James Huff, CEO of Abakus Solar USA, which opened a wholesale store on theBoulevardPhoto by Isaac Harrell
In the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis, Henrico County was reeling â€" bleeding jobs and stuck with empty office space after the collapses of large employers Circuit City, LandAmerica and Qimonda. But several years later, Henricoâ€™s economic-development landscape is turning around.
Henrico has led the region in big-business development during the last year, with more than $90 million in new investments, says Greg Wingfield, president of the Greater Richmond Partnership. â€œWeâ€™re seeing a good diversityâ€ of business sectors growing in Henrico, ranging from technology to insurance and finance, he says. â€œThey still have a fair amount of office space available, but not as much as they did a year ago.â€
Many in Henrico credit the turnaround to Gary McLaren, who took over as executive director of the Henrico County Development Authority in early 2009 and has aggressively marketed the countyâ€™s business attributes ever since.
McLaren and Wingfield expect more announcements in 2012 based on the number of companies that made exploratory visits to the Richmond area in 2011.
â€œIf you look at other parts of the country, weâ€™ve done pretty well,â€ McLaren says of the regionâ€™s economic development efforts. â€œAre we out of the woods yet? No, but â€¦ I feel pretty good about the progress weâ€™ve made.â€
Among the deals and expansions happening on McLarenâ€™s watch in Henrico recently:
Capital One Financial Corp. invested $18 million for a new call center and operations center in Innsbrook, hiring 700 new workers in Henrico.
Fareva, an international contract manufacturer, invested $42 million in the recently shuttered Pfizer manufacturing plant on Darbytown Road in Eastern Henrico, preserving all 500 of the Pfizer employeesâ€™ jobs and adding 90 more. (â€œThat was a big save for Henrico,â€ MacLaren notes proudly.)
General Electric unveiled plans to build a $5 million cyber-security technology center in Innsbrook, creating 200 new high-tech jobs paying an average salary of $100,000 each.
Bank of America purchased 65 acres in Eastern Henricoâ€™s White Oak Technology Park for $910,000 for a new operating center expected to create more than 100 jobs.
Zeller+Gmelin Corp., an international printing-ink manufacturer, invested$4.5 million in a new 88,000-square-foot headquarters and manufacturing center off Laburnum Avenue, employing 55 workers.
Wachovia expects to add 220 full-time positions to its call center in Innsbrook.
PPD Inc., a global pharmaceutical research and development firm, expects to add 190 employees to its lab-services division in Henrico over the next three years.
Travel insurer Mondial Assistance has taken over Circuit Cityâ€™s former corporate headquarters in Henricoâ€™s Deep Run Office Park, expanding operations from 870 workers to more than 1,000 by 2012.
Medical-supplies manufacturer Care Point Medical opened a $2 million, 21,000-square-foot headquarters in Innsbrook, adding 200 new jobs.
National online job-search service and software developer Snagajob announced plans to expand its rapidly growing business from 225 employees to 300 at its Innsbrook headquarters by the end of 2011.
Elsewhere in the Richmond region, other not-able economic development news includes:
The City of Richmond
Since its founding in 2009, Health Diagnostic Laboratory Inc. (HDL) has rocketed from a startup medical lab with 11 staff members to a booming corporation that plans to employ about 1,000 workers. Based in the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park in Jackson Ward, the blood-analysis laboratory has announced plans for a $68 million expansion, to begin early this year. It will ultimately increase the companyâ€™s staff by more than 300 percent, adding 650 new employees to its present staff of 350. HDL specializes in early detection of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Richmond also added an 11th Fortune 1000 company last year when NewMarket Corp. (parent company to chemical manufacturers Afton Chemical Corp. and Ethyl Corp.) made the list. Other notable city business ventures include a wholesale solar-energy components store on the Boulevard, which was opened by Abakus Solar USA, a division of German solar-panel manufacturer Abakus Solar AG.
