Chinese furniture maker brings manufacturing jobs to area

Jeremy Stratton, director of Danville’s economic development department, said the IDA will prepare the shell building for GOK.

“We’re in a time crunch to get it done,” Stratton said. “They [GOK] want to get started quickly and get going by the first of the year.”

Stratton said finishing the interior of the building will take about two months.

GOK has committed to hiring 300 employees by the end of 2015, and expects to have half that number employed by the end of 2013, Stratton said. The overall average wage for employees will be $30,000 a year.

Although the news release stated the company will be “utilizing the latest advanced manufacturing techniques to assemble and finish furniture,” Stratton said very few of the jobs will require technological expertise.

“It’s a lot of hand assembly, old-style assembly; it’s not very automated at all,” Stratton said.

The company has also committed to making capital investments of $12.5 million and the Tobacco Commission provided them with a $1 million incentive to come to Danville.

“The Tobacco Commission is all about improving the economy of the regions that it serves,” Delegate Danny Marshall, also a member of the commission, said. “This project is one which the commission was able to support with a $1 million grant from its Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund, and it is just the kind of project that we need in our community to improve our local economy.”

Two people have already been hired for the Bridge Street office, Stratton said — a local woman and a woman from Los Angeles who speaks Mandarin.

Stratton said the project has been in development for about a year.

“It’s all about relationships and making them feel we’re going to do what we say we’re going to do,” Stratton said.

Chinese furniture manufacturers have been under pressure from the U.S. government to stop flooding the American market with China-made furniture, and high import taxes have been placed on Chinese furniture. By assembling the furniture here, the company will save on some of those taxes, Stratton said.

There are now about a dozen foreign companies that have found business offices and manufacturing facilities in the Dan River Region, Stratton said.

“It’s interesting; everything goes in cycles,” Stratton said of the trend for companies to move to overseas locations. “There’s a big international footprint here. It is quite impressive.”

The company’s president, Kevin Liao, said he was pleased with the location and the relationship built with local governments.

“We have a very good relationship with Pittsylvania County and Danville, which is important for us in reading a decision to make our first investment in the United States,” Liao said in a statement. “The plant’s location is only an hour and fifteen minutes from the vast furniture markets of High Point [N.C.]”

Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders, who also chairs RIFA, said he feels GOK is a first-class company.

“I am delighted that we can accommodate both their headquarters and assembly space in the city of Danville and Pittsylvania County, which demonstrates the importance of working together as a team under the auspices of RIFA.”

Tim Barber, chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, also welcomed GOK to the region.

“We are excited to have a Chinese company agree to create new jobs and invest several million dollars in the region,” Barber said. “The assembly jobs are much needed and will help re-employ our workforce.”

Firm to grow, add 60 jobs

Commonwealth Laminating to buy Patriot Centre building

Jim Cheng, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade, presents a $175,00 Governor's Opportunity Fund check to Jim Adams (right), chairman of the Henry County Board of Supervisors, and Steve Phillips (left), CEO of Commonwealth Laminating & Coating.By PAUL COLLINS - Martinsville Bulletin

Commonwealth Laminating & Coating Inc. on Wednesday announced its second expansion in less than nine months. It will invest $5.45 million to expand its operation in Henry County, creating 60 jobs over about three years with average annual pay of at least $40,000.

Of the $5.45 million capital investment, about $3.15 million will be used to buy the shell building at the Patriot Centre at Beaver Creek industrial park, and about $2.3 million will be invested in site improvements and building improvements and upgrades, according to a performance agreement.

The shell building, on lot 10 at the Patriot Centre, has 105,801 square feet of space and can be expanded to 195,801 square feet, according to information on the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) website.

Mark Heath, president and CEO of the EDC, reminded Commonwealth Laminating officials that there are 300 acres nearby if the company wants to expand even more.

