Southern Virginia Welcomes Axxor Group

Axxor Group will invest $4.96 million in its first U.S. operation

IKEA supplier opens first U.S. facility in Southern Virginia

Ringgold, VA (September 30, 2011) Governor Bob McDonnell today announced that Axxor Group, a Netherlands-based company that designs, produces, and sells honeycomb made from paper and water-based glues, will invest $4.96 million to establish its first U.S. operation, Axxor N.A., in Pittsylvania County. The company, which will be located in the Ringgold East Industrial Park, will enter the U.S. market to supply honeycomb core that is used in IKEA subsidiary Swedwood North America's product line. Swedwood North America is located in nearby Cane Creek Centre, an industrial park jointly developed by Pittsylvania County and the City of Danville. The project will create 31 new jobs. Virginia successfully competed against North Carolina for the project.

Governor McDonnell met with officials at Axxor Group in the Netherlands during his European Marketing Trip in July 2010.

Speaking about the announcement, Governor McDonnell said, "Swedwood North America was a transformational project for Southern Virginia, and Axxor Group's investment in Pittsylvania County is an outgrowth of that partnership. When any company establishes a large operation in Virginia we immediately strive to use their presence to draw potential suppliers to the same area. That is what has happened here. Axxor N.A. will supply a component used in IKEA products made at nearby Swedwood. As its first U.S. operation, Axxor Group will now be able to impact the North American market. Announcement's like today's are how you, project by project, build a dynamic, interconnected and thriving regional economy. And the result is more good jobs for our citizens."

"The Governor and I met with Axxor Group in the Netherlands last summer during his European Marketing Mission, and discussed potential investment in Virginia," said Jim Cheng, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade. "It is gratifying that this announcement is a product of that meeting, and we warmly welcome Axxor N.A. to the Commonwealth."

Dutch engineer Wieger Wiegersma started Axxion Industries in 1991 in Holland. Axxor developed the continuous honeycomb production system step by step into the Single Step Core system of today, called the Axxor SSC system. This system is capable of producing honeycomb in an extremely efficient way with all means of process-controlled production. Today the Axxor Group is selling to a majority of the door industry, the furniture industry, automotive suppliers, construction material producers and packaging companies. The Axxor Group partnered with U.S. entrepreneur Robert Boerrigter, who will lead Axxor N.A.

"We at Axxor N.A. are very pleased to establish our base in Virginia," said Boerrigter. "The proximity and our commitment to Swedwood were our starting point, and the proactive and professional business environment that Virginia offered heavily influenced our final decision. In addition to Swedwood, we expect to be serving many other businesses and industries from this facility."

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Pittsylvania County to secure the project for Virginia. Governor McDonnell approved a $50,000 grant from the Governor's Opportunity Fund to assist Pittsylvania County with the project. The Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission approved $100,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds for the project. The company is eligible to receive benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program, the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funding and services to support the company's recruitment, training and retraining activities.

"Pittsylvania County is extremely pleased with Axxor N.A.'s decision to locate their North American manufacturing plant in the Ringgold East Industrial Park," said Tim Barber, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. "This project has taken almost two years, but Axxor N.A. and the Economic Development office continued to overcome the obstacles and bring it to reality. This is also a fine example of the commitment of the Board of Supervisors to economic development and job creation. The bottom line is that Axxor N.A. will add to the County's tax base, occupy a vacant building, and bring much needed employment opportunities to the citizens of Pittsylvania County and Danville."          

"This is another great day for Danville, Pittsylvania County and Virginia," said Delegate Danny Marshall, a member of the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. "Thanks to Axxor for bringing 31 new jobs and $4.96 million in investment to our area."

"Today's announcement that Axxor Group will establish its first U.S. operation in Pittsylvania County is great news for Southside, and I want to thank Governor McDonnell for his leadership and work on this project," said U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt (VA-5).  "This investment will help create 31 new jobs in the area at a time when we need it most and is another positive step forward as we all work to get our economy back on track."

Lindstrand's World's Largest Aerostat Stars at Commonwealth Games

Lindstrand 's world larges aerostat at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India.

The star attraction of the recent Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India was not an athlete or foreign dignitary, but the world's largest aerostat - created by Lindstrand USA, located in South Boston.

The 80m by 40m and 12m high aerostat is a unique piece of technology that is mounted with cameras to provide a 360-degree viewing experience so every person in the stadium could view the entire effect of the aerostat and laser projections. The high-resolution video projection featured animation graphics, parts of the Queen's Baton Relay and much more, and was coordinated with events which took place during the ceremonies.

Governor McDonnell Announces the Center for Applied High Performance Computing in the City of Danville

Noblis announced plans to establish the Center for Applied High Performance Computing (CAHPC) in the city of Danville. CAHPC will be a world-class center for high-performance computing that accelerates the development and commercialization of applications requiring graph analytics for the benefit of the U.S. The Center will purchase the first next-generation Cray XMT supercomputer in the U.S. outside of a federal laboratory or academia. CAHPC will use this high-performance computer to solve complex problems requiring access to large amounts of data.

