Manufacturing Skills Institute Launches in Halifax County

Manufacturing Skills InstituteSouth Boston has been chosen as the home of the new Manufacturing Skills Institute, a public-private partnership to develop skilled workers for advanced manufacturing companies that operate in the region and across Virginia.

The new MSI, a collaboration between the Virginia Manufacturers Association and ECPI University, will be housed at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, where government, education and business leaders gathered for Friday's announcement.

"This is unique and a gem,"said Brett Vassey, president and CEO of the Virginia Manufacturers Association, who said the new center will provide education and training which in turn will spur the creation of manufacturing jobs throughout the region.

The Manufacturing Skills Institute will operate in partnership with the SVHEC, the Modeling & Simulation Center of Excellence at Riverstone Energy Center, the National Center for Coatings Application, Research and Education (C-CARE) and the National Technology Transfer at the Research & Development Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Energy Efficiency (R&D CAMEE), located at the SVHEC Innovation Center.

HanesBrands to add 50 jobs in Patrick County expansion

Hanesbrands recently announced plans to expand its Woolwine plant in Patrick County, Va., through a $1.6 million investment.

The company will upgrade the plant with high-speed manufacturing equipment that will double current capacity and allow the company to increase production of performance fabrics in the women's sports market.

The investment will bring 50 new jobs and retain 215 jobs at the Patrick County operation. In addition, HanesBrands employs a workforce of 400 at its distribution center in nearby Martinsville, Va.

National Tire Research Center Displays New Tire Testing Machine “Flat-Trac LTRe”

Dr. Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, addresses the crowd at the National Tire Research Center ribbon-cutting event in Halifax County.This week, the National Tire Research Center (NTRC) hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the unveiling of its new tire testing machine called the "Flat Trac LTRe."

This high-performance, $11.3 million machine is the only one of its kind. It allows speeds up to 200 mph on car, truck and motorsports vehicles and tests tire performance during acceleration, brake and burnout events, as well as wheel torque capability.

Located in the Virginia Motorsports Technology Park adjacent to the Virginia International Raceway track in Halifax County, the NTRC provides easy access to real-world testing right on a premier race track.

NTRC is an applied research and testing facility established in 2010 through a public-private partnership between the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, General Motors, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.

By combining the industry leadership of General Motors with the research prowess of Virginia Tech, NTRC will focus on developing safer tires that are environmentally friendly, providing higher fuel economy with lower emissions.

Southern Virginia has become quite a hub for the automotive industry. NTRC has partnered with nearby Southern Virginia Vehicle Motion Lab (SoVa Motion), a facility also operated by Virginia Tech that rounds out the region's offering to automotive manufacturers by providing shock and suspension testing, on-vehicle sensing, and full-motion driving simulation.

Virginia's advanced manufacturing capabilities cover all aspects of the automotive industry. To learn why automotive companies have invested more than $1 billion in the Commonwealth over the last decade, click here.

from YesVirginia Business Blog

IT firm moving to Danville

Norhurst will bring staff from Northern Virginia and expand its operations.

“We are gathered here this morning to celebrate resurrection.”

So began the invocation offered Friday by Bob Norton, whose son Tim Norton is bringing the IT company Norhurst to Danville.

Norhurst bought the former Dan River Executive Campus at 2291 Memorial Drive and plans to bring staff from Northern Virginia and expand its operations. Norhurst held a groundbreaking celebration Friday, attended by numerous city and county officials and politicians.

Norhurst will invest $2.3 million and employ 108 people with an average salary of $67,000. The company installs and teaches the use of software such as PeopleSoft, among other services.

The Tobacco Commission has granted Norhurst $625,000 to assist with the building’s renovation. It has suffered significant neglect: The doors have been unlocked, ceilings have fallen, windows have been broken and carpeting is water-damaged. Thieves stole valuable wiring.

Michael McNeely, a Norhurst employee who is helping with the fix-up, said Dan River left behind phones, some furniture and memorabilia.

“Vandals were taking the awards and chunking them out the windows,” said Michael McNeely, a Norhurst employee who is getting the building ready for occupancy.

