CHATHAM — Project Red is a code-named initiative in Pittsylvania County that has been in the works for over a calendar year. The project could bring $8 million in new money to Pittsylvania County, but local residents have expressed some concerns.
Project Red stems from Virginia's Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, a state-level initiative targeted at Southern Virginia that aims to promote economic growth and development in formerly tobacco-dependent communities like Pittsylvania County, using proceeds of the national tobacco settlement.
The program's money is typically apportioned away from the public eye, including the $8 million sum—a $4 million grant and a $4 million payable loan—which was approved for the county Oct. 9, 2019.
"Now, we have this Project Red," Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-1) said in the Oct. 9 meeting. "I move that the Commission accept the TROF Committee’s recommendation to approve Project Red under a five-year scenario with a grant incentive of up to $4 million and a loan incentive of up to $4 million, for a total incentive of up to $8 million, of which $4 million would be repayable to the Commission. We have a motion, do I have a second?"
Sen. Ruff (R-15) seconded, and the motion passed.
County residents say that, since then, it has been nebulous if the money has ever been touched.
"Since this is not an active economic project, why has this not been made public?" a concerned resident told the Star-Tribune. "Certainly this would be of interest to [county residents]."
Pittsylvania County Administrator David Smitherman told the Star-Tribune that the money "remains available" for future use, but has yet to be touched by county officials.
"We did not draw the funds, nor executed the loan," Smitherman said. "The funds remain available for the county's use in future economic development projects."
It is unknown at this time what the nature is of the economic development projects county administration is looking to hold these funds for, but Project Red remains active on the books despite the $8 million laying dormant for 12 months and counting.