The Bedford County Office of Economic Development held its first Virtual Quarterly Business Roundtable Meeting on July 28 since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

More than 40 companies around Bedford County participated; several added new jobs and shared lessons learned during the pandemic.

The meeting kicked off with Robert Hiss, Bedford County administrator, talking about the overall state of the county’s economy, as well as the status of the broadband project.

Hiss said that even through the COVID-19 crisis, Bedford County has experienced a record in sales tax numbers. In fiscal 2019, County Sales Tax receipts were $6.4 million. Fiscal 2020 ended June 30 with $7.3 million for annual sales tax. All county revenues were at or above the previous tax year, except for meals tax, which was slightly lower due to COVID-19 closures.

Blue Ridge Towers and its internet service provider company Briscnet was under contract to complete the county towers project on Aug.14 with Montvale, Big Island and Boonsboro launching now.

The county has received its CARES Act funds for localities from the federal government and some of those funds will be used to build some “mini” towers throughout the county to fill in some of the gaps that the county may have once the Briscnet service is activated. At the same time, other broadband endeavors continue with Comcast and Shentel.

In other Bedford County news, while the number of continued unemployment claims filed has dropped to its lowest level since late April, the rate of people filing unemployment claims for the very first time continues to tick up.

There were 1,737 continued claims for unemployment insurance filed in the Central Virginia Workforce Development Area during the week of July 25, according to VEC figures released July 30. Claims in early May peaked at 2,501.

Initial claims had dipped down to 149 with week of July 18 but have since increased to 183 for first-time filers.

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