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From Workforce 2024 Guide

Central Virginia Workforce Fuels Nuclear Firm’s Growth

Industry Partnership  BWXT
“The outdoor lifestyle opportunities in the Lynchburg area are tremendous,” says BWXT Advanced Technologies President Joe Miller, including views like this to the north of the region along Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Photo: Getty Images


o say that nuclear fuel processor BWXT’s growth is going to the moon would be an understatement. The Lynchburg, Virginia–based company is expanding on multiple fronts, and at least part of that growth is designed to one day propel astronauts to Mars.

With revenues of $2.33 billion and a market cap of $7 billion — up from $4.6 billion just one year ago — the Fortune 1000 company is on a trajectory to take the firm to heights not seen before in this industry.




During an extended sit-down interview with Joe Miller at BWXT’s Advanced Technologies headquarters in Campbell County in Central Virginia, he shared the secret sauce that is driving his company’s current expansion wave: people.

Miller, who serves as president of BWXT Advanced Technologies and two subsidiaries — Dynamic Controls Limited in the UK and Cunico in Long Beach, California — says BWX employs nearly 3,000 people in Greater Lynchburg, which includes the Mount Athos plant site he oversees in Campbell County. There, the firm performs mission-critical work including the processing of the nuclear fuel used to power submarines deployed in the oceangoing fleet of the U.S. Navy.

Before answering my questions about workforce talent development and recruiting, he took me on a guided tour of the plant expansion under construction just off Mount Athos Road. The sprawling complex tucked between Blue Ridge mountainsides in a very scenic stretch of the Old Dominion is not there by accident, says Miller.

“Admiral Hyman Rickover, The Father of the Nuclear Navy, was flying over this part of the country in the 1940s when he looked down at this site, fell in love with it, and said, ‘This is where we should build our energy plant,’ ” Miller says. And so, they did.

Onboarding Pace Accelerates

The complex has been growing ever since to over 1 million sq. ft.

In May 2020, BWXT bought a 118,000-sq.-ft. facility on Mount Athos Road from Framatome, another nuclear services company based in Lynchburg. A year and a half later, BWXT announced it would invest $65 million to convert that facility into the new headquarters of the company’s Advanced Technologies division, headed by Miller. It is being called the BWXT Innovation Campus.




The conversion is a three-year project that should be completed sometime in 2024 and add about 100 new jobs to the company. About 350 employees will work there upon the new plant becoming operational, Miller says, noting that “we are onboarding about 30 to 40 new hires per month these days.”

Miller makes it clear that BWXT could not accomplish any of this without the workforce that it is able to attract, hire and retain in the Lynchburg area.

“We pull from a talent pool in Central and Southern Virginia,” he says. “We hire graduates from Central Virginia Community College to come work here. I serve on the board of CVCC. We recruit from local colleges and universities in Virginia and from throughout the country.”

With two sites in Ohio, one in Indiana and another in Tennessee, BWXT has hiring needs all over the eastern half of the country. BWXT employs around 7,000 people at 14 total sites in the U.S., Canada and the UK. “I was just talking to people at Oregon State University this week,” he says. “I think they are the best engineering school in the country. Of course, I am a graduate of there, so I may be biased.”

Recruiting the best talent in nuclear engineering to leave other parts of the country and relocate to Lynchburg is not nearly the challenge it used to be, says Miller.

“COVID changed that. People are looking to get out of the big city. They want to be in a place where they are able to control their own lifestyle,” he says. “The outdoor lifestyle opportunities in the Lynchburg area are tremendous.”

Spouses Make the Top Recruiters

Miller notes that “attracting the right talent is important to us. Clearance is required. We also recruit from Texas A&M, University of Wisconsin, Penn State, Ohio State and other top engineering schools around the country.”

He adds that “it is a heck of a lot more convenient to live here today than it was 12 years ago when I moved here. Look at downtown Lynchburg. There were three restaurants and a lot of vacant space downtown when I came here. This is not the case now. We have at least 30 restaurants downtown, and a lot of people and companies want to come here.”

People who work in Lynchburg recruit their spouses to come and work at BWXT, says Miller.

“We don’t even have to do the recruiting in a lot of instances. The spouses do that for us. And taxes are a huge benefit of living here. The cost of living is still a big plus. I could pay $1,300 a year in real estate taxes in Lynchburg or $12,000 a year in New York. This is such a great place to work. It’s a great time to be a part of this company and a great time to be in nuclear.” 

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.


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