Chesterfield ended 2011 with a bang as Amazon.com announced plans to build an $85 million, 1 million-square foot distribution center in the countyâ€™s Meadowville Technology Park. Amazon plans to hire 1,000 workers at the Chesterfield center, which will open later this year. A second distribution center was also announced in Dinwiddie County, and it will employ more than 350 workers.
Chesterfield County Economic Devel-opment Director Will Davis called the Amazon distribution center â€œa tremendous announcement for Chesterfield County. â€¦ The success of a project of this magnitude is the result of effective teamwork from everyone and we are certainly proud to add Amazon to our corporate family.â€
Early last year, DuPont invested $20 million in a manufacturing operation off Jefferson Davis Highway near Route 10 that creates lithium-ion batteries for electric cars. The company added 11 new high-tech jobs.
Other major new projects include Bon Secoursâ€™ 16-acre, $30 million St. Francis Watkins Centre ambulatory-care facility at Route 288 and Midlothian Turnpike, which opened in late 2011.Emerson Ecologics, a distributor of nutritional supplements to health care providers, announced this year that it is constructing a $1 million distribution center in Chesterfield, which will create 60 new jobs.
Several companies also announced expansion plans. Merit Medical announced a $1 million expansion, adding 75 new jobs. In July 2011, Networking Technologies and Support Inc. (NTS) said it would invest $1.5 million to expand its Chesterfield headquarters, adding 140 jobs in the next three years. Shoosmith Brothers says it will open a $2 million recycling center, hiring 30 new workers. Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Kenco Logistic Services plans a $1.6 million expansion in Colonial Heights, adding 25 to 30 workers.
In the athletics and entertainment sphere, a $19.6 million Uptown Alley bowling and entertainment complex will open this year at Hull Street and Route 288, creating as many as 100 new jobs. The Greater Richmond Aquatics Partnership also solidified its plans for a $14 million, 50,000-square-foot aquatics center to open early this year at Ukrop Park. The center, with a 50-meter Olympic-sized pool, will employ six workers.
Chesterfield also had major retail growth in 2011, including construction of a new 148,000-square-foot Costco discount warehouse-club store on Koger Center Boulevard.
The $3 million Dominion Resources GreenTech Incubator graduated its first tenant, Eastlight Renewable Ventures, a solar-power firm, in 2011. Another incubator firm, Marz Industries, received an undisclosed investment from the nonprofit Virginia Center for Innovative Technology, and six Israeli companies are considering locating in the incubator to launch American markets for their green products. The incubator, which opened in Ashland in early 2010, assists startup businesses concerned with developing alternative-energy solutions.
The early stages of planning for an outlet shopping center to open in 2013 are under way by Holladay Properties; the center is expected to be located near the Winding Brook retail complex at the intersection of Interstate 95 and Lewistown Road, which includes the Bass Pro Shops anchor.
In Doswell, plant executives and a local investment bank pulled together last year to keep open the Covalence Specialty Coatings plant, which manufactured plastic and paper products for the food-service, industrial-packaging and paper industries. Covalenceâ€™s parent company, Indiana-based Berry Plastics Corp., had announced plans to shutter the plant, resulting in the loss of 66 jobs. The new locally owned firm, Specialty Coating & Laminating Co. (SC&L), kept 30 workers and intends to hire as many as 70 more during the next three years.
Ashland-based Target Marketing, a promotional-items manufacturer that holds exclusive rights to produce â€œVirginia Is for Loversâ€ merchandise, purchased a 22,000-square-foot building to accommodate an expansion.
Charles City County
Charles City became the first county in Virginia to participate in Virginia Techâ€™s Accelerate Virginia project, which aims to map broadband speeds and availability throughout Virginia in order to identify technological deficits, particularly in rural areas.
Construction has begun on Goochlandâ€™s first hospital, HCA Virginiaâ€™s West Creek Medical Center, expected to open in early 2012. HCA broke ground on the first phase, West Creek Emergency Center, a free-standing, 24-hour emergency room, in December 2010. The 10,000-square-foot, $11.2 million ER will feature 12 patient treatment areas, as well as a common emergency room with a CT scanner, X-ray equipment and a pharmacy. Later phases of West Creek Medical Center will include an outpatient diagnostic center and medical office buildings. At present, Goochland County residents must drive about 40 minutes to the nearest hospital.
