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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Rocky Mount receives $500,000 in funds for music center
Tobacco Commission raised its commitment by $300,000
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Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston: Assistant Town Manager Matt Hankins, right, shows Town Clerk Patricia Keatts some of the equipment underneath the stage, which is almost complete, at the Harvester Performance Center.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Virginia Tobacco Indemnification & Community Revitalization Commission has funded a major share of the redevelopment costs of Rocky Mount's Harvester Performance Center.

At its Tuesday meeting near Richmond, the Commission voted to fund $500,000 of the renovation costs of the Harvester, according to Assistant Town Manager Matt Hankins.

The town is turning the former hardware store and tractor dealership into a 500-seat music venue as the centerpiece of an economic development effort focused on growing the local retail economy by increasing activity in the heart of town.

"The Town of Rocky Mount is grateful to the Tobacco Commission for believing in our mission to revitalize our community through music, the arts and tourism," said Town Manager James Ervin. "Our town staff is working hard to make this vision a reality, particularly Matt Hankins, who has been advocating our position with the Commission members and staff, securing an increase from an initial $200,000 commitment to a half-million dollars."

With the Tobacco Commission's $500,000 commitment and investors preparing to commit to nearly $1 million in historic property tax credits, local taxpayers are funding just 45 percent of the redevelopment costs of the Harvester, Hankins said. The town is still looking for major private and corporate donors who want to be associated with the venue.

"We have reached out to private foundations and other donors, and look forward to commitments from donors who believe strongly in the arts and want to lead the effort to redevelop our economy," said Hankins. "I encourage prospective donors to contact me through the town office to explore the opportunities we have available."

Hankins praised the local Tobacco Commission members, legislators and staff who helped secure the Commission's investment.

"Franklin County Board of Supervisors David Cundiff, through his service on the Commission and connections to other members, was particularly important in getting us over the last funding hurdles," said Hankins. "Delegate Kathy Byron, Senators Bill Stanley and Ralph Smith and other regional legislators also led funding efforts on our behalf and rightly deserve applause for recognizing the regional importance of a performance and civic venue like the Harvester Performance Center."

The Harvester Performance Center will announce its initial concert lineup in early February, with tickets going on sale soon thereafter. The center expects to schedule approximately 175 shows per year in a wide variety of musical styles.

The investment has already attracted a new bed-and-breakfast and a new restaurant to downtown Rocky Mount, with both expected to open in the spring.

"The town community development staff has had a significant increase in interest in other available properties as investors look to get in on the ground floor of activity around the Harvester," Hankins said.

Potential donors and investors can reach Hankins at 540-483-0907.

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