Governor McDonnell Announces the Center for Applied High Performance Computing in the City of Danville

Noblis announced plans to establish the Center for Applied High Performance Computing (CAHPC) in the city of Danville. CAHPC will be a world-class center for high-performance computing that accelerates the development and commercialization of applications requiring graph analytics for the benefit of the U.S. The Center will purchase the first next-generation Cray XMT supercomputer in the U.S. outside of a federal laboratory or academia. CAHPC will use this high-performance computer to solve complex problems requiring access to large amounts of data.

GSO Aviation to Relocate to Danville

GSO Aviation announces its move to Danville.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner announced the relocation of GSO Aviation, Inc. from Greensboro to Airside Industrial Park in Danville.

GSO Aviation is a Federal Aviation Administration certified company specializing in the repair and servicing of hydraulic components used on aircraft. The company will occupy a new, custom built facility which will enable the business to expand its activities, and it will bring fifteen new jobs to Danville.

Virginia Focuses on Revitalizing Rural Communities

The center's reach spans 16 counties and surrounding cities and has contributed millions to the economy in an area traditionally known for long-gone trades like textile manufacturing, which has gone overseas, and for its role in growing crops like tobacco. The demise of that economy left the area with generations of families where education wasn't as important.

"We were in high cotton here. Factories were going like crazy and tobacco markets were at full tilt and everybody was doing well," said Betty Adams, the center's executive director and a native of South Boston, where 18-wheelers loaded with fabrics from the nearby factory once regularly rumbled past her house.

A combination of state, local and other support has helped "develop an oasis in a desert" for students to get an education without traveling more than an hour away and help train them for current and future job fields, Adams said.

"We need to train people, educate people to use the technology that is really transforming manufacturing, (and) is transforming entrepreneurship," she said. "In little, rural, southern Virginia we're doing some really innovative things and thinking outside the box."

Associated Press - from an article by Michael Felderbaum, AP Business Writer

Bolling hails start of Southern Virginia Regional Alliance

The partners in the venture — Halifax, Pittsylvania, Henry and Patrick counties, and the cities of Danville and Martinsville — offer an abundance of industrial parks, shell buildings and other enticements, and the job of the Alliance will be to sell these regional assets to site selection decision-makers.

Bolling expressed optimism that the additional marketing effort would pay off.

"I am confident that the position of this region is as good as any in the state and better than most to take advantage of an economic resurgence when it happens," said Bolling.

The organization's executive director, Leigh Cockram, said she and her staff are currently developing marketing materials for the region and hope to start meeting with company site selection officials starting in September.

Cockram said the regional pitch would revolve around a message of "this is a place you can come to do business and do it well.

"We have the labor force and the skill set that manufacturers need," she said.

Bolling and Cockram noted that the regional venture will not replace local economic development initiatives but complement them. After the Alliance identifies companies interested in the area, "It'll be up to local developers to sell their communities and seal the deal," said Cockram.

"I know there will continue to be some competition among the partners," said Bolling, "and that's a good thing."

The Southern Virginia Regional Alliance starts with a budget of some $600,000, funded in equal thirds by the General Assembly, the Virginia Tobacco Commission and contributions from each of the six participating localities.

Bolling said the Alliance marks another step in the McDonnell Administration's efforts to turn around the Southside Virginia economy through business recruitment. He pointed to the example of the City of Martinsville, with its high but declining jobless rate, as an indication these efforts are starting to pay off.

"To come from 22 percent [unemployment in Martinsville] down to 17 percent in a little more than a year in a tough economy is an accomplishment," he said.

The latest jobs numbers show that Martinsville had a 17.3 percent unemployment rate in June 2011, down from 21.0 percent in January 2010, the high-water mark in the past 18 months. Despite the declining percentage of unemployed workers, however, Martinsville actually has fewer jobs now (4,920) than it did in January 2010. (4,968). The size of the city's workforce has shrunk by 337 workers in that same period.


Alliance aims to market region

The alliance is a marketing partnership between Henry, Patrick, Pittsylvania and Halifax counties, and the cities of Martinsville and Danville. Leigh Cockram, formerly vice president of the EDC, became the alliance's first director June 15.

Cockram said once a lead for a new industrial project is generated, her job is to determine which localities in the alliance have a building or site that could fit the prospect's needs.

For instance, if a consultant needs a 40,000-square-foot building with 30-foot ceilings, Cockram said, she would scan a database to see what is available in the region that would fit the bill.

Before submitting that information to consultants, she will contact localities and local economic developers "to let them know I'm submitting properties, and see if anything else has come on market" that she is not aware of.

Then, Cockram will submit the information, she said.

Specific localities will be identified by the consultant, based on the needs of their clients, she said.

Although the SVRA will act as a conduit for the lead, "it will be up to each locality" and local economic developers "to seal the deal. I'm just here to complement" economic developers in participating localities, Cockram said.