The 60 new jobs must be in addition to the 120 full-time jobs at Commonwealth Laminating's facility at the Patriot Centre as of Nov. 1, 2011, plus the 40 additional full-time jobs promised by the company when it announced an expansion in November, according to the performance agreement. According to a Bulletin article, Commonwealth Laminating announced in November it will invest $16.5 million to expand its manufacturing operation in Henry County and that it would create 40 jobs over the next two to three years that will pay an average annual wage of $50,000.

Commonwealth Laminating is a manufacturing company with a strong emphasis on solar control window films and precision, high-performance coatings, according to the company website.

Steve Phillips, chief executive officer of Commonwealth Laminating, indicated Wednesday that future expansion is likely.

"This almost ensures we will continue to invest here," he said. As for potential future growth, he said each new machine costs $10 million plus, not counting building costs.

Phillips said the company has grown even during the recession. This year, the company expects to reach close to $100 million in sales, about half of it overseas, he said.

Commonwealth Laminating has its headquarters and does all its manufacturing at its existing facility at the Patriot Centre. It has a number of distribution centers around the globe, including in China.

"The new Martinsville site will provide essential warehouse and office space, establish a worldwide master distribution center and create a world-class facility for anticipated future factory expansions," Phillips said in a news release.

Phillips praised Mark Heath and Henry County Administrator Benny Summerlin's involvement, support and commitment.

"It was not our idea initially to make the investment," Phillips said, referring to the project announced Wednesday. "I've gone from cool to super excited," he said. He also said he has gone from considering expanding somewhere else to wanting to do it here and do it bigger.

Jim Cheng, Virginia's secretary of commerce and trade, presented a giant check for the $175,000 grant from the Governor's Opportunity Fund to Phillips, as well as a share of stock in the Virginia Company, which Cheng said was the entrepreneurial venture upon which Virginia was founded.

"The addition of 60 new jobs is particularly welcome news as the region rebounds from a recent plant closing," he said in a news release, and made similar remarks at the economic announcement ceremony in the Henry County Administration Building on Wednesday. "... We are committed to keeping southern Virginia on its upward economic trajectory and will continue to support the effort to bring jobs and investment to the area. Commonwealth Laminating is a valuable corporate partner to Henry County, and we are grateful for its continued commitment to Virginia as the company and its products grow rapidly."

The Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission approved $325,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds for the project. Through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program, the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funding and services to support the company's recruitment and training activities, according to a news release from the governor's office.

According to a performance agreement for the Governor's Opportunity Fund, the Virginia Jobs Investment Program incentive amounts to an estimated $42,000. Other incentives from the commonwealth include an Enterprise Zone Real Property Improvement Grant (estimated) $100,000 and an Enterprise Zone Job Creation Grant (estimated) $176,000. That's a total of $818,000 in incentives from the commonwealth, including the $175,000 Governor's Opportunity Fund Grand and the $325,000 Tobacco Regional Opportunity Fund Grant, according to the performance agreement.

"The locality expects to provide the following incentives, as matching grants or otherwise, for the facility: ... donation of land upon which facility is located, $805,000; donation of a portion of the purchase price of the facility, $209,000; Local Enterprise Zone benefits (estimated), $119,480," the performance agreement states. That totals $1,133,480.

Deputy Henry County Administrator Tim Hall said the county also will extend natural gas to the site at a cost of about $105,000, using Tobacco Commission money that was saved on lot 2 at the Patriot Centre and $20,000 committed by the EDC.

"It's always a great day when we're talking about good new jobs coming to southern Virginia," Gov. Bob McDonnell said in a release Wednesday. "This project represents CLC's (Commonwealth Laminating & Coating's) second major expansion in less than one year, speaking volumes about the company's thriving operation in Henry County."

State Del. Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County, representing the Tobacco Commission, presented a giant check for $325,000 to Phillips.

Merricks called the project "a step forward for Henry County and Martinsville" at a time when the area has been making steps forward and backward. He said the project sends "a clear message to other companies" of excitement and confidence in Martinsville and Henry County.

