Economic development announcements in the Southern Virginia (SOVA) Region have surpassed previous trends. Over the past six years the regional and local economic development team, including the City of Danville and Patrick, Pittsylvania and Halifax Counties, has attracted 3,216 jobs and over $700 million in capital investment, recruiting 23 industries and 18 existing industry expansions. A key factor, four metropolitan areas border the SOVA region — Roanoke, Lynchburg, Greensboro and Raleigh/Durham — and the SOVA overlapping labor sheds provide 541,388 employees in a 60-mile radius. Coupled with a strong workforce program from middle school to higher education, SOVA’s talent pool provides unique recruitment opportunities.
The Environmental and Life Sciences Sector in food, beverage and wood products has attracted 10 new companies and seven expansions (1,187 jobs and $437M in capital investment). AeroFarms, Prolam, Golden Piedmont Labs and Tyson Foods have joined existing employers JTI, Ennis and Ten Oaks. Virginia is the second largest Southeastern food and beverage processor with vertical integration from farms and manufacturing to packaging, bottling, warehousing and distribution. Virginia Tech is the #2 college in the nation for Food Sciences and Nutrition, and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) participates in research and industry support. Virginia is also located within the Southeastern “wood basket” which supplies over 60% of the total volume of timber harvested in the U.S., vertically integrated from forestry to primary wood processing.
The High-performance Manufacturing Sector, including automotive, aerospace, energy and electronics, has added eight new companies and three industry expansions (1,079 new jobs and $100M in capital investment). Automotive wins have included Morgan Olson’s start-up and expansions by Amthor and TMI AutoTech, the location of aerospace manufacturers Kyocera SGS Tech Hub and Fastech, and the relocation of Netherlands-based Walraven’s North American headquarters. The Great Opportunities in Technology and Engineering Careers (GO TEC) pipeline development program (exposing middle school students to trade skills) and the Gene Haas Center for Integrated Machining have illustrated hub-and-spoke models to develop workforce pipeline capacity.
The Advanced Materials Sector, including polymer, plastics, rubber, fiber and chemicals, has also grown. It has attracted 429 new jobs and over $152M in capital investment, including two new industries — Staunton River Plastics and BGF’s headquarters and R&D —as well as six expansions like Intertape and Essel Propack. There is also a strong support sector in Information Technology and Professional Services that includes IT, logistics, distribution, data centers and back office support. This sector has added 521 jobs and over $11.9M in capital investment, including activity by PRA Group and Kegerreis Digital Marketing.
In addition to economic development recruitment, the local and regional economic development team has supported the expansion of pipeline workforce development programs as well as quality-of-life assets, including downtown amenities, housing, parks, recreation and entrepreneurism. The momentum promises higher gross domestic products, higher wages for employees and stronger capital investment trends in the region. IALR’s Economic Development division, through the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance, works with the local team to support research, marketing and recruitment of the industries.