AdvanSix Chemicals Plant Hopewell Virginia Courtesy AdvanSix
by James C. Sherlock
We don’t see very many industrial strikes in Virginia.
Regular readers know that I have often supported blue collar unions in the private economy.
My family roots are linked to Pennsylvania coal mines. Those miners’ strongest claims were for their own safety. Followed very closely by their demands for living wages.
I started researching the story of the current strike by unions representing some 340 workers at the AdvantSix chemical plant in Hopewell with a bias towards supporting the strike.
Safety. I still do support it to the degree that they are striking for worker and plant safety. They reasonably want the company to prevent excessive overtime of current employees under inherently dangerous conditions that require close attention to detail.
Hopewell employees tell stories of consecutive 18-hour shifts.
They want the company to hire more workers to solve that.
But that workforce is far more skilled — better educated and trained, and higher paid – than I assumed.
AdvanSix has been unable to readily fill the jobs that they already advertise. It is hard to attract skilled workers to Hopewell. The company may need to cut production instead.
Wages. I thought I would also support the union wage increase demands in excess of what the company has offered, but I have found that issue is complicated and the public does not have a clear picture of the differences. Continue reading
by Joe Fitzgerald
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. The Hopewell chemical plant where Kepone was born and raised has been cited 66 times over the past eight years for releasing toxic chemicals into the air and into the James River.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch tells the story better than I do. What makes this latest stream of toxins so poignant is the release this week of the book Poison Powder: The Kepone Disaster in Virginia and its Legacy, by University of Akron history professor Gregory Wilson. (From the University of Georgia Press, or from Amazon.)
Wilson’s work is an excellent history that brings alive what so many of us remember from back then. People we knew, including my brother Tom, worked and suffered at the Kepone plant in Hopewell in the mid-1970s. The James River, the cradle of American settlement, was closed to fishing. People who couldn’t spell “ppm” could tell you how many parts per million of Kepone were in their blood.
Tom died last summer, age 67, of what some medical sites call a rare type of kidney tumor that had also attached itself to his stomach and bowel and maybe a couple of organs I’ve forgotten. Kepone? Nobody will ever know for sure. But Wilson’s book makes sure everybody who wants to will know what happened in Hopewell almost 50 years ago.
Courtesy Petersburg Virginia website
by James C. Sherlock
While all of the attention in the state press has been on Petersburg’s proposed casino, the estimable Bill Atkinson of the Petersburg Progress-Index provided insight into other Petersburg requests to the General Assembly for budget amendments.
Badly needed infrastructure projects and a tourism initiative are each tied to the health of both the Appomattox River and the citizens of Petersburg. Continue reading
Posted in Business and Economy, Children and families, Economic development, Environment, General Assembly, Infrastructure, Leadership, Manufacturing, Poverty & income gap, Public safety & health, Water-waste water
Tagged James Sherlock
The Berry Hill mega-site in Pittsylvania County — still waiting for a mega-investment
by James A. Bacon
When you nix what might have been a $3.5 billion investment creating a reported 2,500 jobs in one of Virginia’s most depressed regions, you’d better have a good explanation. But when mammoth economic development deals are wrapped in secrecy backed by non-disclosure agreements, it’s difficult providing that explanation.
That’s the pickle Governor Glenn Youngkin finds himself in following his decision to halt discussions with Ford Motor Co. to build a battery plant in Pittsylvania County. The Governor scuttled Virginia’s bid for the project upon learning that Ford’s partner would be China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., the world’s largest maker of electric vehicle batteries — and what the administration calls a “front for the Chinese Communist Party.”
Not surprisingly, Democrats are criticizing Youngkin, who is contemplating a national run for president, for putting national politics before economic development in Southside Virginia. Sen. Scott Surovell, D- Fairfax, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “To deny [people in the community] jobs because you’re in last place in Republican presidential primaries [is] gubernatorial malpractice.”
The Youngkin administration’s response was weaker than it could have been. Reports the RTD: Continue reading
By Steve Haner
First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.