According to a news release from the governor's office, Virginia successfully competed against Arizona and North Carolina for the project.

River District project called 'game changer'

Danville Regional Medical Center CEO Eric Deaton discusses plans for the former Research Building of Dan River Inc. to be renovated into a facility for Danville Orthopedic Clinic and its associated practices.

from GoDanRiver.com - by Tiffany Holland

Linwood Wright remembers the hustle and bustle that used to fill the halls of Dan River Inc.

Wright, like thousands of others, have seen the place that once reverberated with life in downtown Danville slowly morph into an empty, dilapidated building like a ghost that haunts the city, reminding people of things that once were.

But Friday, people could only talk about things that are about to happen. With more than 100 in attendance, the Office of Economic Development announced the former Research Building of Dan River Inc. will be redeveloped by the River District Development, LLC to house Danville Orthopedic Clinic, Danville Regional Medical Center offices, new commercial businesses and a new restaurant.

Click to enlarge artist's rendering - credit Steven Mantilla
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The project — called the River District Tower — is expected to add at least 40 jobs and is a symbolic gesture of people in the area working together to bring the River District back to life.

For Wright, who works in the economic development office, this transition has a special meaning.

"Since it started for me 56 years ago in the River District, it is awfully gratifying to end my career being somewhat involved in the renaissance of the River District," said Wright.

Dr. Mark Hermann, an orthopedic surgeon with Danville Orthopedic Clinic and a principal member of RDD, said he was looking to move the clinic for years since it was outgrowing its space and the Dan River Inc. research facility was a beautiful, historic building that caught his eye.

"I moved here 22 years ago and I always thought it had such mass potential," said Hermann. "So many places that were just dilapidated but you could still use. You don't have to build anything."

Hermann emphasized this move does not just involve doctors, but it is a collaborative effort from people in the region to create a thriving place where people want to live.

"The design of the River District Tower will tell a story of a community that respects its past while at the same time is forging a future," said Hermann. "It should scream out that the Dan River Region is back."

The River District Tower will have four floors, a basement and an attached section with three floors of its own. The two top floors of the tower will house the orthopedic clinic, Southside Pain Solutions, Southside Rheumatology and Arthritis Center, Danville Orthopedic Spine Center, Danville Orthopedic Rehab and Southside Clinical Research and an integrated musculoskeletal center.

The second floor will host DRMC practices and teaching centers and the ground floor will contain multiple lease-able spaces for various businesses. The three section attachment will boast an upscale restaurant overlooking the Dan River.

One of the restaurant's developers, Hal Craddock, compared what Danville is doing to what he has seen in Lynchburg. He said Lynchburg committed $20 million over 20 years to a new master plan in 2000 and 12 years later, it has leveraged $100 million in private sector investment.

Craddock referred to River District Tower's development as a "game changer" and he wants the restaurant to be easily accessible downtown.

"We really want to emphasize we are not planning our restaurants — we are planning your restaurants," said Craddock.

River District Development is investing $14.5 million into the project. The Virginia Tobacco Commission has also provided $250,000.

In addition, the Industrial Development Authority of Danville purchased the Acrees Warehouse and is converting it into a parking facility directly across from Bridge Street to the main building. The Governor's Industrial Revitalization Fund approved $600,000 for the parking facility through the Virginia Department of Community Development.

"With this reinvestment ... not only will the original structures be preserved and brought back to life but they will fuel investment in the River District and improve health care access to the region," said Lisa Atkinson, the Deputy Director of Community Development.

Larry Hasson, a senior architect at Dewberry, presented pictures of how the River District Tower will look. He said for the next four months construction crews will mostly be cleaning the inside of the building out and work will be done on the interior. He and Dewberry interior designer Dodie Hudson said the historic structure and outside of the building will mostly remain the same and the interior will have a contemporary setting with respect to the history of the building.

