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Small business growth significant in Lebanon

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LEBANON, Va. - Towns across southwest Virginia are trying to energize their economies without relying so much on the coal industry. In one town, leaders believe investment in small business is key. Merritt Neece owned a beauty shop in Lebanon, but when she decided to expand her services in the last year, she wanted to keep her business local. She also wanted to move the business into a house just down from the place she grew up. "I immediately walked in and thought of all the things I could do," Neece said. The staff at Renew Salon and Spa just celebrated a ribbon-cutting right in the middle of downtown Lebanon. Neece is offering the full services of a salon, but bringing additional luxuries like a therapeutic salt room and a massage therapist. "I think they're what make the community. It's what makes the town unique and what gives it character," Neece added. Mayor Tony Dodi says they have added at least five new businesses in the past year, including Restore Community Coffee, Crossfit Beartown, and retail store Sadie's. "The coal mining industry and other parts of the economy that's affected all of southwest Virginia hasn't escaped us. We're trying to do everything we can to make this place and the quality of life better for our citizens," Dodi said. Town officials are in the process of applying for state and federal funds to revitalize the downtown area. They hope to invest more than a million dollars into facade repairs and street lighting. Dodi said, "One thing that's important to us that we think is important is a loan pool available to small businesses and folks who want to open a business, which is basically a match project." It is not just business. At least one landlord with downtown apartments under construction tells us he has reached out to take advantage of exterior improvements.

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