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TAZEWELL, Va. — Over $3 million in Tobacco Region Opportunity funds have been used to assist current businesses or help establish new ones in Tazewell County.

Nearly half of the $3,258,800 went to the county Industrial Development Authority and was disbursed by them to Dominion Aquaculture LLC or Ecosus LLC, the parent company of Project Jonah.

Project Jonah, a fish farming operation, has been on the drawing board for several years.

“The time is right for you. People are eating more fish because it’s healthier,” Gov. Ralph Northam said during a stop in Bluefield last year.

The company continues to seek private financing in order to make the $135 million project that has promised as high as 400 jobs a reality.

County leaders are optimistic the project will eventually become reality in some form but have already taken steps to ensure the money is secure.

County Administrator Eric Young said earlier this year that the county has put liens on property and equipment held by the company to ensure the funds secured by the county are repaid in the event the project does not come to fruition.

All of the money sent to the county has either been repaid or the companies have met the goals needed to get the funds as grants. Jordan Butler, who handles the public relations for the Virginia Tobacco Commission, said there are currently three loans outstanding with a total balance of $648,000.

Tandano Mantis Cranes, Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems, Trina Health, Blue Wolf Sales and Service and Pyott Boone Electronics are among the companies Butler said have either met their obligations or are in the process of meeting them.

The funds are performance based and can be either in the form of grants or loans or a combination of the two. The money comes from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission which was established in 1999 to administer funds paid to the state by tobacco companies as a result of lawsuits brought by all 50 states.

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