The Southern Virginia Mega Site at Berry Hill has been certified by the Commonwealth of Virginia as infrastructure ready, announced Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball and Stephen Moret, President and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP). Ball and Moret joined Southern Virginia economic developers and community leaders Aug. 30-31 to share this significant update and to participate in tours regarding workforce development and revitalization efforts.

“We are proud to have all of the current pad in compliance with shovel-ready standards and the recognition that the entire mega site is infrastructure ready,” said Matthew Rowe, Director of Economic Development for Pittsylvania County.

The “infrastructure ready” certification is the fourth of five tiers required to ultimately reach “shovel ready,” or tier five, status in the industrial park. According to the tier four requirements of VEDP’s Virginia Business Ready Sites Program, all infrastructure is in place or will be delivered within 12 months, and all permit issues have been identified and quantified. Tier five will be completed as the last step when industry site occupants are identified and permits are in place. There are several active projects currently considering the site, Danville Economic Development Director Telly Tucker shared.

“Virginia is aggressively seeking to maintain its position as the preferred state for business, and today’s achievement is an illustration of the support our area is receiving as another step toward meeting this goal,” said Linda Green, Executive Director of the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance. “We are proud to earn certification of the mega site as ‘infrastructure ready’ and thank the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and Secretary of Trade and Commerce for their integral roles in helping us achieve this significant milestone. Countless other partners helped us through the process; just some include: the Regional Industrial Authority, Pittsylvania County, the City of Danville, Danville Industrial Development Authority, our elected officials and other key leaders.”

The Southern Virginia Mega Site at Berry Hill includes 3,528 acres and boasts 12 industrial lots ready to accommodate a single user or ready for subdivision to suit, with the largest contiguous lot acreage exceeding 2,000 acres. The mega site hails as the largest such industrial park in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is one of only seven to achieve tier four certification. Currently, there are no tier five sites in Virginia. With proximity to major transportation routes, partners with temporary rapid launch space, potential suppliers and a sought-after advanced manufacturing talent pipeline, the industrial park clearly rises as a viable, leading option for top industry contenders and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) operations, particularly within the automotive and aerospace sectors.

“The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research proudly celebrates this noteworthy break-through with fellow economic developers united with our mission to foster economic transformation in the Southern Virginia region,” said Mark Gignac, Executive Director of the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR). “A continued regional approach is paramount to ensure sustained progress and industrial revitalization, securing jobs and growth for our area.”

Ball, Moret, members of their staff and Southern Virginia leaders toured Danville Community College’s (DCC) Engineering and Industrial Technologies (EIT) building on Thursday as well as the Gene Haas Center for Integrated Machining at IALR. IALR’s Director of Advanced Manufacturing Troy Simpson and DCC President Dr. Bruce Scism debriefed the group on the nationally recognized machining workforce pipeline model, which has attracted multiple leading companies like Unison Tube, Overfinch and Kyocera SGS Tech Hub. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson toured the model earlier in the year and noted it as a benchmark program, and just last month, Danville—selected from a group of national contenders—hosted the Haas Technical Education Center Americas CNC Educators Conference, attended by 270 people from 29 U.S. states and Canada. Pittsylvania County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Jones shared information on their middle and high school career and technical education programs, which, like Danville Public Schools, serve as a feeder to DCC’s and IALR’s advanced manufacturing program.

Ball, Moret, members of their staff and economic developers also toured the Danville River District on Friday to showcase revitalization efforts completed to date. Tucker shared the work accomplished as part of a redevelopment project to benefit the downtown Danville area known as the River District, which has served as the commercial and administrative heart of the city since the 1790s. Improvements include streetscape enhancements like new sidewalks, brick pavers, streetlight poles, benches and landscaping; public, outdoor Wi-Fi hotspots; wayfinding signage; utilities upgrades; additional parking; and new amenities like the JTI Fountain, Main Street Plaza and a new trailhead and connector for the Riverwalk Trail. Public seeding has resulted in the purchase of once vacant, deteriorating buildings. The district has attracted its first brewpub, Ballad Brewing, as well as several other newer businesses like Cottontail Weddings and Events, Mucho Taqueria, Cotton at Riverside Mill and others.

For the first time since its inception, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research’s (IALR) Board of Trustees has voted to add a new division to IALR’s structure, the Advanced Manufacturing division, led by recently hired Director Troy Simpson. Troy Simpson

“I am pleased that our leadership has recognized the importance of expanding support of advanced manufacturing, an industry sector critical to our mission of fostering regional economic transformation,” said Mark Gignac, Executive Director of IALR. “By adding an Advanced Manufacturing division to our structure, we further leverage our collaboration with Danville Community College and economic development partners to establish Southern Virginia as the preferred site for industry development and expansion efforts.”

