Officials say fish farm holds promise for southwest Virginia

Officials say fish farm holds promise for southwest Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Officials in southwest Virginia on Monday announced plans for a large indoor fish-farming operation that they said would be among the largest private capital investment projects in the economically distressed region’s history.
Pure Salmon will construct an aquaculture facility on the boundary of Tazewell and Russell counties that is expected to employ more than 200 people and process up to 20,000 tons (18,000 metric tons) of salmon a year, according to a news release.
The company will invest about $228 million in the equipment and facility, which the news release said would be the “world’s largest vertically integrated indoor aquaculture facility.”
The project purchased land this summer and applied for land-disturbing permits this fall. Site preparation will begin “in earnest” this winter, and the project is expected to be complete by the end of 2023, the news release said.
State Del. Will Morefield, who has been advocating for the project since its inception, said the site will handle the whole process of raising salmon “from hatchling to processing.”
The project has been years in the making, appearing to languish at times, and has been been approved for at least $14.5 million in public incentives, according to Morefield and an accounting provided by AJ Robinson, the Tazewell County communications and tourism director.
Of that money, $1.5 million is from the Virginia tobacco commission, the economic development entity created more than two decades ago to spend the state’s portion of the national tobacco settlement.
Executive Director Evan Feinman said the commission’s confidence in the project has fluctuated over the years. He said the commission decided to “err on the side of giving them a good shot,” recognizing the significance the project could have.
Commission records show the grant, which can be clawed back if the project doesn’t meet certain terms, was first approved in 2014.
“If it comes to fruition, that’s great news for everybody,” Feinman said.
The project is also approved for $1 million loans from Russell, Tazewell and Buchanan counties, as well as a $10 million loan from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, Morefield said.
The company, if it meets certain qualifications, could also be eligible for a substantial income tax break under legislation Morefield sponsored that’s intended to incentivize companies to locate to economically distressed areas.
Morefield said he was excited for the project itself but also hopeful that other companies will take a close look at the benefits of doing business in southwest Virginia.
Pure Salmon is owned by 8F Asset Management, a global asset management firm headquartered in Singapore.