Hasson hopes the project could be completed by the end of next year.

Guatemalan technology company seems to click with Danville

By Tara Bozick - Work It, SoVa

Web Parts LLC moved from Guatemala to Danville to develop software add-ons and operate a data center.

The company will start with 10 employees and plans to employ 260 people within three years, said owner and founder Brad Mainland. One-third of those positions would be programmers and two-thirds would be various support staff. Overall, Mainland estimates an average employee salary of around $65,000.

Web Parts is currently seeking anyone with proven Java or PHP computer programming skills as the company makes "parts" or add-ons for free downloadable software that may not offer everything a customer needs, Mainland explained.

"We're really just enhancing the free stuff," he said.

The firm's primary clients are website developers, yet Mainland would like to develop add-ons for software used by academic institutions in the long term. Web Parts also plans to do web hosting and other services with the data center to provide its clients more flexibility in saving their work or website "frameworks" for future website projects.

Web Parts, which formed three years ago in Guatemala where Mainland met wife Priscila Del Cid, had considered growing in Michigan, Florida, West Virginia and Hawaii, but chose to invest $10 million in Danville because of the city's high-speed broadband fiber network, which is connected to Washington D.C and Atlanta through Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative infrastructure.

A $1 million grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission will help Web Parts buy necessary equipment to get started. The company is currently housed in the former Masonic Temple on Union Street for one year as it considers a permanent location.

Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders and Delegate Danny Marshall, a tobacco commission member, noted the region is becoming a technology hub for information technology companies. Danville has also attracted EcomNets' data center operations and a supercomputer.

If interested in applying for a job, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information, search "Web Parts, LLC" on Facebook.

Candle maker bringing jobs to Pittsylvania County

The consolidation will bring about 50 jobs to the Dan River Region on June 1, with the number of jobs reaching about 150 during the holiday season, said Jim Ramaker, president and CEO of Virginia Candle Company.

Virginia Candle Co., a Lynchburg business that makes and sells WoodWick and Ribbonwick candle brands, is bringing its distribution and warehousing operations — and some light manufacturing — to the former eToys location.

Company and Pittsylvania County officials announced the company's plans during a ceremony at the facility Wednesday at 9141 U.S. 29 in Blairs.

"This is a big announcement for us in Pittsylvania County and the region, Danville included," Pittsylvania County Economic Development Director Ken Bowman said to attendees. Officials from the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, Danville and Chatham were among those who attended.

Virginia Candle Co., started in 1990 in a garage in Lynchburg, will provide about 50 jobs in Pittsylvania County. That number will grow to about 150 during the Christmas season.

"This is just overwhelming," Virginia Candle Co. CEO and president Jim Ramaker said of the welcome and support the business has received in the community. "We've always been proud of our homegrown status in Virginia."

Ramaker said he expects operations to begin June 1.

The company's top-selling brands include Ribbonwick candles that "offer truly revolutionary innovation with a proprietary, patent-pending wick design that creates a beautiful, mesmerizing flame," according to a news release from Virginia Candle. Its WoodWick brand "features a clean, contemporary look with a natural wooden wick that creates the soothing sound of a crackling fire, while fragrancing a room with genuine, true-to-life scents."

The manufacturer had looked at other locations, including those in Bedford and in North Carolina, before choosing the Blairs site. The business will start out using about a third of the 435,000-square-foot facility, which it will lease, said Angela Bateman, the company's customer service director.

The move consolidates three facilities — two distribution centers in Lynchburg and its light manufacturing that had been done by an outside contractor, Bateman said. The company will manufacture its packaging for candle fragrances at the Blairs location, she said.

During an interview after the ceremony, Ramaker said the Blairs site is accessible from the company's Lynchburg location and has space for expansion. Virginia Candle Co. employs from 150 to 400 in Lynchburg, he said.