Although the marketing approach is regional, it also is limited in scope, she said.

For instance, Cockram said, she will not work on small business or entrepreneurial endeavors, downtown projects, existing industries or expansions.

Since joining the alliance, most of Cockram's time has been spent on organizational tasks associated with a new entity.

"We've just developed a logo, and literally what I've been doing the last couple days is compiling information" to create the alliance's website, she added.

Cockram also is putting together a regional profile with information about the six localities in the alliance.

The SVRA office is in the Dan River Business Development Center, "but I travel all over," even working out of her home in Henry County when needed, Cockram said.

She will be on the road by the end of September or the first of October, conducting "face-to-face visits with consultants," Cockram said. She added she also is working on an event to showcase the region by getting various site selection consultants to visit.

The alliance is being funded over two years with $200,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, $200,000 from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and $200,000 combined from the six communities of the alliance, for a total of $600,000.

The Martinsville-Henry County EDC will use funds from its budget to pay Henry County's two-year commitment of $47,642 and Martinsville's share of $12,703 for the two-year period, Cockram said. She added the amount localities pay to participate is based on population.

AERIAL Machine and Tool opens third plant

AERIAL Ribbon Cutting

AERIAL Machine and Tool Corporation was founded by Benjamin Kurz in Long Island City, NY in 1926. Aerial Machine & Tool located its main office and plant on U.S. Route 58, JEB Stuart Highway, Vesta, VA in 1988.

AERIAL is a prime contractor for the US Department of Defense and the company specializes in life-safety equipment, parachute hardware and accessories, belts, harnesses, restraints and case goods.

AERIAL has formidable expertise in specialty products for airborne cargo rigging and airdrops. They offer deployment bags, multi-loop lines and accessories for the smallest to the largest payloads. AERIAL makes all of the basic equipment needed for hoist rescue operations including operator restraints, leg slings, and swimmer restraints. AERIAL's patented helicopter rescue hook is the world standard for both civilian and military search and rescue operations.

In September 2008, the company headquartered in Vesta, VA chose to open a satellite plant in a leased building in Ararat, VA with approximately 30 jobs.

The defense contractor based in Patrick County, VA., opened its third plant in Stuart, VA. That expansion initially created about 20 jobs. The move to Stuart was triggered by production demands for fire-suppression kits that protect fuel tanks of military transport vehicles under enemy attack, requiring the company to double its production of them and hire new employees right away. The production process makes use of a new Gerber cutting machine, which cuts the Kevlar fabric for the fire suppression systems. Their new plant location is the old Spencer Building, at 649 Johnson Street, Stuart, VA, just off U. S. Route 58 four-lane.

AERIAL has a total of three plants and approximately 270 jobs in Patrick County.

Alliance hopes teamwork will add up to more jobs for Southside

Other areas in the state have similar workforce and incentives. What it will come down to is "product" like available industrial parks, shell buildings and graded shovel-ready sites.

One hurdle will be changing the mindset about rural areas because in actuality, the region isn't outdated but progressive, she said. It has major airports within 50 miles, four four-lane divided highways and broadband capabilities.

One challenge with marketing the 3,500-acre megapark is that prospective companies cannot yet see its vision, Cockram said. The master plan currently under work will achieve that.

Additionally, becoming a "certified mega site" by McCallum Sweeney will be a huge help, she added.

Danville City Manager Joe King said getting the park ready is complicated, but the megapark won't be for those companies that could move into the other industrial sites in the area.

"We're looking for that big game-changer industry," King said.

Cockram is concentrating her efforts on attracting advanced manufacturing companies or data center types — those that would fit the entire region. Individual cities will continue to market for their own niches, like small high-tech companies for downtown Danville.

King admitted he had been skeptical of how well the alliance could work, as it had been tried in the past and failed. Yet, this time, all of the region's economic development directors are on board and the effort garnered funding.

He added everyone will need to continue working in an "integrated way" to ensure the success of the alliance.

Max Glass, development council board member and a former vice president of workforce services for Danville Community College, said that the region's localities need to join together to have the strength needed to compete in today's economic climate.

"Being new to this, I think it's a tremendous idea," Glass said. " ... We've got to do this. We don't have a choice."

By the numbers

What's available in the region:

  • 27 industrial parks with 18 shovel-ready sites ranging from eight graded acres to 100 acres
  • 12 shell buildings with the largest more than 100,000 square feet
  • 3,500-acre mega site in development
  • Extended labor market within 25 miles of region: 1.1 million people
  • 10,926 people are unemployed
  • 19 percent of labor market is in manufacturing, compare to 9.6 percent in the U.S

(Source: Leigh Cockram presentation, info updated last in mid-July)

Who is the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance?

  • Danville and Martinsville and Pittsylvania, Patrick, Henry and Halifax counties

The funding for the alliance

  • $600,000 in funding:
  • $200,000 from the state
  • $200,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Commission
  • $200,000 from the cities and counties

ICF announces 539 new jobs for Henry County

Governor Bob McDonnell appears at ICF InternationalICF International, a global professional services firm, will establish its first operations center for Business Process Management (BPM) in Henry County. The $15 million center will create 539 new jobs.