The announcement was celebrated Friday with a luncheon in the building’s cafeteria — in the dark.

Jason Grey, network manager for the city, worked for Dan River for five years in its executive offices. He said the building is connected to Danville’s fiber optic network, giving Norhurst access to unlimited bandwidth. The computers in the basement ran Dan River’s multiple locations.

“It’s pretty much ready to go once they get their internal renovations done,” Grey said.

Tim Norton said the mid-century modern building is a diamond in the rough.

“The footprint is absolutely perfect for our IT services company,” he said.

Norton is hoping that 60 to 70 percent of the company’s Northern Virginia workforce will make the move to Danville.

“We’d like for them all to come,” he said.

Wilkins and Co. Realtors are sending promotional packets and videos to Norhurst employees to introduce them to the area.

Norton said he hopes to set up a customer help desk center in Danville that would allow them to remotely access customers’ computers and fix them.

“We’ve never had that opportunity in the past,” he said.

He could not say, however, how many new positions would be created.

Norton says IT is the business to be in right now. After leaving the U.S. Army, he went into IT after seeing how lucrative it could be.

“Every single business, school and grocery store is using computers,” he said.

“It’s a very good business to be in,” he said. “But you have to know what you’re doing. You have to have good people. And they have to be happy.”

Daville Mayor Sherman Saunders said these are the types of jobs possible for Danville residents if they’re willing to do what it takes.

“If you are under 60 years old, go back to school,” he emphasized in his speech. “Upgrade your skills for jobs like these.”

Chinese furniture maker brings manufacturing jobs to area

Jeremy Stratton, director of Danville’s economic development department, said the IDA will prepare the shell building for GOK.

“We’re in a time crunch to get it done,” Stratton said. “They [GOK] want to get started quickly and get going by the first of the year.”

Stratton said finishing the interior of the building will take about two months.

GOK has committed to hiring 300 employees by the end of 2015, and expects to have half that number employed by the end of 2013, Stratton said. The overall average wage for employees will be $30,000 a year.

Although the news release stated the company will be “utilizing the latest advanced manufacturing techniques to assemble and finish furniture,” Stratton said very few of the jobs will require technological expertise.

“It’s a lot of hand assembly, old-style assembly; it’s not very automated at all,” Stratton said.

The company has also committed to making capital investments of $12.5 million and the Tobacco Commission provided them with a $1 million incentive to come to Danville.

“The Tobacco Commission is all about improving the economy of the regions that it serves,” Delegate Danny Marshall, also a member of the commission, said. “This project is one which the commission was able to support with a $1 million grant from its Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund, and it is just the kind of project that we need in our community to improve our local economy.”

Two people have already been hired for the Bridge Street office, Stratton said — a local woman and a woman from Los Angeles who speaks Mandarin.

Stratton said the project has been in development for about a year.

“It’s all about relationships and making them feel we’re going to do what we say we’re going to do,” Stratton said.

Chinese furniture manufacturers have been under pressure from the U.S. government to stop flooding the American market with China-made furniture, and high import taxes have been placed on Chinese furniture. By assembling the furniture here, the company will save on some of those taxes, Stratton said.

There are now about a dozen foreign companies that have found business offices and manufacturing facilities in the Dan River Region, Stratton said.

“It’s interesting; everything goes in cycles,” Stratton said of the trend for companies to move to overseas locations. “There’s a big international footprint here. It is quite impressive.”

The company’s president, Kevin Liao, said he was pleased with the location and the relationship built with local governments.

“We have a very good relationship with Pittsylvania County and Danville, which is important for us in reading a decision to make our first investment in the United States,” Liao said in a statement. “The plant’s location is only an hour and fifteen minutes from the vast furniture markets of High Point [N.C.]”

Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders, who also chairs RIFA, said he feels GOK is a first-class company.

“I am delighted that we can accommodate both their headquarters and assembly space in the city of Danville and Pittsylvania County, which demonstrates the importance of working together as a team under the auspices of RIFA.”

Tim Barber, chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, also welcomed GOK to the region.

“We are excited to have a Chinese company agree to create new jobs and invest several million dollars in the region,” Barber said. “The assembly jobs are much needed and will help re-employ our workforce.”

