Article from Virginia Business Magazine
Written by Elizabeth Cooper
Southern Virginia is laying out the welcome mat for a growing number of companies seeking to locate in areas with lower taxes, better proximity to supply chains, a skilled workforce and improved quality of life.
During 2022, a variety of businesses, ranging from an automotive education and entertainment firm to a moving and transit company, announced plans to move into or expand in the region. Local economic development officials attribute the burgeoning commercial growth to the region’s investments in shovel-ready industrial parks and workforce training programs, as well as teamwork to promote Southern Virginia and respond to business needs.
For example, Danville and Pittsylvania County have earmarked more than $70 million for workforce training over the past decade, preparing workers to participate in advanced manufacturing. “For the past 10 to 15 years, the region has heavily invested in assets to help attract new investments,” says Corrie Bobe, Danville’s economic development director. “That’s made our region an incredible place to invest in and grow.”
And, while the post-pandemic U.S. economy continues to recover, Pittsylvania County Economic Development Director Matt Rowe says remote work created opportunities for areas such as his to attract companies and workers who could set up shop virtually anywhere. “Quality of life is becoming really important,” he adds.
Meanwhile, progress continues on the Southern Virginia Megasite at Berry Hill, the state’s largest industrial site certified by the Virginia Economic Development Authority.
“Interest in that site is at an all-time high,” says Rowe. “That’s a major investment not just for Southern Virginia but for the commonwealth.”
Danville and Pittsylvania County
“A lot of development and major milestones have taken place over the past year,” Bobe notes.
Work continues on redeveloping Danville’s White Mill, which had been vacant for more than a decade after the Dan River Mills textiles plant closed in 2006. The $100 million redevelopment of the 20-acre property is set to reopen this summer with 110,000 square feet of commercial space and 150 apartments. An additional 100 units are planned in the future. The project is a joint venture between the Danville Industrial Development Authority and Madison, Wisconsin-based real estate developer The Alexander Co. In December 2022, the project received a $5 million boost from the state’s Industrial Revitalization Fund.
Meanwhile, in August 2022, Caesars Entertainment Inc. announced it had entered into a joint venture with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and would be increasing its investment in its Caesars Virginia resort and casino in Danville’s Schoolfield area from $500 million to $650 million. The company broke ground on the project in August 2022, but supply chain issues and labor shortages have delayed its opening until late this year, and a temporary casino is planned to open this summer.
In October 2022, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville opened the $28.8 million Center for Manufacturing Advancement. The U.S. Navy launched an additive manufacturing “center of excellence” at the IALR to train students in defense manufacturing. In addition, the Navy will construct a 100,000-square-foot Accelerated Training in Defense Manufacturing center adjacent to IALR’s manufacturing center, to open by 2024.
In Pittsylvania County, New Jersey-based leafy green producer AeroFarms announced plans in July 2022 to add 66 jobs at its vertical farm at Cane Creek Centre to meet increased customer demand. In total, the company plans to hire 158 people over the next 12 to 18 months.
“AeroFarms is in a high-growth field,” Rowe says. “We were able to show them that they can be successful by continuing to invest and expand in the community.”
In August 2022, Tradesman Trucking announced it would move its headquarters from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Pittsylvania’s Gretna Industrial Park. The moving and transit company will be the park’s first tenant when it opens its $4.5 million, 30,000-square-foot facility by the end of 2023 with 30 employees. Rowe credits the community’s business-friendly environment for sealing the deal. “They fell in love with the town of Gretna and its can-do attitude.”
Danville-headquartered Commonwealth Home Health Care Inc. also is moving into Gretna Industrial Park. Over the next two years, Commonwealth Home Health Care plans to move operations for its three companies — including Commonwealth Document Management and Fire Safe — into a 100,000-square-foot industrial warehouse at the park. The medical equipment company’s $1.635 million expansion includes 26 jobs.
Axxor North America, which develops and produces paper honeycombs for uses such as packaging, construction and automotive components, is investing $3.5 million and adding 21 jobs to expand manufacturing capacity at its Ringgold East Industrial Park plant. The Netherlands-based company is purchasing new machinery through a partnership with a supplier to Ford Motor Co. to produce components for the new Ford Bronco partnership. The machinery was expected to be operational by the end of February.
Hitachi Energy, Halifax’s third largest employer, announced a $37 million expansion of its transformer factory in South Boston in October 2022. The company is adding 26,000 square feet to its 607,000-square-foot facility to prepare for a new production line of large transformers to support the utility and renewable energy markets. In addition, Hitachi will add 165 jobs to its 370-member workforce in Halifax.
A month later, Skip Barber Racing School, the world’s largest automotive education and entertainment company, announced an investment of $8.9 million to move its headquarters from Connecticut to Virginia International Raceway, creating 24 jobs. VIR is building a 25,000-square-foot facility within its Motorsport Technology Park to lease to the company for a performance driving school.
Those announcements came on the heels of the news that Charlotte, North Carolina-based IperionX Ltd. plans to invest $82.1 million to launch Virginia’s first titanium demonstration facility in Halifax. The three-year project is set to bring 108 jobs to the county. (See related story.)
Regenerative agriculture company FyberX Holdings is investing $17.5 million to establish its U.S. headquarters and production operations in Clarksville. The company is moving into the former Kinderton Distribution Center, where it will process hemp and other agricultural commodities and produce fibers for the textile industry. FyberX plans to hire 45 workers for the facility. “We had a building that is perfect for what they needed,” says Angie Kellett, Mecklenburg’s director of economic development.
Having outgrown its space in New Jersey, Worthington Biomedical Corp. is moving into a 50,000-square-foot building in the Roanoke River Regional Business Park. The firm plans to add 15 jobs as part of its $6.35 million investment.
Martinsville and Henry County
In June 2022, Crown Holdings Inc. announced a $20 million, 168,000-square-foot expansion of its metal can production facility at Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre in Ridgeway. The Yardley, Pennsylvania-based company’s original $145 million investment in 2021 was the largest single announcement in Henry County’s history.
In addition to what was covered in the article check out recent announcements from Patrick County!
Patrick County has celebrated the recent announcement of Apex Mills acquiring the former HanesBrand facility. To see the full release see: Fabric and Textile Company to Acquire HanesBrands Inc. Facility in Virginia