Virginia Governor Ralph Northam joined many local and regional officials at the Cane Creek Centre in Ringgold to celebrate the groundbreaking of Tyson Foods' $300 million, 325,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, which is expected to be operational in early 2023. More than 376 jobs will be created at this facility, which will be used primarily for the production of fully cooked Tyson branded chicken products.
"Tyson has a deep history in rural America, and they’ve set a national example on responding to COVID. Their employees are safer for it, and we’re thrilled to see the company put down roots in southern Virginia," said Governor Northam. "The Danville-Pittsylvania County area has built a true economic development resurgence, and that continues to pay off with new jobs and investment from companies like Tyson. Tyson's continued growth and investments are a testament to Virginia's workforce and strong business environment, and we congratulate them on this new facility and look forward to many more years of success."
“It is exciting to finally break ground on such a highly anticipated project which will strengthen the Commonwealth’s long-standing partnership with Tyson Foods and provide a tremendous economic boost to Danville-Pittsylvania County and the surrounding region,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Southern Virginia offers Tyson a highly-skilled workforce and strategic access to major U.S. markets, and we thank the company for investing in the region and creating hundreds of quality jobs for its citizens.”
DANVILLE, VIRGINIA – October 6, 2021 – The Southern Virginia Regional Alliance (SVRA) received funding from GO Virginia through Region 3 Per Capita Funds and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (TRRC) in support of a site development program, paralleling that of Virginia Economic Development’s Partnership’s (VEDP) site characterization program. Ten publicly owned sites have been identified across the region, inclusive of sites in the City of Danville and the counties of Halifax, Patrick and Pittsylvania, to undergo due diligence and engineering studies and elevate their tier levels to a higher ranking while reducing risks for future prospects. SVRA will manage the project with the assistance of the economic development offices of each of the respective localities and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research will serve as the fiscal agent and administrator.
The tier level elevations of the sites, made possible with funding from GO Virginia Region 3 in the amount of $1,534,900 and TRRC in the amount of $454,100, will strengthen the regional site rankings for ready sites in the VEDP characterization program, creating shovel-ready sites to attract companies and create jobs in the region. The region had 33 of 66 available sites evaluated as part of the VEDP site characterization program conducted in conjunction with KPMG and the McKinsey Group. This project seeks to elevate ten of these 33 publicly owned sites on the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program (VBRSP) Tier System to be more shovel-ready. The project will raise seven (7) sites totaling 1,188 acres from a Tier 2 to Tier 4, and raise three (3) sites totaling 311 acres from a Tier 2 to Tier 3 or 4 on the VBRSP scale. The selected sites were based on developability and sector marketing readiness, resulting from third-party architectural and engineering assessments and a developability study by KPMG.
Without sites that have the necessary land-use approvals, environmental reviews and other work necessary to prepare them for construction within 18 months, “another state has a better shot” than Virginia at landing big economic development projects, Stephen Moret, the president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, told the GO Virginia board at their July 12, 2021 meeting. Moret called the study the first of its kind in the country to catalog every potential development site of 25 acres or larger, quantified by its readiness for development in a tiered evaluation system that ranks their attractiveness to national consultants who help big companies and employers find the best sites to expand or move their businesses. Virginia lags behind other states, nationally and regionally, in readying sites for speedy development, but he said the report provides an advantage that competitors don’t have — “site intelligence.”
A groundbreaking ceremony took place Wednesday in Patrick County to widen a 7.4-mile stretch of U.S. Route 58 in Patrick County, the first phase of a project to create a continuous four-lane highway between Virginia Beach and Interstate 77.
The project, part of the U.S. Route 58 Corridor Development Program enacted by state lawmakers in 1989, will cost approximately $300 million, according to the governor’s office. The two-lane section of the highway over Lovers Leap Mountain is currently restricted to tractor-trailers, but that will change once improvements are completed under a November 2020 agreement between the Virginia Department of Transportation and Roanoke-based Branch Civil Inc.
VDOT and Branch Civil signed their public-private partnership in 2003 to develop and widen the highway from Hillsville to Stuart, a 36-mile corridor through Carroll, Floyd and Patrick counties, as soon as state funding became available. Although earlier sections were widened before now, it took 18 years to reach this stretch of Route 58.
“Once the General Assembly prioritized funding for the project, the Virginia Department of Transportation and our partner Branch Civil used an innovative progressive design-build approach to refine the design and advance the project to construction,” state Commissioner of Highways Stephen Brich said in a statement. “This was the first time this contracting style was used in Virginia and supported a new level of engagement between the Virginia Department of Transportation and our contracting partner.”
The section set to be widened is between the Poor Farmers Farm Store in Vesta and the Route 58 Stuart Bypass, and there are two other parts of Route 58 that will be widened at a time to be determined, including a four-mile stretch in Vesta and a 7.2-mile section near Crooked Oak.