Firm to grow, add 60 jobs

Commonwealth Laminating to buy Patriot Centre building

Jim Cheng, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade, presents a $175,00 Governor's Opportunity Fund check to Jim Adams (right), chairman of the Henry County Board of Supervisors, and Steve Phillips (left), CEO of Commonwealth Laminating & Coating.By PAUL COLLINS - Martinsville Bulletin

Commonwealth Laminating & Coating Inc. on Wednesday announced its second expansion in less than nine months. It will invest $5.45 million to expand its operation in Henry County, creating 60 jobs over about three years with average annual pay of at least $40,000.

Of the $5.45 million capital investment, about $3.15 million will be used to buy the shell building at the Patriot Centre at Beaver Creek industrial park, and about $2.3 million will be invested in site improvements and building improvements and upgrades, according to a performance agreement.

The shell building, on lot 10 at the Patriot Centre, has 105,801 square feet of space and can be expanded to 195,801 square feet, according to information on the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) website.

Mark Heath, president and CEO of the EDC, reminded Commonwealth Laminating officials that there are 300 acres nearby if the company wants to expand even more.

The 60 new jobs must be in addition to the 120 full-time jobs at Commonwealth Laminating's facility at the Patriot Centre as of Nov. 1, 2011, plus the 40 additional full-time jobs promised by the company when it announced an expansion in November, according to the performance agreement. According to a Bulletin article, Commonwealth Laminating announced in November it will invest $16.5 million to expand its manufacturing operation in Henry County and that it would create 40 jobs over the next two to three years that will pay an average annual wage of $50,000.

Commonwealth Laminating is a manufacturing company with a strong emphasis on solar control window films and precision, high-performance coatings, according to the company website.

Steve Phillips, chief executive officer of Commonwealth Laminating, indicated Wednesday that future expansion is likely.

"This almost ensures we will continue to invest here," he said. As for potential future growth, he said each new machine costs $10 million plus, not counting building costs.

Phillips said the company has grown even during the recession. This year, the company expects to reach close to $100 million in sales, about half of it overseas, he said.

Commonwealth Laminating has its headquarters and does all its manufacturing at its existing facility at the Patriot Centre. It has a number of distribution centers around the globe, including in China.

"The new Martinsville site will provide essential warehouse and office space, establish a worldwide master distribution center and create a world-class facility for anticipated future factory expansions," Phillips said in a news release.

Phillips praised Mark Heath and Henry County Administrator Benny Summerlin's involvement, support and commitment.

"It was not our idea initially to make the investment," Phillips said, referring to the project announced Wednesday. "I've gone from cool to super excited," he said. He also said he has gone from considering expanding somewhere else to wanting to do it here and do it bigger.

Jim Cheng, Virginia's secretary of commerce and trade, presented a giant check for the $175,000 grant from the Governor's Opportunity Fund to Phillips, as well as a share of stock in the Virginia Company, which Cheng said was the entrepreneurial venture upon which Virginia was founded.

"The addition of 60 new jobs is particularly welcome news as the region rebounds from a recent plant closing," he said in a news release, and made similar remarks at the economic announcement ceremony in the Henry County Administration Building on Wednesday. "... We are committed to keeping southern Virginia on its upward economic trajectory and will continue to support the effort to bring jobs and investment to the area. Commonwealth Laminating is a valuable corporate partner to Henry County, and we are grateful for its continued commitment to Virginia as the company and its products grow rapidly."

The Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission approved $325,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds for the project. Through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program, the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funding and services to support the company's recruitment and training activities, according to a news release from the governor's office.

According to a performance agreement for the Governor's Opportunity Fund, the Virginia Jobs Investment Program incentive amounts to an estimated $42,000. Other incentives from the commonwealth include an Enterprise Zone Real Property Improvement Grant (estimated) $100,000 and an Enterprise Zone Job Creation Grant (estimated) $176,000. That's a total of $818,000 in incentives from the commonwealth, including the $175,000 Governor's Opportunity Fund Grand and the $325,000 Tobacco Regional Opportunity Fund Grant, according to the performance agreement.