Jobs at the Blairs location will include those for pickers, packers, inventory control, assembly workers and forklift operators, Bateman said. The pay will start at slightly above minimum wage, Bateman said.

ICF praised for rapid success

Gov. Bob McDonnell (left) presents a gift to ICF International Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sudhakar Kesavan during Monday's grand opening ceremony at the company's Martinsville facility.

By MICKEY POWELL - Martinsville Bulletin

State officials praised ICF International's rapid success in Henry County during a dedication ceremony for its new building on Monday.

Thirteen months ago, ICF announced it would open a business operations center in an approximately 100,000-square-foot building in the Patriot Centre industrial park, representing a $15 million investment. The building has since been erected, and 173 people work there. The company expects to have more than 500 on its payroll within two years.

"ICF has significant plans to utilize this facility for the long term," Sudhakar Kesavan, chairman and CEO of the company, told several hundred people gathered outside the facility Monday.

"This is a cause for tremendous celebration," Gov. Bob McDonnell said before he and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling took part in a ribbon-cutting.

ICF could have expanded anywhere, but it chose Henry County because its executives "know this is a great place to do business," Bolling said.

When high-tech firms based in Northern Virginia — such as ICF — look for places to expand, "there is no better place for them to go" than Southside, McDonnell said.

That is due to factors such as a good quality of life, support from state and local officials, and efforts by area schools and higher education institutions to ensure the local work force is well trained, state and ICF officials said.

Virginia is regarded by many in the economic development field as the best state in which to do business, McDonnell said.

Henry County-Martinsville has a "terrific business climate," Kesavan said after the ceremony. He mentioned low real estate costs and "the people here" — a quality work force — as factors.

Also, "the enthusiasm that government officials exhibit (to help businesses locate) here is extraordinary," he said.

State officials "work hard ... on a regular basis to try and convince companies to come here," McDonnell said.

In doing so, "we really want to replicate this model" in which a company such as ICF can build a new facility and get it up and running quickly, he said.

Kesavan said ICF is "proud to (help) provide for the continuing revitalization" of the Henry County-Martinsville economy.

Based in Fairfax, ICF provides various professional services to its clients, ranging from market research to processing energy-efficiency rebates.

McDonnell said ICF's success locally can serve as a blueprint for other high-tech companies to set up operations in Southside and improve the region's economy, which he said has faltered in recent years because of the loss of many textile- and tobacco-related jobs.

Del. Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County, recalled that Southside "once carried the state" economically.

Bolling called Mark Heath, president and CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., "one of the best economic development directors you'll find anywhere in the state."

With help from Heath and other officials, "we've been able to accomplish some good things" already in terms of attracting businesses and industries, "but we're just getting started," Bolling said.

"The more we can get companies to invest in this region, the more we can get other companies to consider investing in this region," he said.

Bolling noted that when McDonnell became governor 27 months ago, the statewide jobless rate was 7.2 percent. Since then, state and local officials statewide have closed more than 700 economic development deals that brought more than 120,000 new jobs to Virginia, he said.

The unemployment rate has since fallen to 5.6 percent, he said.

Yet Martinsville's unemployment rate is roughly triple that so economic development efforts must not stop, officials said.

"We must not become complacent" in economic development efforts, said Merricks. In improving the local economy, he said, "we may have won a few battles, but the war is not yet won."

Hybrid vehicle company hopes to bring 150 jobs to Danville

By: Tara Bozick | GoDanRiver

Hybrid Vehicles of Danville, Inc to build and retrofit vehicles in Danville, creating 150 jobs within three years.A hybrid vehicle maker announced in May it would build and retrofit vehicles in Danville, creating 150 jobs within three years.

Hybrid Vehicles of Danville, Inc. entered into a joint venture with Danville’s Advanced Vehicle Research Center, where the new company operates temporarily on Stinson Drive. Hybrid Vehicles will initially hire 25 people and plans to invest $1.5 million within three years.

A $420,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission got the ball rolling so the company could purchase equipment and begin hiring, according to a city news release.