Simpson, IALR’s new Director of Advanced Manufacturing, brings 27 years of experience from Danville Community College (DCC), where he led the curriculum development and implementation for advanced manufacturing. Prior to his time at DCC, he worked in design, tool and die making, and machining for the public and private sectors. Simpson has formed many industry partnerships that have resulted in more than $3 million of support for advanced manufacturing programs. He also has successfully managed more than $8 million of federal, state, and local grants to support these programs. Simpson spearheaded the development of DCC’s Metrology program and the Capstone program at IALR’s Haas Center, which has been recognized nationally as a benchmark model. He serves as the chair of the Pittsylvania Career and Technical Center advisory board and advises other manufacturing programs.

IALR’s Advanced Manufacturing division works with DCC to produce a work-ready talent pipeline of skilled machinists through the existing Gene Haas Center for Integrated Machining located at IALR. The Center’s third-year Capstone program complements the training curriculum offered by DCC and offers a full-scale work flow cell, which replicates the floor of industry facilities. Students can earn a career studies certificate, degree and up to eight industry recognized credentials. The Center has attracted to the area multiple leading companies like Unison Tube, Overfinch and Kyocera SGS Tech Hub. Local industries also may use the space to train employees on cutting-edge technology.

The division will capitalize on the success and national attention of the DCC-IALR advanced manufacturing partnership to date. Just earlier this year, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson toured the Haas Center, noting it as a model program. Last month, the Institute Conference Center was selected as the site for the Haas Technical Education Center Americas CNC Educators Conference; Troy and the Haas Center staff played an integral role in the presentations and workshops attended by 270 people from across the U.S. and Canada.

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) has received funding for two AmeriCorps programs and is seeking applicants for service members to start Sept. 1.

“We are excited to continue the AmeriCorps program and the tangible benefits provided to our members as well as our communities they serve,” said Dr. Julie Brown, Director of Advanced Learning at IALR. “Not only do service members enjoy mentoring and tutoring students on STEM and computer science activities, but they also develop themselves for the next step in their professional career, gain high-quality training, and receive a stipend and an educational award.”

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has awarded IALR a grant for a new ServeIT program to support eight full-time AmeriCorps members as they mentor Danville and Pittsylvania County students in computer science and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-related activities. A pre-apprenticeship program, ServeIT will prepare economically disadvantaged young adults with information technology (IT) and work readiness skills, help them earn certifications and place them in IT apprenticeships or other employment at the end of their service year. IALR, Danville Regional Foundation (DRF) and J.T. Minnie Maude Charitable Trust funds also support this program. Three positions remain open.

CNCS, IALR and DRF have also funded the existing Dan River Year (DRY) program at IALR. This regional program is designed to build the area’s STEM capacity by addressing literacy challenges. Many DRY members are placed in middle schools to combat this issue, and others are placed in service positions within the community; in total, there are over 15 service sites. Remaining positions include 900-hour positions at: middle schools in Danville, Halifax, Martinsville and Pittsylvania County; Danville Science Center; IALR; and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center. A 300-hour position remains open as well at Danville Church-Based Tutorial sites.

“Being an AmeriCorps member has afforded me the opportunity to return to college where I am earning a bachelor’s degree in Human Services and setting new goals,” said Audia Harris, who serves currently as an AmeriCorps member through IALR’s DRY program. She was named as the February 2018 Virginia AmeriCorps Brand Ambassador. “I work with great people and educators, and they encourage me to continue to have a positive impact on the lives that I touch each day. I am proud to be an AmeriCorps member!” 

Audia Harris, Current IALR AmeriCorps Member and February 2018 Virginia AmeriCorps Brand Ambassador

AmeriCorps members receive a stipend and Segal Education Award for their service. To apply, candidates should submit resumes to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information, those interested may visit or contact Dana Silicki at (434) 766-6729.

AmeriCorps is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages millions of Americans in service through AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, and leads the nation’s volunteering and service efforts. For more information, visit

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research serves Virginia as a regional catalyst for economic transformation with applied research, advanced learning, conference center services and economic development efforts. The Institute’s major footprint focuses within Southern Virginia, including the counties of Patrick, Henry, Franklin, Pittsylvania, Halifax and Mecklenburg along with the cities of Martinsville and Danville.