United Way of Southwest Virginia to Develop 87,000 SQ FT Property into Regional Workforce Development Hub
May 19, 2023
Abingdon, VA (May 19, 2023) – United Way of Southwest Virginia (UWSWVA), Food City, and the Town of Abingdon announced plans to transform the former Kmart building in Abingdon, VA into the anchor campus for a region-wide workforce initiative. United Way of Southwest Virginia purchased the property, thanks to a partnership with Food City.
“This is a critical moment for United Way of Southwest Virginia and the communities we serve,” shared Travis Staton, CEO and President. “It would not be possible without the generosity and support of Food City, who has partnered with us on the purchase of the property.”
Food City partnered with United Way of Southwest Virginia to make the purchase of 87,000 square feet of usable space in a prime location at one of the busiest intersections in the town possible.
“United Way of Southwest Virginia purchased this building to serve as an anchor institute for the hub-and spoke model of workforce development that will change our region for the better,” explained Brendan McSheehy, Board Chair of UWSWVA and VP of Innovation & Intellectual Property at Universal Fiber Systems LLC. “Lack of access to early childhood care and education continues to sideline families from the workforce. When families aren’t working, and businesses aren’t running at full capacity, our region is left behind.”
The hub and spoke model is an initiative that began taking shape in 2022 after numerous convenings of community members, educators, private/public sector leaders and families looking to understand, and solve, a lagging economy in Southwest Virginia. From the Rural Summit to Ready SWVA, some of the brightest minds in our region and across Virginia have been working to create a multi-faceted solution to increase economic prosperity in our region and sustain that financial vitality long into the future.
The hub and spoke model consists of the hub, a primary anchor campus in Abingdon, and four smaller facilities located across SWVA. The 87,000-square-foot hub will house:
High-tech STEM labs for teacher training
A licensed, early childhood care and education center.
Workforce development and training programs
A shared services alliance to strengthen our region's 208 existing childcare providers.
The model braids together multiple initiatives and grants to support today’s workforce while building a pipeline of talent within our youngest citizens who will eventually become working adults.
“Like residents across our region, many of our associates struggle to find adequate childcare and Food City is proud to partner with United Way of Southwest Virginia to make this much needed multipurpose facility possible,” says Steven C. Smith, Food City president and chief executive officer.
The property, a former Kmart building located at one of the busiest intersections in Abingdon, is ripe for revitalization, a core component of economic development.
“The repurposing of this building creates permanent jobs, beautifies our town, and prevents communities from becoming distressed,” explains Amanda Pillion, Mayor of Abingdon. “This project is exactly the type of cross-sector reinvestment our communities need.”
United Way of Southwest of Virginia will also be standing up a fundraising campaign to give philanthropists a path for supporting the project and has multiple corporate philanthropy and sponsorship opportunities in the works. While UWSWVA secures $11 in grants for every $1 donated, philanthropy and corporate support remain one of the most viable ways to get projects like this over the finish line.
“Food City is committed to the communities we serve and helping make them a better place to live, work, and raise our children. We’re proud of the great work that United Way of Southwest Virginia has been doing across our community for the past 60 years.’” says Smith. “We’re confident that this project will greatly benefit area families, businesses and the future of our region.”
To learn more about the project, and sign up for updates, visit UnitedWaySWVA.org/Hub
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United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia because they are the building blocks for a good quality of life. Through an initiative-based cradle-to-career approach, United Way of Southwest Virginia is creating sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce. United Way convenes cross-sector partners to make an impact on the most complex problems in our region. Through collaboration with government, businesses, nonprofits, and individuals, United Way innovates for positive, lasting social change. With a footprint that covers nearly 20% of the state of Virginia, United Way of Southwest Virginia programs and initiatives serve the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Floyd, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Montgomery, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe, and the cities of Bristol, Galax, Norton, and Radford.