The company has secured orders for mild hybrids, where an electric motor assists the conventional combustion engine. Founder and CEO Jim Bailey said the company can make a variety of vehicles, including buses and armored vehicles. In partnership with the AVRC, the firm can also taking existing vehicles — “anything from a scooter to a semi-truck” — and retrofit them to become mild hybrids, he added.

Hybrid Vehicles will also install proprietary solar-powered cooling systems into most of the buses and armored vehicles it builds. Bailey said the company plans to do work for school buses and delivery, transit, SWAT and defense vehicles. The company will also use AVRC’s military off-road test and training site and testing equipment to collect data on vehicle propulsion and fuel economy performance.

This was the type of work the late founder of the AVRC, Richard “Dick” Dell, envisioned when he set up shop in Danville in 2009, said son Richard D. Dell Jr. For Danville, Dell said it’s creating a “stable long-term growth engine for job creation,” as he sees the start of a local defense cluster.

Hybrid Vehicles would need to employ fabricators, welders, mechanics and machinists, Bailey said.

That gives Danville Community College students enrolled in welding, machining and automotive programs another option for jobs, said DCC vice president for academic and student services Christopher Ezell. Most graduates of those programs find jobs as their skills are in high demand.

“This is very important to us. It just shows the economic development efforts that are certainly paying off,” Ezell added.

Bailey and his wife moved from East Helena, Mont., to open the facility and headquarters in Danville.

“We are pleased with the growing alternative vehicle sector that we are attracting to our region. Danville offers an attractive operating environment and a growing number of entrepreneurs that collaborate together on projects to create better paying jobs for our citizens,” said Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders in a statement.

With new world of technology, biomass company grows in Danville

By Tara Bozick - Work It, SoVa

Brendon Stout shows Linda Green and Fred Shanks the Process Devloping Unit, (PDU) during a tour at SENTEC . The machines perform reaction and purifying processes, which is part of the process to convert biomass to cellulosic sugars. photo Steven Mantilla, Work It, SoVaOne wood sugar producer invested about $10 million at the Institute's Sustainable Energy and Technology Center as it works to scale up to commercial production.

Virdia recently finished construction of its automated demonstration facility at the new "Sentec" building at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research. The company, founded in Israel five years ago, is fine-tuning its process to extract plant sugars from trees so they can be used in renewable chemicals or plastics, biofuels and nutritional products. The lignin, or carbon framework of the wood, can be burned for energy or heat or used as carbon fiber to make lightweight materials.

"We're trying to make a new type of economy emerge," Virdia CEO Philippe Lavielle told attendees of the Sentec ribbon-cutting on Wednesday.

Lavielle envisions building an economy on grown renewable resources rather than on polluting fossil fuels. Virdia would produce and ship a liquid plant sugar solution to be used as feedstock for multiple applications.

Virdia already employs 34 research chemists, engineers and other staff in Danville. That number could reach 50 as the Redwood City, Calif.-based company plans to start building its first industrial-scale facility next year, Lavielle said. Virdia hasn't located a site for the manufacturing facility yet, but would place it near forestry resources.

Product samples from the Danville pilot center will be sent to Virdia's partners. Already, Virent Inc. in Wisconsin used Virdia's sugars in high-performance jet fuel.

The flagship tenant of the Sustainable Energy and Technology Center exemplifies what investors envisioned for the region, said Institute Executive Director Liam Leightley. The Virginia Tobacco Commission, City of Danville and the Higher Education Trust Fund invested $8.5 million in Sentec.

The center is poised to lead marketable research, inventions and start-up companies in Southside as it serves as a "catalyst for developing a bio-based industry that engages the agricultural community as a partner and supplier of biomass," said Virginia Secretary of Technology James Duffey.

