The switch to new ways of producing and providing power is an aspect of governance that lawmakers and politicians across the U.S. are looking to learn more about. The Franklin-Southampton region is now looking to take advantage of a Federal Grant that will allow the economic development region to explore the possibilities of creating a Biomass Renewable Energy Center in Franklin, Virginia.

The decision to apply for the $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce which will be dispersed over a two-year period was headed by the Opportunity Inc. group. This investment group was made in conjunction with the Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Inc. Over the course of the two-year period, the prospect of developing a biomass research center in Franklin would be explored with the development being paid for in part by the grant.


To make sure the proposal submitted meets the rigorous standards of the U.S. Department of Commerce that has been given the task of evaluating and dispersing the grant to groups meeting its requirements. Those involved with the submission of the grant proposal for Franklin and Southampton believe they have good shot at receiving the funding and establishing an alternative fuels center in the state of Virginia.

The idea for developing what has been initially christened the Center for Renewable Biomass Energy Development in the Franklin area with the funds available being used for developmental reasons. The President of the Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Inc., John Smolak explained the decision has yet to be taken over which community will receive a grant and Franklin faces some stiff opposition. Despite the competition, Franklin and Southampton face if they are to receive the grant the group was moving forward with its plans to create a biomass research center in Virginia. The research alone needed to take Franklin and Southampton into the biomass energy era would take more than $500,000.

The idea behind applying for the grant is to provide the group with the ability to conduct as much research as possible into the possibilities on offer for biomass to be produced in the Franklin and Southampton area. One of the most important aspects of the work being completed by the group is the appointment of a research officer they hope will be paid for by the grant. By paying an expert in the development of biomass energy production the funding required, the option of employing an expert to develop the new center and apply for more grants was one that is being explored. In total, the grant would make its way back to the community in many different ways with more research required if the Franklin area is to become a biomass leader.


Rumors have swirled around the Franklin area for a number of months regarding the location of the proposed Center for Renewable Biomass Energy Development. One of the proposed sites is stated as being the current location of the International Paper mill that is thought to be on the verge of partial closure in the coming months.

The infrastructure available at the mill is thought to be favorable for the development of the biomass development center but a note of caution has already been sounded. Those involved in the development of the research center have stated the loss of over 1,000 jobs is possible if the mill were to close and this would be a problem for the community. A decision about the future of the mill has yet to be reached or revealed to the public which means the current situation is not one that can be sustained. Officials at the biomass company explained any loss of jobs from International Paper would make the new venture in renewable energy would be even more important for the future of Virginia as a whole.

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