"The locality expects to provide the following incentives, as matching grants or otherwise, for the facility: ... donation of land upon which facility is located, $805,000; donation of a portion of the purchase price of the facility, $209,000; Local Enterprise Zone benefits (estimated), $119,480," the performance agreement states. That totals $1,133,480.

Deputy Henry County Administrator Tim Hall said the county also will extend natural gas to the site at a cost of about $105,000, using Tobacco Commission money that was saved on lot 2 at the Patriot Centre and $20,000 committed by the EDC.

"It's always a great day when we're talking about good new jobs coming to southern Virginia," Gov. Bob McDonnell said in a release Wednesday. "This project represents CLC's (Commonwealth Laminating & Coating's) second major expansion in less than one year, speaking volumes about the company's thriving operation in Henry County."

State Del. Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County, representing the Tobacco Commission, presented a giant check for $325,000 to Phillips.

Merricks called the project "a step forward for Henry County and Martinsville" at a time when the area has been making steps forward and backward. He said the project sends "a clear message to other companies" of excitement and confidence in Martinsville and Henry County.

According to a news release from the governor's office, Virginia successfully competed against Arizona and North Carolina for the project.

River District project called 'game changer'

Danville Regional Medical Center CEO Eric Deaton discusses plans for the former Research Building of Dan River Inc. to be renovated into a facility for Danville Orthopedic Clinic and its associated practices.

from GoDanRiver.com - by Tiffany Holland

Linwood Wright remembers the hustle and bustle that used to fill the halls of Dan River Inc.

Wright, like thousands of others, have seen the place that once reverberated with life in downtown Danville slowly morph into an empty, dilapidated building like a ghost that haunts the city, reminding people of things that once were.

But Friday, people could only talk about things that are about to happen. With more than 100 in attendance, the Office of Economic Development announced the former Research Building of Dan River Inc. will be redeveloped by the River District Development, LLC to house Danville Orthopedic Clinic, Danville Regional Medical Center offices, new commercial businesses and a new restaurant.

Click to enlarge artist's rendering - credit Steven Mantilla
{rokbox text=|Click for larger image| thumb=|images/stories/news/danville-ortho.jpg| thumbsize=|350 269|}images/stories/news/danville-ortho.jpg{/rokbox}

The project — called the River District Tower — is expected to add at least 40 jobs and is a symbolic gesture of people in the area working together to bring the River District back to life.

For Wright, who works in the economic development office, this transition has a special meaning.

"Since it started for me 56 years ago in the River District, it is awfully gratifying to end my career being somewhat involved in the renaissance of the River District," said Wright.

Dr. Mark Hermann, an orthopedic surgeon with Danville Orthopedic Clinic and a principal member of RDD, said he was looking to move the clinic for years since it was outgrowing its space and the Dan River Inc. research facility was a beautiful, historic building that caught his eye.

"I moved here 22 years ago and I always thought it had such mass potential," said Hermann. "So many places that were just dilapidated but you could still use. You don't have to build anything."

Hermann emphasized this move does not just involve doctors, but it is a collaborative effort from people in the region to create a thriving place where people want to live.

"The design of the River District Tower will tell a story of a community that respects its past while at the same time is forging a future," said Hermann. "It should scream out that the Dan River Region is back."

The River District Tower will have four floors, a basement and an attached section with three floors of its own. The two top floors of the tower will house the orthopedic clinic, Southside Pain Solutions, Southside Rheumatology and Arthritis Center, Danville Orthopedic Spine Center, Danville Orthopedic Rehab and Southside Clinical Research and an integrated musculoskeletal center.

The second floor will host DRMC practices and teaching centers and the ground floor will contain multiple lease-able spaces for various businesses. The three section attachment will boast an upscale restaurant overlooking the Dan River.

One of the restaurant's developers, Hal Craddock, compared what Danville is doing to what he has seen in Lynchburg. He said Lynchburg committed $20 million over 20 years to a new master plan in 2000 and 12 years later, it has leveraged $100 million in private sector investment.

