In early 2017, high taxes, poor weather and cost of living contributed to my family leaving the rat race of the Northeast and moving to Halifax County to purchase a small business. My wife and I wanted to find a place we could spend more time together as a family, somewhere with a lower cost of living, and a location we could see ourselves living long term.
We prayed about the list and searched as far west as Arizona and as far south as Georgia but kept coming back to Southside Virginia. Halifax County offered a family like ours (with very little disposable income) the ability to purchase Cozy Cave Self Storage and fulfill our dream of not just owning a business, but the real estate to go with it.
This middle class dream of leaving the workforce and starting up your own business is nearly impossible in the Northeast due to high cost of doing so. Some of the unexpected blessings we received after choosing Halifax County were a sincere, welcoming and supportive community, from the Chamber of Commerce, to our customers and neighbors who took the time to make personal connections with people and the opportunity to
grow and expand our business. These intangibles are the real value of this area that we might not have found elsewhere.
I asked other new business owners in the area why they chose Halifax County. Their answers were both diverse and heartfelt.
Connie Nyholm, owner and CEO of VIRginia International Raceway said, “Harvey Siegel and I chose to resurrect Virginia International Raceway after visiting other abandoned tracks in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland. VIR was the most challenging natural terrain road course with a magnificent setting that would enable us to realize our grand vision for its future. Halifax County’s planning/zoning and building department staff were fabulous to work with and guided us through
the required permitting processes. They have continued to guide and support us as we have grown, including the Halifax County Service Authority developing and maintaining VIR’s utilities.”
Nyholm’s positive testimony regarding county and town boards partnering with business owners is not always the case. In other parts of the country, these same boards see business as an adversary and constantly move to inhibit growth, building expansions and hiring. The symbiotic relationship between Halifax County employees and business owners has laid the foundation for a bright future which will only attract more businesses.
Nyholm praised groups like the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission who, “Provided a special projects grant for the initial utility infrastructure in 2003 and Halifax County Service Authority is working to expand and improve the water system. The Halifax County Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Office, and Southern Virginia Higher Education Center have been terrific to work with and we are very excited to welcome Brian Brown to the Industrial Development Authority as executive director.” It can’t be summed up much better than Connie’s assertion that “Great things are happening in Halifax County!”
New automotive dealer Terry of South Boston came here after sponsoring one of the local festivals. The dealership made contacts within the area and realized how much opportunity was here. General Manager Mark Smith, who commutes from Lynchburg, said, “Everyone knows everyone here.” He emphasized the personal connections in Halifax County make all the difference. “Down here when they (the customer) say they will be back, they actually show up. This is not always the case in Lynchburg.” He said Terry of South Boston loves being here and hopes to have a long-lasting relationship with the residents of Halifax County.
Former resident and financial adviser Cameron Starke recently moved back to Halifax County to help open up an Edward Jones branch. Starke had been working in the Raleigh area and was excited to come home. The reason he moved from a booming economy like Raleigh back to a smaller community and slower pace of life was simple: “I wanted to give back to the people who helped me when I was growing up.”
For him, the difference between the two environments was similar to Smith’s. Cameron noted Raleigh was not as personal due to it being too fast paced. “People don’t take the time to sit down and build relationships in Raleigh,” Starke said. To him, living and working back in Halifax County was a blessing.
It’s more than just a job to Starke; it’s an opportunity to grow and make a difference in the community. “People don’t care about how much you know until they know about how much you care,” he said of Halifax County residents,
It’s clear that what makes Halifax County special is not just the business-friendly environment, but the people. Like Starke, I also feel blessed to be able to call Halifax County my home.
By John Theo Jr., Halifax County resident and author