New Kent County
In 2011, New Kent made significant upgrades to its utilities and infrastructure, extending public water and sewer services throughout the county. In real estate, development also continues at New Kent Vineyards, a planned 2,500-unit mixed-use residential community with more than 1 million square feet of retail space built around the New Kent Wineryâ€™s 24 acres of vineyards. The project also includes Viniterra, a gated luxury community with an 18-hole Rees Jones-designed golf course, overseen by golf pro Bob Foster. Leasing and development is also ongoing for a small village of craft shops that opened last year at Maidstone and Preservation Park, a mixed-use retail and office project modeled on an English village that now includes dental and doctorâ€™s offices, a day care, a fitness center and the Rose & Crown Restaurant. The county also saw the new SaudÃ© Creek Winery open in 2011 on the Pamunkey River.
After years of debate and some opposition by local small businesses, a proposed 153,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter is on track to be opened in Powhatan by late fall, says county economic-development director Sherry Swinson. An economic-impact study presented to the countyâ€™s planning commission stated that the countyâ€™s first big-box retail store would generate $652,000 in annual county revenues and create 367 jobs. Local firms Moslow Wood Products and SanAir Technologies also underwent significant expansions in 2011. Powhatan has completed feasibility studies for recruiting hotels and increasing broadband access. (Powhatan currently has no hotel lodging, a problem highlighted by the fact that the county is hosting the Dixie Softball Leagueâ€™s World Series this year.) And the county finished the master plan for its Courthouse Village historic district, examining ways to attract more retail and foot traffic.Â
Richmondâ€™s Report Card
The capital city and surrounding counties garnered these top marks in 2011:
- The city of Richmond was named the Best Small American City of the Future by Foreign Direct Investment Magazine.
- Â • Virginia was named by CNBC.com as Americaâ€™s â€œTop State for Businessâ€ in 2011 and ranked No. 2 on Forbes.comâ€™s list of Best States for Business.
- Â The region rates as the third-best metropolitan area in the country for military retirees to launch a second career, in a ranking generated by the USAA financial services firm and Military.com.
- Â Richmond ranked in the top 10 of the 50 Best Cities for Working Mothers by Forbes.com, Oct. 18, 2011.
- Â • Forbes.com ranked Richmond as one of theÂ 20 Happiest Cities for Young Professionals in America.
- Â • • Americaâ€™s Promise Alliance named Chesterfield and Hanover counties among the nationâ€™s 100 Best Communities for Young People.
- Â • Ashland was rated as one of the nationâ€™s 50 Best Places to Raise Your Kids, according to Businessweek.com.
- • CNBC.com listed Midlothian among the Top 10 Perfect Suburbs in America.
Economic Development Contacts
Charles City County Allyson Finchum, director of development. 10900 Courthouse Road, Charles City, 652-4707.
Chesterfield County Will Davis, director of economic development. 9401 Courthouse Road, Suite B, Chesterfield, 318-8550.
City of Richmond Lee Downey, director of community and economic development. 501 E. Franklin St., Suite 800, Richmond. 646-7646.
Goochland County Rebecca Dixon, county administrator. 1800 Sandy Hook Road, Suite 280, Goochland, 556-5860.
Hanover County Edwin Gaskin, director, 8200 Center Path Lane, Suite E, Mechanicsville, 365-6464.
Henrico County Gary McLaren, director of economic development. 4300 E. Parham Road, Richmond, 501-7654.
New Kent County Rodney Hathaway, director of economic development. 7324 Vineyards Parkway, New Kent, 966-9629.
Powhatan County Sherry Swinson, director of economic development. 3832 Old Buckingham Road, Suite H, Powhatan, 598-5605.
Greater Richmond Partnership Inc. Gregory H. Wingfield, president and chief executive officer. 901 E. Byrd St., Suite 801, West Tower, Richmond, 643-3227.