Craddock referred to River District Tower's development as a "game changer" and he wants the restaurant to be easily accessible downtown.

"We really want to emphasize we are not planning our restaurants — we are planning your restaurants," said Craddock.

River District Development is investing $14.5 million into the project. The Virginia Tobacco Commission has also provided $250,000.

In addition, the Industrial Development Authority of Danville purchased the Acrees Warehouse and is converting it into a parking facility directly across from Bridge Street to the main building. The Governor's Industrial Revitalization Fund approved $600,000 for the parking facility through the Virginia Department of Community Development.

"With this reinvestment ... not only will the original structures be preserved and brought back to life but they will fuel investment in the River District and improve health care access to the region," said Lisa Atkinson, the Deputy Director of Community Development.

Larry Hasson, a senior architect at Dewberry, presented pictures of how the River District Tower will look. He said for the next four months construction crews will mostly be cleaning the inside of the building out and work will be done on the interior. He and Dewberry interior designer Dodie Hudson said the historic structure and outside of the building will mostly remain the same and the interior will have a contemporary setting with respect to the history of the building.

Hasson hopes the project could be completed by the end of next year.

Guatemalan technology company seems to click with Danville

By Tara Bozick - Work It, SoVa

Web Parts LLC moved from Guatemala to Danville to develop software add-ons and operate a data center.

The company will start with 10 employees and plans to employ 260 people within three years, said owner and founder Brad Mainland. One-third of those positions would be programmers and two-thirds would be various support staff. Overall, Mainland estimates an average employee salary of around $65,000.

Web Parts is currently seeking anyone with proven Java or PHP computer programming skills as the company makes "parts" or add-ons for free downloadable software that may not offer everything a customer needs, Mainland explained.

"We're really just enhancing the free stuff," he said.

The firm's primary clients are website developers, yet Mainland would like to develop add-ons for software used by academic institutions in the long term. Web Parts also plans to do web hosting and other services with the data center to provide its clients more flexibility in saving their work or website "frameworks" for future website projects.

Web Parts, which formed three years ago in Guatemala where Mainland met wife Priscila Del Cid, had considered growing in Michigan, Florida, West Virginia and Hawaii, but chose to invest $10 million in Danville because of the city's high-speed broadband fiber network, which is connected to Washington D.C and Atlanta through Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative infrastructure.

A $1 million grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission will help Web Parts buy necessary equipment to get started. The company is currently housed in the former Masonic Temple on Union Street for one year as it considers a permanent location.

Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders and Delegate Danny Marshall, a tobacco commission member, noted the region is becoming a technology hub for information technology companies. Danville has also attracted EcomNets' data center operations and a supercomputer.

If interested in applying for a job, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information, search "Web Parts, LLC" on Facebook.

Candle maker bringing jobs to Pittsylvania County

The consolidation will bring about 50 jobs to the Dan River Region on June 1, with the number of jobs reaching about 150 during the holiday season, said Jim Ramaker, president and CEO of Virginia Candle Company.

Virginia Candle Co., a Lynchburg business that makes and sells WoodWick and Ribbonwick candle brands, is bringing its distribution and warehousing operations — and some light manufacturing — to the former eToys location.

Company and Pittsylvania County officials announced the company's plans during a ceremony at the facility Wednesday at 9141 U.S. 29 in Blairs.

"This is a big announcement for us in Pittsylvania County and the region, Danville included," Pittsylvania County Economic Development Director Ken Bowman said to attendees. Officials from the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, Danville and Chatham were among those who attended.

Virginia Candle Co., started in 1990 in a garage in Lynchburg, will provide about 50 jobs in Pittsylvania County. That number will grow to about 150 during the Christmas season.

"This is just overwhelming," Virginia Candle Co. CEO and president Jim Ramaker said of the welcome and support the business has received in the community. "We've always been proud of our homegrown status in Virginia."

Ramaker said he expects operations to begin June 1.

The company's top-selling brands include Ribbonwick candles that "offer truly revolutionary innovation with a proprietary, patent-pending wick design that creates a beautiful, mesmerizing flame," according to a news release from Virginia Candle. Its WoodWick brand "features a clean, contemporary look with a natural wooden wick that creates the soothing sound of a crackling fire, while fragrancing a room with genuine, true-to-life scents."