The Virginia House of Delegates is expected to vote this week to exempt certain Virginia manufacturers, which ones to be determined later, from the coming wave of energy costs created by Virginia’s rapid transition to unreliable forms of power generation. Continue reading
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
There is more good news for the Commonwealth. As reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Governor Youngkin announced on Wednesday that the Lego Group will invest at least $1 billion to build a new manufacturing facility in Chesterfield County. It would be Lego’s only manufacturing facility in the United States.
The company projected that the 1.7 million square foot plant would create more than 1,700 new jobs over a period of ten years.
The company currently has a manufacturing plant in Mexico, but, because the United States is a key market, the company wants to shorten its supply chain issues and reduce its overall carbon footprint. Along these lines, the plant will be designed to be “carbon neutral”. To accomplish this, it will use some offsets. According to the news report, “The factory will also be paired with a solar park, which will be built by 2025 and generate the energy needed for the plant to run.” From the news report, it is not clear whether the electricity produced by the solar farm will be used directly by the factory or whether that is one of the offsets. Continue reading
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
One of the issues underlined by the pandemic was the need for all areas of the state to have access to broadband internet. Without access to broadband, kids (and adults) in rural areas cannot take advantage of courses offered online. To the extent that more people will be working remotely, rural areas need access to broadband in order for those people to move there. Broadband accessibility is necessary for almost all businesses and industries and rural areas will need to have such accessibility if they hope to convince private companies to bring new jobs to their areas.
Thanks to federal funding, the Commonwealth is well on its way to achieving universal availability. The source of most of that funding is the American Rescue Plan (ARP), enacted in early 2021 as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to offset the economic effects of the COVID pandemic. In July of last year, the Northam administration and the General Assembly announced an agreement to allocate $700 million of the state’s ARP funding to broadband expansion. Several months later, that amount grew by $220 million as a result of an allocation from another section of the ARP. Finally, it is expected that Virginia will get $65 million for broadband expansion from the federal infrastructure bill passed last fall. Continue reading
Courtesy Dominion Energy
by James C. Sherlock
We have had multiple discussions, good ones, on the issues surrounding solar farms in Virginia.
Jim Bacon wrote an excellent column about it in February of 2021 titled “The Political Economy of Solar Farms.” It was good then and prescient as of yesterday.
He wrote another one two days earlier. From that piece:
With the enactment of the (Virginia Clean Economy Act) VCEA, Freitas wrote in the press release, Virginia is experiencing extensive land leasing and acquisition by solar developers. More than 180 solar projects accounting for 140 million solar panels are in various stages of approval or construction. Full implementation of the ACT would consume 490 square miles of Virginia’s forests and farmland, an area twenty times the size of Manhattan.
Thanks to President Biden’s new political/industrial policy, those solar farms just got cheaper. And Chinese solar stocks just got more expensive.
Both of which were made to happen because the President removed the tariffs on Chinese solar panels. Readers rationally can be for that action or against it. But the left has settled on the Defense Production Act as a favored service animal.
So, the President, in addition to removing the tariffs, invoked that act as a national emergency response to mandate additional domestic production of solar panels.
Let’s try to pin down the nature of the emergency and the unintended consequences. Continue reading
Virginia Engineering Programs
by James C. Sherlock
Among the things that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has made clear is the vulnerability of Taiwan and with it, the access of the U.S. economy to the 90% of advanced computer chips manufactured there.
The national security requirement for domestic chip manufacturing brings opportunity. It is the nation’s most urgent manufacturing priority. So, why not build the needed plants in Virginia? Is the Commonwealth organized to attract those investments?
For the answer to the last question I looked at the Virginia Department of Commerce and Industry, the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) and Virginia’s engineering schools and found nothing to suggest Virginia is making an organized effort.
Much of Virginia’s headline effort in engineering education is to expand opportunities for Amazon workers in Northern Virginia.
I suggest Virginia focus its Department of Commerce and Trade on chip manufacturing, create dedicated educational consortiums, identify available facilities and workforces like those of the shuttered Rolls Royce plant in Prince George County and offer tax abatement packages to actively recruit semiconductor manufacture. Continue reading