Shenandoah Valley Economic Directors Shed Light on Success
The summer of 2012 may be remembered as the season of jobs. Industrial expansions are swelling the workforce in Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County. So what's causing the growth, and how can the valley keep it going?
Cities and counties spend years - and millions - planting seeds by building industrial parks, training their workforce and learning what employers need to stay competitive. The past few months have seen that pay off with expansions announced at manufacturers in all three localities.
What do specialized circuit boards, precision surgical blades, and McKee's mini-donuts all have in common? They're all bringing new jobs to high-tech industries in the Augusta County region.
Most recently, Staunton's Carded Graphics announced 34 new jobs. Right next door, Cadence is making a major expansion.
"That's 100-plus jobs in the city of Staunton, specifically high-tech manufacturing jobs," said Amanda Glover with Staunton Economic Development. "So we're really excited about that."
Waynesboro got its share of excitement when PPI-Time Zero announced 50 more jobs by the end of the year.
"It's Department of Defense, it's medical, it's highly sensitive circuit boards, and they need the skilled labor to manufacture that," said Greg Hitchin with Waynesboro Economic Development.
Cultivating those skills requires education, like the Advanced Manufacturing Center at Blue Ridge Community College.
Dennis Burnett with Augusta Economic Development said, "As a region we've continued to invest in workforce and making sure that they have the skill sets ready that are needed when an opportunity like McKee comes along."
During a roundtable talk with NBC29, economic development directors from all three localities share their strategies and the success stories that seem to be piling up.
"We've all had competition for that," Burnett said. "They weren't just handed to us. They all have multiple locations, they've all had other options, and it always come down to - what's the bottom line?"
All three cite relatively low state and local taxes, strategic location and Virginia's right-to-work laws. But there are also intangibles like investing in public schools, arts and culture.
"Companies need to be in a place where their employees want to live for the long term," Glover said. "That saves them a whole lot of money in terms of turnover, retraining costs."
"If you add them all up, sure, other places might have many of the same things," Hitchin. "But we think we have all of those things and can be hugely competitive."
During a strategy session Thursday night, cities and counties up and down the valley will talk business development. They'll hear from two "site selectors" about what companies look for when it's time to expand.
Shenandoah Valley Economic Directors Shed Light on SuccessMore>>