A longstanding corporate citizen of Chatham, Eastern Panel Manufacturing Inc. is investing $1 million to expand its manufacturing operations. The custom plywood manufacturer recently moved from its former 30,000-square-foot site to a 55,000-square-foot facility in the Chatham Industrial Park.
Matt Rowe, Pittsylvania County’s director of economic development, knew Eastern Panel was in growth mode. He contacted the company’s president, Keith Van Asch, as soon as he learned it was looking for a new facility.
“I knew the company was testing the water to see how the market was building product-wise. They were looking at numerous options,” Rowe says. “I wanted to show him what kind of building product we had. He liked what we put together.”
The new building is only 2 miles from the company’s former site. “They will be able to keep their existing workforce and add to it,” Rowe says, noting the company hopes to create 15 additional jobs during the next three years.
The deal moved quickly. Rowe began the process with Eastern Panel in mid-December and wrapped it up in mid-January. “It was a fast deal,” he says. “They saw what they wanted, and we made it as easy as possible for them by waiving permit fees and doing a lot of the work for them on the real estate and legal side.”
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Pittsylvania County to secure the project. The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission approved $30,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds, and the company will be eligible to receive sales and use tax exemptions on manufacturing equipment. The Virginia Jobs Investment Program will provide funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities.
“One of the good things that has come from this is that the company is our cheerleader now,” Rowe says. “Keith has introduced us to other companies, and one company is thinking about coming here and adding to our workforce.”
The company began moving equipment in and making modifications to its facility in February. “They are as happy as they can be now,” Rowe says.