GSO Aviation to Relocate to Danville

GSO Aviation announces its move to Danville.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner announced the relocation of GSO Aviation, Inc. from Greensboro to Airside Industrial Park in Danville.

GSO Aviation is a Federal Aviation Administration certified company specializing in the repair and servicing of hydraulic components used on aircraft. The company will occupy a new, custom built facility which will enable the business to expand its activities, and it will bring fifteen new jobs to Danville.

Virginia Focuses on Revitalizing Rural Communities

The center's reach spans 16 counties and surrounding cities and has contributed millions to the economy in an area traditionally known for long-gone trades like textile manufacturing, which has gone overseas, and for its role in growing crops like tobacco. The demise of that economy left the area with generations of families where education wasn't as important.

"We were in high cotton here. Factories were going like crazy and tobacco markets were at full tilt and everybody was doing well," said Betty Adams, the center's executive director and a native of South Boston, where 18-wheelers loaded with fabrics from the nearby factory once regularly rumbled past her house.

A combination of state, local and other support has helped "develop an oasis in a desert" for students to get an education without traveling more than an hour away and help train them for current and future job fields, Adams said.

"We need to train people, educate people to use the technology that is really transforming manufacturing, (and) is transforming entrepreneurship," she said. "In little, rural, southern Virginia we're doing some really innovative things and thinking outside the box."

Associated Press - from an article by Michael Felderbaum, AP Business Writer

Bolling hails start of Southern Virginia Regional Alliance

The partners in the venture — Halifax, Pittsylvania, Henry and Patrick counties, and the cities of Danville and Martinsville — offer an abundance of industrial parks, shell buildings and other enticements, and the job of the Alliance will be to sell these regional assets to site selection decision-makers.

Bolling expressed optimism that the additional marketing effort would pay off.

"I am confident that the position of this region is as good as any in the state and better than most to take advantage of an economic resurgence when it happens," said Bolling.

The organization's executive director, Leigh Cockram, said she and her staff are currently developing marketing materials for the region and hope to start meeting with company site selection officials starting in September.

Cockram said the regional pitch would revolve around a message of "this is a place you can come to do business and do it well.

"We have the labor force and the skill set that manufacturers need," she said.

Bolling and Cockram noted that the regional venture will not replace local economic development initiatives but complement them. After the Alliance identifies companies interested in the area, "It'll be up to local developers to sell their communities and seal the deal," said Cockram.

"I know there will continue to be some competition among the partners," said Bolling, "and that's a good thing."

The Southern Virginia Regional Alliance starts with a budget of some $600,000, funded in equal thirds by the General Assembly, the Virginia Tobacco Commission and contributions from each of the six participating localities.

Bolling said the Alliance marks another step in the McDonnell Administration's efforts to turn around the Southside Virginia economy through business recruitment. He pointed to the example of the City of Martinsville, with its high but declining jobless rate, as an indication these efforts are starting to pay off.

"To come from 22 percent [unemployment in Martinsville] down to 17 percent in a little more than a year in a tough economy is an accomplishment," he said.

The latest jobs numbers show that Martinsville had a 17.3 percent unemployment rate in June 2011, down from 21.0 percent in January 2010, the high-water mark in the past 18 months. Despite the declining percentage of unemployed workers, however, Martinsville actually has fewer jobs now (4,920) than it did in January 2010. (4,968). The size of the city's workforce has shrunk by 337 workers in that same period.


Alliance aims to market region

The alliance is a marketing partnership between Henry, Patrick, Pittsylvania and Halifax counties, and the cities of Martinsville and Danville. Leigh Cockram, formerly vice president of the EDC, became the alliance's first director June 15.

Cockram said once a lead for a new industrial project is generated, her job is to determine which localities in the alliance have a building or site that could fit the prospect's needs.

For instance, if a consultant needs a 40,000-square-foot building with 30-foot ceilings, Cockram said, she would scan a database to see what is available in the region that would fit the bill.

Before submitting that information to consultants, she will contact localities and local economic developers "to let them know I'm submitting properties, and see if anything else has come on market" that she is not aware of.

Then, Cockram will submit the information, she said.

Specific localities will be identified by the consultant, based on the needs of their clients, she said.

Although the SVRA will act as a conduit for the lead, "it will be up to each locality" and local economic developers "to seal the deal. I'm just here to complement" economic developers in participating localities, Cockram said.

Although the marketing approach is regional, it also is limited in scope, she said.

For instance, Cockram said, she will not work on small business or entrepreneurial endeavors, downtown projects, existing industries or expansions.

Since joining the alliance, most of Cockram's time has been spent on organizational tasks associated with a new entity.

"We've just developed a logo, and literally what I've been doing the last couple days is compiling information" to create the alliance's website, she added.

Cockram also is putting together a regional profile with information about the six localities in the alliance.

The SVRA office is in the Dan River Business Development Center, "but I travel all over," even working out of her home in Henry County when needed, Cockram said.

