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W'burg sees investments in city, growth in downtown in 2021

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Jan. 11—WILLIAMSBURG — Despite the challenges and uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, 2021 was a successful year for the city of Williamsburg. Last year, the city and surrounding communities saw multi-million dollar pledges of investments from multiple companies, the promise of hundreds of jobs as a result of those investments, further planning for the city’s waterpark expansion project and the continued effort of revitalizing Williamsburg’s downtown area.

“Immediately what comes to mind are the investments,” noted Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison when asked to look back at 2021. “Some groups of entrepreneurs have decided to put their money into our city even with all the negativity surrounding COVID and the new variants, people not working, and of course the prices going through the roof for building cost,” he added.

Harrison was referencing Firestone Industrial Products Co. LLC and its announcement of a $50 million expansion to its Williamsburg facility last summer. Officials expect the project to bring with it 250 new jobs. Likewise, construction on a second project located near Exit 11 called the Cumberland Mint, a historical horse racing track extension being built to accompany the track being built in Corbin, was also started in 2021. Both the Williamsburg and Corbin locations are expected to create 200 new jobs in the area.

Harrison said that when you tallied Firestone’s pledge and the investments being made for the Cumberland Mint project, along with the city’s plans to expand its waterpark, over $150 million had been invested.

“That’s a heck of a lot of money and confidence in the ‘Burg,” he said. “And I can tell you, I don’t think it’s over.”

With those investments comes challenges, like filling all those jobs coming to the area, said Harrison. He said he considers it a challenge to find people to fill those would-be positions and admits that he’s worried thinking about it.

“We HAVE to get folks back to work,” Harrison stressed. “But not only the new openings, but the openings we have in the city right now,” he added, also noting that the city was currently updating its infrastructure in preparation of the new projects and the potential traffic and visitors they’ll bring.

A part of the city already receiving new visitors is Williamsburg’s downtown area, which has seen a revitalization effort lead to major success. Over the course of the last year, downtown Williamsburg has seen several new businesses open their doors and a previously unused lot turned into a park, providing a new green space, accompanied with a stage, to be used in future events. The city has already begun using the space, utilizing it during its Christmas programming this past holiday season.

Many city officials will tell you the revitalization efforts of downtown Williamsburg were spearheaded by the late Nannie Hays, former Williamsburg educator and Main Street manager. Before she passed away, Hays was instrumental in helping establish many Williamsburg traditions and set it up for success in the years to come.

“She was my mentor and a dear friend,” noted Jonathan Wyatt, who was named Williamsburg’s new Main Street manager this past summer. “When she left us, it left us in shock. However, I am so thankful to be a part of making the place she loved so much a better place,” he added.

Wyatt noted one of Hays’ last contributions to the city, last year’s procurement of a nearly $50,000 facade grant that will aid businesses wishing to participate in an opportunity to update their storefronts. Wyatt said work on upgrading facades would begin later this year.

Williamsburg also saw the implementation of Third Thursdays, a day of the month (the third Thursday) in which the city hosts events and promotes shopping and patronizing downtown businesses. Wyatt said Third Thursdays would make a return in February and that businesses would have flyers in their windows during the event, displaying their specials and sales.

“Our summer event schedule will be jammed packed,” Wyatt said, noting the city would be adding some country into its musical lineups. “We are doing a different set of events in combination with our Old Fashioned Block Parties,” he continued, adding that the city was planning to host family game nights, movies in the park, bingo and karaoke throughout the year.

“Our new board is excited and eager to see downtown blossom,” Wyatt said. “Remember to support local, shop local, share local.”