Bristol chopped from USDA relocation list

Hank Hayes • Mar 13, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Bristol, Va., did not make the initial cut of communities vying to become a new home of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Tuesday announced the initial down-select list from the 136 Expressions of Interest received from parties in 35 states seeking the relocation.

The USDA said it is following a rigorous site selection process to identify the new locations with involvement from USDA, ERS, and NIFA leadership.

“The announcement of this middle list shows that we are committed to the important missions of these agencies and transparency in our selection process. USDA will make the best choice for our employees and customers,” Perdue said in a release. “Relocation will help ensure that USDA is the most effective, most efficient, and most customer-focused agency in the federal government, allowing us to be closer to our stakeholders and move our resources closer to our customers.”

Last November, regional business leaders and elected officials launched an initiative to seek the USDA relocation to the former Alpha Natural Resources headquarters. More than a dozen businesses and organizations — including Eastman, Virginia Tech, Ballad Health, Food CityEast Tennessee State University and Powell Valley National Bank — had written letters supporting the relocation, which would have resulted in more than 600 jobs. Washington County, Virginia and a local real estate agency were among the applicants for the relocation.

For this initial down-select, USDA said it applied a set of guiding principles against the Expressions of Interest locations including USDA travel requirements, labor force statistics, and work hours most compatible with all USDA office schedules. Sixty-seven Expressions of Interest remain under consideration, including the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and the Roanoke Regional Partnership.