The manufacturer had looked at other locations, including those in Bedford and in North Carolina, before choosing the Blairs site. The business will start out using about a third of the 435,000-square-foot facility, which it will lease, said Angela Bateman, the company's customer service director.

The move consolidates three facilities — two distribution centers in Lynchburg and its light manufacturing that had been done by an outside contractor, Bateman said. The company will manufacture its packaging for candle fragrances at the Blairs location, she said.

During an interview after the ceremony, Ramaker said the Blairs site is accessible from the company's Lynchburg location and has space for expansion. Virginia Candle Co. employs from 150 to 400 in Lynchburg, he said.

Jobs at the Blairs location will include those for pickers, packers, inventory control, assembly workers and forklift operators, Bateman said. The pay will start at slightly above minimum wage, Bateman said.

ICF praised for rapid success

Gov. Bob McDonnell (left) presents a gift to ICF International Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sudhakar Kesavan during Monday's grand opening ceremony at the company's Martinsville facility.

By MICKEY POWELL - Martinsville Bulletin

State officials praised ICF International's rapid success in Henry County during a dedication ceremony for its new building on Monday.

Thirteen months ago, ICF announced it would open a business operations center in an approximately 100,000-square-foot building in the Patriot Centre industrial park, representing a $15 million investment. The building has since been erected, and 173 people work there. The company expects to have more than 500 on its payroll within two years.

"ICF has significant plans to utilize this facility for the long term," Sudhakar Kesavan, chairman and CEO of the company, told several hundred people gathered outside the facility Monday.

"This is a cause for tremendous celebration," Gov. Bob McDonnell said before he and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling took part in a ribbon-cutting.

ICF could have expanded anywhere, but it chose Henry County because its executives "know this is a great place to do business," Bolling said.

When high-tech firms based in Northern Virginia — such as ICF — look for places to expand, "there is no better place for them to go" than Southside, McDonnell said.

That is due to factors such as a good quality of life, support from state and local officials, and efforts by area schools and higher education institutions to ensure the local work force is well trained, state and ICF officials said.

Virginia is regarded by many in the economic development field as the best state in which to do business, McDonnell said.

Henry County-Martinsville has a "terrific business climate," Kesavan said after the ceremony. He mentioned low real estate costs and "the people here" — a quality work force — as factors.

Also, "the enthusiasm that government officials exhibit (to help businesses locate) here is extraordinary," he said.

State officials "work hard ... on a regular basis to try and convince companies to come here," McDonnell said.

In doing so, "we really want to replicate this model" in which a company such as ICF can build a new facility and get it up and running quickly, he said.

Kesavan said ICF is "proud to (help) provide for the continuing revitalization" of the Henry County-Martinsville economy.

Based in Fairfax, ICF provides various professional services to its clients, ranging from market research to processing energy-efficiency rebates.

McDonnell said ICF's success locally can serve as a blueprint for other high-tech companies to set up operations in Southside and improve the region's economy, which he said has faltered in recent years because of the loss of many textile- and tobacco-related jobs.

Del. Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County, recalled that Southside "once carried the state" economically.

Bolling called Mark Heath, president and CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., "one of the best economic development directors you'll find anywhere in the state."

With help from Heath and other officials, "we've been able to accomplish some good things" already in terms of attracting businesses and industries, "but we're just getting started," Bolling said.

"The more we can get companies to invest in this region, the more we can get other companies to consider investing in this region," he said.

Bolling noted that when McDonnell became governor 27 months ago, the statewide jobless rate was 7.2 percent. Since then, state and local officials statewide have closed more than 700 economic development deals that brought more than 120,000 new jobs to Virginia, he said.

The unemployment rate has since fallen to 5.6 percent, he said.

Yet Martinsville's unemployment rate is roughly triple that so economic development efforts must not stop, officials said.

"We must not become complacent" in economic development efforts, said Merricks. In improving the local economy, he said, "we may have won a few battles, but the war is not yet won."

website design by Glerin, Halifax Virginia