Governor Ralph Northam announced that Kegerreis Digital Marketing, an integrated marketing and analytics company, will invest $1.7 million to relocate its headquarters from Pennsylvania to the City of Danville. Virginia successfully competed with Pennsylvania and North Carolina for the project, which will create 62 new jobs.
“Kegerreis Digital Marketing’s relocation to Virginia is proof of the Commonwealth’s ability to attract leading companies from across a variety of industries,” said Governor Northam. “Southern Virginia’s economic resurgence is a powerful success story, driven by the region’s competitive operating costs, reliable infrastructure, and innovative workforce training programs. We look forward to the company’s future success in the City of Danville.”
The company will renovate the 7,000-square-foot former tobacco warehouse at 402 Cabell Street, which will house company executives and serve as the central meeting point for Kegerreis Digital Marketing's widespread workforce. They will occupy space at the Dan River Business Development Center until building renovations are completed.
Founded in 1979, Kegerreis Outdoor Advertising is the tenth-largest billboard company in the country, with over 2,500 billboard displays in seven states along the East Coast, including Virginia. Its subsidiary, Kegerreis Digital Marketing, provides integrated marketing services, such as brand development, billboards, online efforts, and analytics for e-commerce retailers, digital start-ups, venture firms, and local and regional businesses.
“The City of Danville offers Kegerreis Digital Marketing a central location with a strong talent pipeline and a high quality of life that a leading integrated marketing company requires, and we are excited to welcome the company’s new headquarters operation to the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “This project will create more than 60 new jobs for the hardworking citizens of Southern Virginia, and contribute to the city’s ongoing revitalization.”
“Kegerreis Digital Marketing is very pleased to locate our headquarters in the City of Danville,” said President and Chief Information Officer of Kegerreis Digital Marketing Larz Kegerreis. “The quality of life, beauty of the region, and the excellent secondary schools in Danville and Pittsylvania County provide an environment where our employees will love to live, work, and raise their families. The proximity to the Research Triangle and recent surges in economic development within the city make this an excellent time to invest. We are excited to be a part of the future of this region.”
Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Tyson Foods, Inc., one of the world’s largest food companies, will invest $300 million to establish a manufacturing facility in Cane Creek Centre, an industrial park jointly owned by the City of Danville and Pittsylvania County. The company will construct a 325,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility and is committing to purchase 60 million pounds of Virginia-grown chicken over the next three years. Virginia successfully competed with North Carolina for the project, which will create 376 new jobs.
The new facility will be used primarily for the production of premium quality, fully cooked Tyson brand, which includes Any’tizer® Snacks and Chicken Nuggets.
“When corporate partners reinvest in the Commonwealth, it is a strong endorsement of the many attributes that make Virginia the best state for business,” said Governor Northam. “Tyson Foods has been a major employer in Virginia for more than five decades and continues its growth trajectory with this new operation in Danville-Pittsylvania County, creating hundreds of quality jobs for the citizens of Southern Virginia. We look forward to many years of success.”
After completing a national search for a new executive director with the help of an outside consulting firm, the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority has chosen to promote from within, naming Kristy Johnson to the post.
Johnson takes over as IDA executive director from interim director Mike Davidson, a retired Campbell County economic development official who took over leadership of the IDA after the firing of former executive director Brian Brown in the fall of 2020. In her new post, Johnson will be paid $115,000 annually.
Johnson’s hiring comes after the IDA retained Jorgenson Consulting of Greensboro, N.C. to conduct the executive search. The IDA received 28 applications for the position, winnowing that number to four by April and identifying one candidate for consideration.
On Friday, the IDA announced the hiring of Johnson, a Halifax resident who has worked for the IDA for more than ten years, most recently in the newly created role of IDA liaison to Davidson. She has held several positions within the IDA, including Operations Manager, Manager of Marketing and Business Development, Deputy Director and Interim Executive Director.
She takes over as executive director on Sept. 15.
“I look forward to the opportunity to serve Halifax County in this capacity. I am excited to continue my work with the IDA in this new role and working together to better our community,” said Johnson through an announcement of the hiring distributed by the IDA.
Robert Bates, IDA Board Chairman, said, “Assisted by Jorgenson Consulting, we had a strong pool of candidates and Mrs. Johnson impressed both the Search Committee and the IDA Board with her experience, understanding of Halifax County, and her approach to building our community through economic development. We look forward to welcoming Kristy back as a member of our organization.”
Johnson, who resides in Halifax with her husband and three children, has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Georgia Southwestern State University. Along with positions held within the IDA, she has served as the Mayor for the Town of Halifax, served as a member of the Town of Halifax Planning Commission, and has served as the Halifax Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs Committee Chair.
