Ron and Jill Carson Receive Presidential Awards

Ron and Jill Carson received notice last week they were awarded President’s Volunteer Service Award.  The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation founded the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2003 to recognize the important role of volunteers in America’s strength and national identity. This award honors individuals whose service positively impacts communities in every corner of the nation and inspires those around them to take action, too.  This is the first time a couple has been given this award since its inception.  Both Ron and Jill serve on or have served on several volunteer organizations with Ron serving on the 400 Years of African-American History Commission and Jill being active in several organizations including Virginia Organizing as well as being on the Town of Pennington Gap Town Council and Vice Mayor.  The dynamic duo will also be serving as facilitators for a discussion on race relations with the House and Senate. Most notably they are the founders of the Appalachian African American Cultural Center in Pennington Gap.  One thing is for sure, when there is a need they feel they can meet or fill, Ron and Jill Carson will always be ready to volunteer their time and help in any way they can.

Virginia Is Experiencing the 5th Most Forest Growth

One of the most ambitious items on President Biden’s recently released climate agenda is to conserve at least 30% of the nation’s land and waters by 2030, a goal that reflects the administration’s commitment to conservation and reforestation.

It can be easy to overlook or take for granted the impact that forests have, but they are one of the planet’s most vital natural resources. The environmental benefits that forests provide to humanity are nearly incalculable, but suffice it to say that life as we know it would be impossible without our forest lands.

Forest lands process carbon dioxide and turn it into breathable oxygen, which both provides air for us to breathe and reduces the amount of CO2 contributing to the greenhouse gas effect and planetary warming. Trees also help fight flooding and soil erosion and purify air, water, and soil, all of which contribute to a healthier environment. Of course, forests have economic and commercial value as well. Timber has been an important commodity for centuries, used for fuel, construction, and the production of paper and certain textiles. There is often a tension between the desires to maximize forests’ economic utility and to preserve forest lands and their role in a healthy environment.

The analysis found that there are approximately 16 million acres of forest land in Virginia, or about 63% of all Virginia land. Each year, Virginia manages a 2.48 net growth-to-removals ratio of forest trees. Out of the 39 states with complete data, Virginia is experiencing the 5th most forest growth.  This data is something to think about as forest pertains to the environment and the price of timber products increase.

For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on CLIQ’s website: https://www.cliqproducts.com/blogs/news/states-experiencing-the-most-forest-growth

Virginia Experienced the 14th Largest Rise in Unemployment Since COVID

Even a full year beyond the arrival of the novel coronavirus and the ensuing lockdowns, shutdowns, and mass quarantines, the threat of COVID-19 continues to cause significant delays and disruptions in both normal life and in business supply chains.

Appliances, computer chips, and industrial parts have been on backorder for months, outdoor equipment and gear is hard to find, prices on everything from lumber to chicken are up, and many employees are still working from home—if they’re working at all.

2020 saw a tripling of the unemployment rate, from an overall 3.5% in February to a peak of 14.8% just two months later in April, according to BLS statistics. The unemployment rate had never spiked that high in the 73-year BLS record, and it had only ever topped 8% three times before: in 1975, 1982-83, and 2009-12.

To find the states with the largest rise in unemployment since COVID, researchers at Filterbuy calculated the year-over-year change in unemployment rate based on BLS data from 2019 and 2020. Researchers also calculated the total number of unemployed workers in 2020, as well as the annual average unemployment rates for 2020 and 2019.

At the state level, the obvious travel hotspots of Hawaii and Nevada, for example, led America with the largest unemployment spikes in 2020 compared to 2019. Hawaii’s unemployment surged 4.6 times what it had been, while Nevada’s went up 3.3 times.

The analysis found that the unemployment rate in Virginia was at 2.7% in 2019. In 2020, unemployment reached 6.2%. Out of all U.S. states, Virginia experienced the 14th largest rise in unemployment since COVID-19

For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Filterbuy’s website: https://filterbuy.com/resources/states-with-largest-rise-in-unemployment-since-COVID/

Virginia Sees 31.1% Increase in Construction Spending Since COVID

According to a new report from Construction Coverage looking at the U.S. locations residential construction spending, Virginia has seen a 31.1% increase since the onset of COVID-19. Like many other sectors of the economy, residential construction took a sharp dip early on in the pandemic, when lockdowns and the accompanying economic uncertainty paused many activities. Since then, however, spending on residential construction has spiked. Researchers ranked states according to the percentage change in value of new residential building permits from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021. The total value of new residential building permits issued in Virginia during Q1 2021 amounted to approximately $1.9B—up 31.1% from $1.5B in Q1 2020.

More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest economic stories has been the red-hot residential real estate market. Housing inventory is at all-time lows, but low interest rates, government stimulus, increased household savings, and a growing number of first-time millennial homebuyers have led to strong demand nearly everywhere. Stories of fierce competition, bidding wars, and sales that close well above listing price are becoming common in markets all across the country.

When housing supply is low and demand is high, residential construction inevitably picks up as builders and developers try to meet demand. The same is true now. While disruption to global supply chains has driven up the price of building supplies like lumber, residential construction is booming.

