Building Appalachia’s infrastructure has been an ARC investment priority for 58 years, especially the development and maintenance of basic infrastructure systems for water, sewer, energy, and stormwater. ARC’s Area Development Program invested $66.8 million in water and sewer projects alone in Fiscal Year 2022. When thinking about economic growth, however, it can be difficult to connect these investments — such as water tanks and wastewater treatment — to new businesses, creative placemaking, and increased job opportunities in communities.
Bristol, Virginia has made this important connection. By investing in new wastewater treatment processes, the City has attracted new manufacturers to support a budding textile industry.
In 2018, Bristol was facing an exciting opportunity – and a big challenge. The City had spent the last three years seeking a tenant for a vacant manufacturing site and finally found an interested textile manufacturer. As conversations progressed, Bristol realized its wastewater treatment offerings did not have the capacity to clean discharged liquid, known as effluent, containing textile dyes and chemicals.
Using a $500,000 grant from ARC, as well as private investment from the textile manufacturer, the City launched a $1.4 million project to build a wastewater pre-treatment retention basin facility. The new system recycles 80% of the plant’s water and puts it back into circulation for manufacturing. Anything that isn’t reused internally is cleaned and then pumped to Bristol’s treatment facility and, ultimately, returns to local waterways in its original condition. The project also included renovations to the site and foundations.
Now at home in Bristol, the woman-owned manufacturing company currently employs 50 people producing premium bath towels and continues to grow. Team members are paid above average wages, and the manufacturer’s outsourced support services, such as accounting, are sourced locally to increase job growth in the area. The company has also embedded itself in the community by selling flawed towels locally to support United Way of Bristol and turning surrounding property into a nature reserve that’s now home to a family of Canada geese.
According to Mack Chapman, Economic Development Specialist for the City of Bristol, “The company has had an impact within the city by bringing many jobs and a large investment. The ARC grant played a role in bringing the company to the City of Bristol.”