Richmond, Hampton Roads Booming
While southern and western Virginia continue to attract factories and warehouses, no market in the Old Dominion is growing any faster than the corridor stretching from the state capital of Richmond south to Hampton Roads.
Richmond secured the crown jewel of projects this year when Philip Morris announced a $300 million investment in a new research and technology center in the downtown area of the capital. The project, which will create 500 jobs including scientists, lab technicians and lab support, will allow the company to develop new technologies for its product line.
The center, projected to open in 2007, will nearly double the size of the 575,000-sq.-ft. (53,418-sq.-m.) Virginia Biotechnology Park in Richmond and increase employment by nearly 40 percent to 1,800.
Bill Phelps, company spokesman for Philip Morris USA, says the firm "looked at several locations inside and outside Virginia. The Commonwealth and the city put together an important incentive package."
In nearby Henrico County, pharmaceutical giant Wyeth announced July 6 that it will expand its manufacturing and distribution operations at its Darbytown Road location. The company will spend $30 million on upgrading its facilities in eastern Henrico.
Just down the road in Hampton Roads, expansion projects at the Port of Virginia and its three marine terminals are driving expansion of major high-tech, manufacturing and distribution facilities, particularly in the city of Suffolk.
On Aug. 31, Gov. Mark Warner announced the creation of a state-of-the-art modeling and simulation center in Suffolk devoted to training and support for homeland security and emergency management command operations.
Modeling and simulation activities currently contribute about $500 million a year to the Hampton Roads economy. Over the next five years, forecasters expect that figure to grow to nearly $1 billion.
Meanwhile, Dennis Foods announced Sept. 14 that it will purchase 5 acres (2 hectares) in Suffolk Industrial Park, where it will build a 22,000-sq.-ft. (2,044-sq.-m.) regional operations center, investing $1.5 million in the project and creating 18 jobs.
Also in Suffolk, Target announced in April that it will expand its existing warehouse by 300,000 sq. ft. (27,870 sq. m.). The facility, which opened in 2003, already has 1.5 million sq. ft. (139,350 sq. m.) and is one of the largest distribution centers on the East Coast.
Tom O'Grady, head of economic development for Suffolk, says that his community sits directly in the fastest growing corridor of Hampton Roads. Suffolk is growing in population at a rate of 5 percent per year double the national average.
"We now have about 3,000 modeling and simulation jobs in Suffolk, and there about 7,000 such jobs in the region," O'Grady says. "This makes Hampton Roads the second largest cluster of modeling and simulation jobs on the East Coast. We rank second only to Orlando."
O'Grady points out that transportation access drives much of the growth in his region. With Interstate 664, Route 58 and Route 460, plus three marine terminals, O'Grady says Hampton Roads boasts a "transportation infrastructure that drives a lot of business location and reinvestment."
He also notes that many outsiders are impressed once they discover "the depth and breadth of our work force. Many people don't realize how deep our work force is and how experienced they are, due to our retiring military personnel and their highly educated spouses who every year enter our work force. These exiting military personnel and their spouses are excellent workers."
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