In her role as executive director she will be responsible for directing the operations, programs, and projects of the Halifax IDA. Her first priority will be to deploy and manage a comprehensive plan for economic development, including business recruitment, retention and expansion programs. The Executive Director’s responsibilities also include managing and marketing the IDA’s inventory of land and buildings.
Interim director Mike Davidson, who served as director of the Campbell County Economic Development Department before his retirement in August 2020, said Johnson will be a great asset to the organization and that she and IDA Operations Manager Blair Jeffress will make a great team.
Sterling Lighting LLC, a manufacturer of premium, professional-grade landscape lighting fixtures, cut the ribbon on the firm's new Danville headquarters Thursday morning. The company has relocated to the River City from Sterling after ten years of business in the Urban Crescent.
"Danville is really becoming a manufacturing hub on the East Coast and we're excited to help lead that effort and help other companies do that as well," said Co-Founder Patrick Harders.
Sterling Lighting began to seek a new facility in 2019 after the company underwent unprecedented growth. Harders, along with co-founders Damien Sanchez and Josh Palmer, considered facilities in NoVa, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
"We searched all over, but we kept getting drawn back to Danville," Harders said. "Every time we searched anywhere, it just kept pointing back to Danville. We knew this was going to be our home."
As of 2015, Sterling's products were fabricated in China. Installations constituted the principle revenue stream.
"We wanted to have a facility where we could manufacture our own products right here in Danville," Harders said. "It is so important for our company to manufacture products here and for our country to have a manufacturing base."
The new 24,675-square-foot facility occupies a former Dan River Mills manufacturing site at 116 Maplewood Street, right off Piney Forest Road in Danville. The facility was constructed in 1961 as a duckpin bowling alley.
"Danville has a love of good, solid buildings that can be remodeled and readapted for new use," said Linwood Wright, economic development consultant. "We now have a lighting manufacturer, which Danville has never had, operating in this facility. That is a great story – four major businesses over a period of 60 years utilizing a building that will continue to exist and play a key role in the economic health and development of Danville, Virginia."
Harders credited Danville city leaders and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) for inspiring the metro D.C. company's HQ relocation to Danville.
"I have referred to Danville many times over the last few years as 'The Comeback City,' and I truly believe that with all my heart," said Danville City Councilman Lee Vogler. "It's no secret that, for several years, Danville went through some very tough times. We were about as low as you could possibly get, and then things began to change. I truly believe that in this decade, you're going to see an era of growth and prosperity in Danville like you haven't seen in a long, long time."
Del. Danny Marshall (R-14), who represents the City of Danville and parts of Pittsylvania County in the Virginia House of Delegates, also spoke at the ceremony.
"When Ross Perot said, 'You're going to hear that giant sucking sound,' you can hear it right here in Danville," said Marshall, alluding to the 12,000 employees who lost their jobs when Dan River Mills went under in 2007. "We have been trying to reinvent ourselves, and Sterling is just another example of what we're trying to do here – bring great companies that will bring great jobs here to our citizens."
A crowd of more than 50 attended the ribbon cutting ceremony.
"As we grow, we will continue to add employees and we will continue to bring jobs to Danville," said General Manager Jim Heim. "We are excited about that."
Marketing Coordinator Laura Harders noted that Sterling Lighting is looking forward to opportunities for support and collaboration with advanced manufacturing specialists through the IALR and Danville Community College.
"We believe manufacturing is the backbone of our freedom because it gives us the fortitude and the strength to stand independent as a country," Patrick Harders said. "It is so important to us that we lead bringing manufacturing back to America. We are so excited for this endeavor."
In 2022, the company will fully implement its brand-new line of made-in-America fixtures. Also on the horizon is Independence Audio, a line of outdoor audio systems Harders said he is extremely excited about.
"We will be the very best outdoor audio system in the world, and they will be manufactured right here in Danville, Virginia," he declared. "As people turn on their lights around America and turn on their outdoor audio around America it will forever be associated with Danville, Virginina.
Precision machining — the art of taking something away from a block of metal to create an end product — remains in high demand and Danville Community College graduates are making about $43,000 or more a year as a starting salary in the industry.
Brian Jackson, vice president of workforce services at Danville Community College, said careers in this field include aviation, defense, medical (heart catheters, knee replacement) and automotive where they will manufacture parts.
For example, if an engine in an airplane has had a part that has been worn out or is outdated, airlines may call a machining shop to create that part because that engine part is no longer being built. They will send the specs and the shop will create the items for them using precision machining.
“Precision machining is a process that will be around forever,” Jackson said. “We’re always going to need pieces and parts to be replicated. There will always be a demand.”
In the United States, as labor costs have gone up, machining shops have gone offshore, he said. In Danville, they are trying to bring back advanced technology from China, Thailand, Japan or Korea where labor is inexpensive.