphitheater, additional parking and a coal museum to be located on an adjacent piece of property.

Within the first year, it is anticipated the project will employ one full-time and nine part-time employees and within five years, five full-time and seven part-time employees.

Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority
P.O. Box 1060
Lebanon, VA 24266

News Release
CONTACT: Jonathan Belcher
276-889-0381 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Lebanon, VA (April 27, 2017) – The Bluestone Business and Technology Park in Tazewell County will soon be home to a new 40,000-square-foot technology shell building, thanks to a $2.739 million loan from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) to the Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority (IDA).

VCEDA closed on the loan during a brief ceremony at the Tazewell County IDA office today (Thursday, April 27). The VCEDA board approved financing for the project earlier this year. The funds will be used for site grading, site development, building construction, utilities installations and extensions, other improvements and costs associated with the foregoing including legal, permit, architectural and engineering fees associated with the development and construction of the new shell building.

“VCEDA is pleased to assist with this project,” VCEDA Executive Director Jonathan Belcher, who also serves as the authority’s general counsel, said. “As we talk with potential prospects interested in the region, one question we hear often relates to the availability of existing buildings for location. Our inventory of available publicly controlled industrial buildings in the region has been decreasing for several years as those buildings are occupied, and we are pleased to assist in the construction of this building in Tazewell County’s Bluestone Business and Technology Park.

“Tazewell County and VCEDA have already been marketing the future shell building to potential business prospects,” Belcher added.

The new building is the first building to be constructed in The Bluestone Business and Technology Park, located just off U.S. Route 19 in Tazewell County. Funds for the project are coming from VCEDA’s Tazewell County account.  VCEDA also previously provided a $2 million grant to the Tazewell County IDA to assist with the development of the park.

Construction of the new building is expected to begin in June, with completion anticipated in December 2017.

PHOTO Caption:

Among those on hand for the $2.739 million loan closing were, from left, Pat Green, Tazewell County Administrator; Eric Young, Tazewell County Attorney; Doyle Rasnick, Tazewell County IDA Chairman; Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel; and Mike Thompson, Tazewell County Economic Development.



Rocky Gap, VA – October 10, 2016 – AMR, Inc. ( announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire the PEMCO Corporation (PEMCO) (, a leading design, engineering, and manufacturer of electrical and power distribution equipment in Bluefield, VA.  PEMCO provides custom electrical solutions to a wide variety of global industries including Mining, Oil & Gas, Utility, Power Generation, Transit and Nuclear.  PEMCO’s product categories include power centers, substations, dry-type transformers, industrial modular buildings, custom power panels and ground check/ground fault protection devices.  The acquisition will provide customers with an unparalleled power and control experience by combining AMR’s global sales network and electronic monitoring, control and communications product lines with PEMCO’s electrical expertise.

“I have known and respected PEMCO for a very long time.  It is a very proud and accomplished company.  Their team has done an extraordinary job building a reputation for manufacturing extremely high quality electrical solutions,” said Robert Graf, AMR’s Chief Executive Officer.  “AMR and PEMCO share a strong commitment to their customers.  The combination of the companies’ global and local strengths will allow us to expand our product lines and deliver a more comprehensive experience to our customers.  We look forward to bringing together the two companies to deliver the best solutions in the market.”

“By teaming up with one of the industry’s leading monitoring, control, and communications companies, PEMCO will expand its presence and reach a larger audience worldwide.  We plan to leverage AMR’s global sales network and extensive engineering resources,” said Jay Johnson, Executive Vice President of PEMCO.  “We are extremely excited to combine our teams to meet the demands of the mining and industrial marketplace and to deliver improved technology and services to new and existing customers.”

The AMR and PEMCO brands will be merged and marketed as AMRPEMCO.  It will continue to deliver all existing product lines and services while enhancing its marketing to better position the company for faster domestic and international growth.    AMRPEMCO will also utilize the combined engineering resources to better serve its existing customer base and develop new product and service offerings.  New product solutions in the electrical power and industrial building markets, integrated with control and communications features, will help customers save both time and money.

PEMCO Aerial Photo
PEMCO Corporation


With approximately 60 employees and 120,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space, the PEMCO acquisition builds upon, and complements, the core strengths and resources of AMR and its two sister companies, East River Metals, Inc. (ERM) and Custom Manufacturing Services, Inc. (CMS) (   After the acquisition, AMRPEMCO, ERM and CMS will employ 250 talented individuals and operate four manufacturing facilities, totaling nearly 300,000 sq. ft., in the southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia area.   “Merging the sales and engineering resources of AMR and PEMCO is very exciting.  PEMCO’s custom electrical designs and building solutions will greatly enhance AMR’s sales efforts in multiple markets such as international Mining and the U.S. Oil & Gas industry.  In turn, integrating the electronic monitoring, communications, and automation controls expertise of AMR’s technical staff will create a new line of technologically advanced power centers for underground and surface mining,” said David Graf, President of AMR, ERM and CMS.   “However, what is also going to be key to the acquisition is utilizing the extensive manufacturing skills and capabilities at CMS and ERM, which provide precision sheet metal fabrication, electro-mechanical assembly, and powder coating services to AMR and a wide variety of OEM’s in many diversified industries.   We believe making the most of these many resources will dramatically make us more competitive in the marketplace.”

The acquisition is expected to be completed in early November, 2016.

About AMR
AMR, Inc. is a U.S.-based company founded in 1975 to support the mining industry’s demand for improved electrical safety and protection of AC-powered machinery.  Providing the world’s first “pilotless” continuity-type ground check monitors on low and high voltage cables, AMR has sold over 50,000 ground monitor circuits worldwide and now offers a variety of monitoring, control and communications electronics for mining, aggregates, oil and gas, water/wastewater, tunneling and general industry.  Product lines include low to high voltage ground check/fault monitors, atmospheric gas monitoring, wireless communications and tracking systems, collision avoidance solutions, electronic circuit breakers, speed sensors, and tip switches.  Utilizing modern technology to meet the needs of its customers, AMR supplies products that not only increase safety but also improve efficiency and productivity.

AMR has two sister companies, East River Metals, Inc. and Custom Manufacturing Services, Inc.   (, that specialize in low and high volume precision sheet metal fabrication, electro-mechanical assembly, and powder coat manufacturing services.  Headquartered in Rocky Gap, VA with additional facilities in Princeton, WV, the AMR, ERM, CMS team works together through employee and resource sharing.

AMR has representation in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, India, and South Africa.


AMR PEMCO Horizontal Logo



Media Relations Contacts

AMR, Inc.
Gary L. Sergent
(276) 928-1712

James “Jay” Johnson
(276) 326-2611


VCEDA News Briefs 

Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority

October 31, 2016

Tadano Mantis opened up its newly expanded manufacturing facility in Richlands Oct. 20 for an open house for the community and for a group of international dealers who sell the company's cranes. Tadano operates at two locations in Tazewell County and recently completed an expansion that added 20,000 sq ft of manufacturing and office space to its Richlands facility. VCEDA provided a $400,000 loan to Tadano Mantis Corporation in March 2016 to help with the construction of this expansion. The company has 100 employees at its Richlands and Claypool Hill locations. Tadano Mantis also was honored on Oct. 6 by the SVAM (Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing) with an Environmental Stewardship Award for installation of filtering systems that ensure that no pollution will enter the nearby river from the property of the Richlands manufacturing facility. In photo below with the SVAM award are Barry Reeves, left, General Manager of Human Assets and General Affairs, and Shiro Morita, Chief Operating Officer, Tadano Mantis Corporation.