She will be on the road by the end of September or the first of October, conducting "face-to-face visits with consultants," Cockram said. She added she also is working on an event to showcase the region by getting various site selection consultants to visit.

The alliance is being funded over two years with $200,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, $200,000 from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and $200,000 combined from the six communities of the alliance, for a total of $600,000.

The Martinsville-Henry County EDC will use funds from its budget to pay Henry County's two-year commitment of $47,642 and Martinsville's share of $12,703 for the two-year period, Cockram said. She added the amount localities pay to participate is based on population.

AERIAL Machine and Tool opens third plant

AERIAL Ribbon Cutting

AERIAL Machine and Tool Corporation was founded by Benjamin Kurz in Long Island City, NY in 1926. Aerial Machine & Tool located its main office and plant on U.S. Route 58, JEB Stuart Highway, Vesta, VA in 1988.

AERIAL is a prime contractor for the US Department of Defense and the company specializes in life-safety equipment, parachute hardware and accessories, belts, harnesses, restraints and case goods.

AERIAL has formidable expertise in specialty products for airborne cargo rigging and airdrops. They offer deployment bags, multi-loop lines and accessories for the smallest to the largest payloads. AERIAL makes all of the basic equipment needed for hoist rescue operations including operator restraints, leg slings, and swimmer restraints. AERIAL's patented helicopter rescue hook is the world standard for both civilian and military search and rescue operations.

In September 2008, the company headquartered in Vesta, VA chose to open a satellite plant in a leased building in Ararat, VA with approximately 30 jobs.

The defense contractor based in Patrick County, VA., opened its third plant in Stuart, VA. That expansion initially created about 20 jobs. The move to Stuart was triggered by production demands for fire-suppression kits that protect fuel tanks of military transport vehicles under enemy attack, requiring the company to double its production of them and hire new employees right away. The production process makes use of a new Gerber cutting machine, which cuts the Kevlar fabric for the fire suppression systems. Their new plant location is the old Spencer Building, at 649 Johnson Street, Stuart, VA, just off U. S. Route 58 four-lane.

AERIAL has a total of three plants and approximately 270 jobs in Patrick County.

Alliance hopes teamwork will add up to more jobs for Southside

Other areas in the state have similar workforce and incentives. What it will come down to is "product" like available industrial parks, shell buildings and graded shovel-ready sites.

One hurdle will be changing the mindset about rural areas because in actuality, the region isn't outdated but progressive, she said. It has major airports within 50 miles, four four-lane divided highways and broadband capabilities.

One challenge with marketing the 3,500-acre megapark is that prospective companies cannot yet see its vision, Cockram said. The master plan currently under work will achieve that.

Additionally, becoming a "certified mega site" by McCallum Sweeney will be a huge help, she added.

Danville City Manager Joe King said getting the park ready is complicated, but the megapark won't be for those companies that could move into the other industrial sites in the area.

"We're looking for that big game-changer industry," King said.

Cockram is concentrating her efforts on attracting advanced manufacturing companies or data center types — those that would fit the entire region. Individual cities will continue to market for their own niches, like small high-tech companies for downtown Danville.

King admitted he had been skeptical of how well the alliance could work, as it had been tried in the past and failed. Yet, this time, all of the region's economic development directors are on board and the effort garnered funding.

He added everyone will need to continue working in an "integrated way" to ensure the success of the alliance.

Max Glass, development council board member and a former vice president of workforce services for Danville Community College, said that the region's localities need to join together to have the strength needed to compete in today's economic climate.

"Being new to this, I think it's a tremendous idea," Glass said. " ... We've got to do this. We don't have a choice."

By the numbers

What's available in the region:

  • 27 industrial parks with 18 shovel-ready sites ranging from eight graded acres to 100 acres
  • 12 shell buildings with the largest more than 100,000 square feet
  • 3,500-acre mega site in development
  • Extended labor market within 25 miles of region: 1.1 million people
  • 10,926 people are unemployed
  • 19 percent of labor market is in manufacturing, compare to 9.6 percent in the U.S

(Source: Leigh Cockram presentation, info updated last in mid-July)

Who is the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance?

  • Danville and Martinsville and Pittsylvania, Patrick, Henry and Halifax counties

The funding for the alliance

  • $600,000 in funding:
  • $200,000 from the state
  • $200,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Commission
  • $200,000 from the cities and counties

ICF announces 539 new jobs for Henry County

Governor Bob McDonnell appears at ICF InternationalICF International, a global professional services firm, will establish its first operations center for Business Process Management (BPM) in Henry County. The $15 million center will create 539 new jobs.

Governor McDonnell said, "This project is truly transformational for Henry County. ICF International is a Virginia-headquartered company that was seeking a location for its first operations center for BPM. An investment of this caliber, as well as more than 500 new jobs, is tremendous news for Southern Virginia."

ICF International partners with government and commercial clients to deliver professional services and technology solutions in the energy, environment, and transportation; health, education, and social programs; and homeland security and defense markets. Since 1969, ICF has been serving government at all levels, major corporations and multilateral institutions. More than 3,700 employees serve these clients worldwide.

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