Ribbon-cutting for Buena Vista business a first for new innovation center

BUENA VISTA, Va. (WDBJ) – A ribbon-cutting in Buena Vista was a milestone for a new business there, and a preview of coming attractions for the business incubator where it started.

Buena Vista’s Mundet-Hermetite Factory printed paper products for the tobacco industry. It closed in 2015 after more than 50 years in business. The Advancement Foundation bought the building in September, and now it has a new mission as the Virginia Innovation Collective.

It was fitting that the first official ribbon cutting in the re-purposed factory was for EarthMagic Recycling.

The inspiration that Kathy Wirtanen found in a YouTube video is now a business, diverting glass bottles from the landfill and converting them into colorful sand.

“The recycling rate for glass in the United States is 35% or lower, and in Virginia it’s 15%,” Wirtanen said in an interview. “So I’m really hoping that this will be a stepping stone to help us get our glass recycling rates up.”

Natural Bridge State Park Manager Jim Jones is one of her first customers, with plans to use the product for a new disc golf course now in development.

“As a conservation agency, we want to be just that,” Jones told WDBJ7. “And so this material, the sand, the glass, keeping it out of our landfills and being able to use it on the tee pads of the disc golf course that’s going to be really special.”

EarthMagic Recycling is just one of several tenants in the Virginia Innovation Collective, and several more are on the way.

Planned renovations promise a multi-use building that will be a resource for entrepreneurs and the larger community.

Annette Patterson is President of The Advancement Foundation.

“We really want to have it be a living, breathing campus and be able to showcase these products that are coming out of here,” she said. “And the talent we are finding in every corner of this region is incredible.”

With other businesses built around drones, mushrooms, and egg incubators, Patterson is confident the Virginia Innovation Collective has many more ribbon-cuttings to come.

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