Amidst Recession, Some Companies Are Still Investing

Sweet! The Hershey Company is investing $135 million to expand candy production in Augusta County.

by James A. Bacon

Tired of reading about COVID-19 and the culture wars? I’m sure tired of writing about them. For a change of pace, let’s focus on something positive. While the coronavirus-related shutdown continues to depress employment in Virginia — and crowd out good economic news — Virginia has landed a slew of economic development projects in the past month. Here’s a list.

ASGN Incorporated
June 15, 2020
ASGN Incorporated, a Fortune 1000 IT provider, will invest $12.4 million to move its corporate headquarters from Calabasa, California, to Henrico County and grow operations in Virginia Beach, Roanoke and other Virginia communities. The company expects to add 700 jobs.

S23 Holdings
June 16, 2020
S23 Holding LLC, a ship repair company, will invest $64.4 million to establish a corporate and industrial campus for ship repair, manufacturing, and pier rehabilitation in Newport news. The project is expected to create 332 jobs.

BRD Extraction LLC
June 18, 2020
BRD Extraction, LLC, doing busniess as Blue Ribbon Extraction, will invest $3.26 million to establish Virginia’s first large-scale industrial hemp processing and cannabidoil extraction facility in the town of South Boston. The project will create 22 jobs. Also, the company has committed to sourcing more than 90% of hemp purchases — more than $70 million over three years — from Virginia farmers.

Drake Extrusion
June 22, 2020
Drake Extrusion, Inc., a subsidiary of Sweden-based Duroc AB and a manufacturer of colored filament yarn and stable fiber, will invest $6.9 million to expand its operation in Henry County. The project will create 30 jobs.

Metalworx Inc.
June 24, 2020
Metalworx, Inc., a manufacturer of highly engineered and precision-manufactured components and assemblies, will invest $7.6 million to relocate its headquarters and manufacturing functions from South Carolina to the former Core Fitness Complex in Grayson County. The project should create 59 jobs.

Ashton Lewis Holding Company
June 26, 2020
Ashton Lewis Holding Company will invest $11 million to establish a specialty southern yellow pine sawmill in Ruther Glen, Caroline County. The company recently acquired the assets of W.T. Jones & Sons, Inc., a family-owned pine sawmill, saving 44 jobs. The company has committed to source 90% of all pine lumber purchases from Virginia forestland owners.

The Hershey Company
June 30, 2020
The Hershey Company will invest $135 million to expand its manufacturing plant in Stuarts Draft. The Augusta County facility, the second largest U.S. plant in the Hershey enterprise, will create 110 jobs.

Fleetwood Homes
June 2, 2020
Fleetwood Homes, a builder of manufactured homes, will invest $2.1 million to renovate and expand its Rocky Mount facility, creatnig 60 new jobs in Franklin County.

Shore Breeze Farms
July 2, 2020
Shore Breeze Farms will expand operations at it s hydroponic greenhouse facility in Northampton County, increasing its production of Virginia-grown leafy greens by 30%. The company provides lettuces to Virginia public schools, local restaurants, and farm stands. The company did not specify the size of its investment or the number of jobs created.

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15 responses to “Amidst Recession, Some Companies Are Still Investing

  1. Who said we don’t make things anymore! 😉

    What this is saying, at least in part, is that these companies are looking longer term -beyond whenever the virus runs it’s course.

    Amazing…how much our expectations for the number of jobs has come down. We used to want/hope for thousands or hundreds of jobs from one company, now we are happy with a few dozen.

    Do we give credit to Mr. Moret for these?

    • “We used to want/hope for thousands or hundreds of jobs from one company, now we are happy with a few dozen.”

      In general, manufacturing projects have been trending toward more capital investment and fewer jobs for quite some time (largely due to automation, but also because much of the labor-intensive manufacturing shifted offshore).

      At the same time, it’s worth keeping in mind that the big, new projects tend to get far more press than small expansions of existing locations, meaning media coverage generally (but not here) could lead one to think that the average project size is bigger than it really is. Last time I checked, the typical VEDP-supported project is about 50 new jobs. Big projects like Amazon HQ2, ASGN, Micron, or Morgan Olson are relatively uncommon in Virginia as well as other states.

  2. My sense is there’s still a lot of pentup demand. Construction still seems strong. Hospitality and retail still being hit but it doesn’t seem to be a total catastrophe.

  3. Yup, there’s some major “deals” available out there… take pipeline infrastructure…. 😉

  4. Ha. Watch Jim change the subject!

  5. It is especially heartening that most of these announcements have been for projects in rural areas. 22-60 new jobs may not sound like a lot, but they are very welcome in places like South Boston, Henry County, Grayson County, and Franklin County. Even the 110 additional jobs in August will be welcome, although the Staunton/Waynesboro area has been doing well.

  6. Why would anyone start an industrial business in NoVA? The costs are too high and the quality of life too low. As Dick notes, these jobs will be appreciated in rural VA.

  7. Hershey was counter-cyclical in the Great Depression advertising its 5 cent candy bar as an affordable lunch. Perhaps it will also weather the current and continuing hard times well.

  8. We’re all in agreement on the rural and each new job is one less person receiving entitlements but these small companies do have a history of coming and going… they like the lower costs of land and buildings AND labor…and they’re not really looking for highly educated/highly skilled workers – which is good for what it is.

    All over the rural areas are older, now closed, factories… they come and go.

    • You are right about the transient nature of a lot of these companies in Southside and other rurual areas. The hemp processing facility in South Boston is a little different. It is a new company started by two businessmen with strong ties to the area, having grown up there. As Jim pointed out, this operation has the potential to provide more than jobs at the plant. Hopefully, it will encourage the production of hemp in the region, providing a cash crop to take the place of tobacco and reinvigorate agriculture in the region.

      • I’m totally on board with locally-based industry including Hemp and other products even variations of CPD.

        And people do forget – your eggs, your milk, your burgers and chicken and now Wine comes from rural Virginia.

        locally-based industry is worth state economic development dollars.

  9. What’s the alternative? Even companies are faced with the “invest or lose” choice.

  10. well.. it tells us this. There’s a bunch of money sitting around waiting for something to do even now.

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