The analysis found that the total value of new residential building permits issued in Virginia during Q1 2021 amounted to approximately $1.9B—up 31.1% from $1.5B in Q1 2020 which ranks 28th amongst states.  Neighboring West Virginia is over double that at almost a 70% increase.

For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Construction Coverage’s website: https://constructioncoverage.com/research/cities-with-biggest-increase-in-construction-spending-2021

Volunteers Needed for Bunk Bed Build

The Lee County Chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace is looking for volunteers to help on Saturday for the Bunk Bed Build.  This is part of a national event to help end child bedlessness.  The build will be held in the Family Life Center at Jonesville First United Methodist Church on Saturday starting at 10a.m.  The goal is to build 10 bunk beds on Saturday and volunteers can support this cause by coming and helping or any monetary donations would be greatly appreciated.  To get more information you can email the organization at vickiyoung@shpbeds.org.

Economic Development Authority Receives Name Change Authorization

During their monthly scheduled meeting, the Lee County Economic Development Authority received the necessary paperwork from the IRS authorizing the name change.  The Economic Development Authority had requested the change from their old name, Lee County Industrial Development Authority, to give more emphasis to Economic Development.  The board discussed old business in reporting a pest control company had been contracted to eliminate problems in the England Furniture building in Dryden along with a domain name change for the board’s website.  In other business, it was reported that no bids were received for the feasibility study to have a produce auction in the county.  Advertisements had been placed regionally with no response.  The board received suggestions about contacting firms to do the study directly and was informed that a representative from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services knew of a Richmond based company that could be contacted.

Traffic Stop Leads to Arrest

According to a press release from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, a routine traffic stop leads to a drug arrest.  Sheriff Gary Parsons reports that on June the 7th, Sergeant Mason Cook conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle traveling south on highway 421 which lead to the arrest.  The vehicle’s Virginia Registration was invalid as it was on a 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier but was registered to a 2004 White Dodge SUV.  This prompted the traffic stop.  The driver was identified as Mr. James “Eddie” Regan, Jr., age 42 of 143 Locust Circle in Pennington Gap, and he could not provide proof of insurance at the time.  Utilizing the K9 Sivy on the vehicle, the K9 officer alerted to the passenger side of the vehicle.  Upon search, Sgt. Cook located a backpack in the backseat containing approximately 14.5 grams of Methamphetamine, a 9mm handgun, $5,873 Dollars in Cash and another pill.  An assisting officer, Deputy Robert Grider located two vials in a bag in the trunk that contained an unknown power substance.  Mr. Regan was taken into custody and charged with possession of a Schedule I/II with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm by a non-violent felon within 10 years, possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, possession of a firearm while distributing a Schedule I/II substance and possession of a Schedule III drug.  He is being held without bond, housed at the Duffield Regional Jail.

The full press release can be found here

Virginia Gets 17th Most Summer Rain in U.S.

In May 2021, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their decennial U.S. Climate Normals data, which provides data on typical climate conditions for locations all over the U.S. The conclusions of the data are clear: in recent years, much of the United States has grown both warmer and wetter on average.

Temperature and precipitation data dating back 120 years reveals that much of the increase for both measures has taken place just in the last three decades. Temperatures in the contiguous U.S. are more than 1 degree higher on average since 1995 compared to the 1901–2000 mean. Precipitation levels show much more variance year-to-year, but have gradually trended upwards compared to the historical record in recent years.

Together, warmer and wetter air produce more extreme weather events. 2019 was the wettest year in the U.S. since 1973 and saw 14 weather and climate disasters. In 2020, that number grew to 22—a new record, topping the previous record of 16 set in 2011 and tied in 2017.

Some regions experience the effects of these trends disproportionately based on geographic and environmental factors. Much of the western U.S. is desert, where warming trends have made the region more arid, whereas the southeast is warm and humid and has gotten wetter over time.

The analysis found that historically, Virginia experiences 4.41 inches of rain between May and July each year, compared to the national average of 3.02 inches. In 2020, Virginia had 4.68 inches of rain during the same span— a little over a quarter of an inch more than average. Out of the 48 contiguous U.S. states, Virginia gets the 17th most summer rain. So if you are one that thinks it rains a lot, Virginia as a hold does get a little more than its fair share.

For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Porch’s website: https://porch.com/advice/cities-that-get-the-most-summer-rain

Early Voting Saturday

The Lee County Registrar’s office will be open tomorrow for early voting in the Democratic Primary.   This early voting window will start at 8:30am and end at 4:30pm.  The window to receive an absentee ballot has passed so this will be a great opportunity for anyone wishing to vote in the primary that is unable to for the traditional voting day of June 8th from 6am until 7pm.  For more information, you can call the registrar’s office at 346-7780

Music on Main Today

The first Community Block Party on Main Street in Pennington starts today at 5pm.  6 time Nashville Band of the Year, Railway Express headlines the music with their mix of bluegrass, country, southern rock and blues.  Gate City native, Trevor Meade will open the show along with other fun activities for everyone.  The Virginia Department of Health will also be on hand offering free Covid-19 vaccines to anyone over the age of 12.