Duffey and Mary Rae Carter, deputy secretary of commerce and trade for rural economic development, agreed the project will help fulfill the governor's mission of making Virginia the "energy capital of the East Coast." The energy sector, which employs 30,000 Virginians and has a direct economic output of $17.5 billion, shows incredible growth potential, Carter explained.

"You're seeing a whole new world of technology and capability," said Tim Manning, Virdia senior vice price of operations, during a tour.

The facility

About the Sustainable Energy and Technology Center:

  • 25,000 square feet
  • Rooftop solar panels
  • Solar thermal panels
  • Vegetated roof
  • Rainwater cistern
  • Recycled content in building products
  • Energy-saving lights and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems
  • Bio-based floor tile and cork flooring
  • Native drought-tolerant landscaping
  • Designed by Dewberry in Danville and constructed by New Atlantic Contracting Inc. of Winston-Salem, N.C.
  • Anticipates LEED Gold certification

(Source: Dewberry)

GSI to expand, add 61 jobs

Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng (left) shakes hands with Mike Bomba, vice president of fulfillment services for GSI, as they hold a check for $75,000 in grant funds to assist with the project.

GSI will receive state and local incentives as part of agreements company officials signed Monday. The agreements call for GSI to create 61 jobs by Dec. 31, 2014.

According to a performance agreement signed with the state, the jobs are to have an average annual wage of at least $24,315.

Some of the new positions are posted online now at jobs.ebaycareers.com, and the company will begin the interview process to fill those positions within the next two weeks, Feury said.

Training is anticipated to begin soon thereafter, and the new facility is expected "to go live by the end of April," he said.

The 400,000-square-foot facility formerly served as a distribution center for Bassett-Walker, said Henry County Administrator Benny Summerlin.

Since textile jobs went offshore, the building has represented the downside of Henry County, said Mark Heath, president and CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC). But with GSI's announcement, the building "is being brought back to life," he said.

It will house GSI's fulfillment center for Hanover (called The Company Store), according to Heath and Mike Bomba, GSI's vice president of fulfillment services.

From the new location, employees will pick, pack and ship orders, said Bomba. The first product is expected to be shipped from the new facility in May, he said.

The facility also is large enough to handle any future expansion, said Bomba, who anticipates "some annual growth. ... We don't see a problem with achieving" the job creation goal outlined in the performance agreements.

The company's two facilities in the Bowles Industrial Park will remain open, Feury said. Those two facilities "are totally full," he said. "This is going into a new, start-up facility."

Heath said Kentucky was the primary competitor for the project, mainly because there is a UPS hub there, Bomba said. Bomba attributed the company's decision to expand in Henry County to Feury's capabilities and leadership.

Overall, Bomba said, he is excited about GSI's local expansion because of "the people, the work ethic and the commitment. It is phenomenal."

Gov. Bob McDonnell approved a $75,000 grant from the Governor's Opportunity Fund to help with the project, and Henry County provided a matching $75,000 grant to help offset the costs of improving the building.

The Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funds and services to support the company's recruitment and training activities through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program, according to a news release from McDonnell's office.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Henry County, the EDC and the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance to secure the project for Virginia, the release said.

Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng said he was glad to visit the area Monday to participate in the announcement, which he said will "add to the momentum that is continuing to build here" after two companies — LamTech and Commonwealth Laminating — recently announced plans to expand or locate in the area.

GSI, with headquarters in King of Prussia, Pa., operates more than 3 million square feet of fulfillment space across seven facilities with the aim to serve customers as quickly and efficiently as possible, the release said. The company has the ability to process more than 30 million packages annually, it added.

Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade for Rural Economic Development Mary Rae Carter; Leigh Ann Cockram, director of the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance; and representatives of U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt also attended Monday's event.

The announcement followed a joint meeting of the Henry County Board of Supervisors and the Industrial Development Authority to approve the performance agreements.

Danville Supercomputer Up and Running

Danville is now home to a new Noblis supercomputer, located at the Noblis Center for Applied High Performance Computing.

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