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Pure Salmon will construct an aquaculture facility on the boundary of Tazewell and Russell counties that is expected to employ more than 200 people.

TAZEWELL, Va. — Area businesses can now register on a website to possibly provide goods and services to a $228 million fish farm construction project in Tazewell County.

Called Project Jonah, the huge facility will be located near Richlands and be “the world’s largest vertically integrated indoor aquaculture facility.”

The project is to be constructed by Pure Salmon, a global leader in aquaculture, and will raise and process up to 20,000 tons of salmon annually.

Tazewell County Supervisor Charlie Stacy said excavation continues on the site near the Tazewell County-Russell County line and the facility is slated to be complete in about two years and employ more than 200 people.

“This is something we don’t do every day, with a project of this scale,” he said. “A large-scale project like this tries to tap every local resource available and then they have them lined up in preparation for the work of the construction phase.”

Stacy said hundreds of construction workers will be needed through various stages of the process and they will need goods and services in every step of the work.

The company wants to use local businesses first, he added.

“If they can’t get those locally they have to make other arrangements,” he said. “We want all businesses to at least take a look and register.”

The website is pure-salmonva.com and has an option to click on “Opportunities.”

“We’re seeking partnerships within the local community,” the website says. “We feel these partnerships are central to our success and have provided this tool kit for employment and vendor registration. Your information will be securely held in our database and available to Pure Salmon Virginia as we grow. Effective partnerships are essential to Pure Salmon making this a shared vision with our partners.”

“They need the information,” Stacy said. “This is a great opportunity for local businesses.”

The project will bring a “huge boost” to the local economy during construction and afterwards too, he added, with more than 200 solid permanent jobs.

“We are excited, and we hope all of our local businesses go to the website and register if they have a service to provide,” he said, and that includes food and housing as well.

Project Jonah was a long time in the making and started in 2013 when Del. James W. “Will” Morefield traveled to Israel to look for economic opportunities for Southwest Virginia and saw a facility.

In 2015, a contingent of local officials traveled to observe similar large-scale aquaculture projects.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth was a member of the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors who travelled with local officials to look at pilot projects and said at the time, “The facility we saw under construction was amazing. It was unbelievably large, and our project is going to be ten times that size. The number of jobs required will give opportunity to so many of our residents to stay home and not have to move away for work. We are thankful to have this tremendous opportunity.”

Beginning in 2017, Tazewell, Russell and Buchanan counties, all of whom had been considered as potential sites for the project, began to realize that the fish project “was too big for any on of them to land alone. Together they formed a regional industrial facilities authority, seeking ways to contribute jointly to the local incentives and share the future tax revenue. The counties concluded their negotiations in October 2020, in time to enter an historic revenue sharing agreement, providing the final piece of the local incentive puzzle necessary for the project.”

Supervisors in those counties worked closely together.

The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority also supported the project by offering incentives funded by the Commonwealth’s Metallurgical Coal Tax Credit Program.

More than 200 acres of land near Southwest Virginia Community College was purchased in the summer of 2020 and disturbing permits were obtained this fall. Site preparation began soon after that.

A spokesperson for Pure Salmon said, according to the supervisors, “We are pleased to have chosen Southwest Virginia as the location for our Pure Salmon facility. Our decision was driven by the early support and continued assistance we have received from Delegate Morefield, the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, Tazewell County, Southwest Virginia Community College and the College Foundation as well as the benefits of economic development policies such as HB222. Our aim as a company is to produce clean, healthy and fresh locally produced salmon while providing increased opportunities for the local community.”

The facility will be the size of roughly 28 football fields, Morefield said. “The project has been ongoing since I first traveled to Israel in 2013 seeking out economic opportunities for our region. A lot of people said the project would never come to fruition but we were determined to not give up.”

Morefield said it took the cooperation of local, state and global partners to make the project a reality.

“This is the type of transformational project that we will use on an international level to attract other companies to the Southwest Virginia,” he said.

Pure Salmon, owned by Singapore headquartered 8F Asset Management, has already established a land based RAS (recirculating aquaculture systems) farm in Warsaw, Poland.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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