Governor McDonnell said, "This project is truly transformational for Henry County. ICF International is a Virginia-headquartered company that was seeking a location for its first operations center for BPM. An investment of this caliber, as well as more than 500 new jobs, is tremendous news for Southern Virginia."

ICF International partners with government and commercial clients to deliver professional services and technology solutions in the energy, environment, and transportation; health, education, and social programs; and homeland security and defense markets. Since 1969, ICF has been serving government at all levels, major corporations and multilateral institutions. More than 3,700 employees serve these clients worldwide.

Regional economic alliance has big hopes for Southern Virginia

How to get jobs in Southern Virginia is a question county and city leaders have struggled with for years.

They hope part of the solution will come with help from a new economic development alliance.

The Southern Virginia Regional Alliance covers four counties and two cities and will look at how to market big businesses in the region.

Those factories will move into industrial parks like Cane Creek Park in Danville.

But this is just one of 27 sites the regional alliance looks to bring business.

"What we would really like to accomplish is to give an awareness of the Southern Virginia region to both national and international companies as a viable place to come and do business and we would like to increase the number of leads that come through the area," said alliance Executive Director Leigh Cockram.

The alliances plan on traveling to companies and using their website to usher business to the region.


Bill Bolling kicks off regional alliance with cooperation theme

Approximately 50 government and economic development leaders from the partnering localities attended the kick-off event for the alliance whose purpose is to target concentrated job creation.

Bolling has been instrumental in the creation of the alliance from suggesting the regions form a partnership to "dangling a couple hundred thousand dollars out there."

The alliance has received a total of $600,000 in funding from the Virginia Tobacco Commission that funds $200,000, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership that provides $200,000 and each of the six communities that are contributing a total of $200,000 over the next two years.

"The real credit for putting this organization together rests with the local governments because you all had the ability to either say yes you wanted to be a part of a regional alliance or either say no. Fortunately you all chose to say yes, so it is to your credit we are all here today," Bolling said expressing appreciation to the leaders in the six localities who have agreed to work together to attract economic development to the region as a whole.

"The fact that these six localities in this alliance have chosen to promote Southern Virginia as a region I think is really going to be the key to our success," Bolling added.

The lieutenant governor stressed the importance of all six localities working together to promote economic development and job creation.

"We all have a stake in this effort," he added.

Bolling thanked legislative partners in the General Assembly for appropriating incentive money naming Senator Ruff, Delegates Edmunds, Marshall and Merricks and others he described as "great advocates."

Next he expressed appreciation to the local governments — from economic development directors to the boards of supervisors — who were enthusiastic and provided $200,000 in matching funds.

Also Bolling thanked members of the tobacco commission who provided $200,000 in funding for the alliance, describing the tobacco commission as "a big arrow in our quiver."

Also working diligently with the alliance have been team members within the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the Secretary's Office of Commerce and Trade.

"We're just getting started. Now that we've got this alliance up and running, we've got great leadership, the hard work starts now in putting together our strategic plans and marketing strategies," Bolling continued.

He said it is now time to aggressively market the six localities that make up the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance.

"Southern Virginia has been through a tough time," Bolling said looking back over the past decade since the passage of NAFTA and its impact on the textile manufacturing base.

Though the region continues to experience high unemployment rates, Bolling noted that rates have fallen in the last 18 months.

"It shows that folks are working hard, and we are accomplishing things," Bolling said. "But I am as confident as I am standing here today that this region of our state is as well-positioned as any and better than most to take advantage of a future economic resurgence," he said, adding, "and that's because of the work you all have done."

He referenced Riverstone as the example for potential that exists in Southern Virginia.

"When I'm up in Northern Virginia talking to companies about Southern Virginia, I always use this facility as an example. I tell them you won't find a finer facility any place you go."

Even in the tough economy, Bolling maintained that Southern Virginia is "making progress."

The state has closed about 575 economic development deals in the last 19 months, almost 30 percent of those being in rural parts of the state, with half of those being in Southern Virginia, according to Bolling.

Although the unemployment rate still remains too high, Bolling said, folks are working hard and accomplishing things.

"I want people to feel optimistic about the future of Southern Virginia," he added. "You have laid the groundwork here and really are as well-positioned in Southern Virginia as any part of our state if we can just get this engine that is the greatest economy in the world running again at the federal level."

The lieutenant governor introduced the alliance's newly appointed Executive Director Leigh Cockram of Henry County who was named director of the alliance in June.

Cockram's responsibilities include developing marketing materials, such as brochures and print mail items; establishing the office; promoting the region through traveling, hosting consultants and other efforts; and other things geared to creating jobs.

Bolling described Cockram as "smart, articulate, and passionate about promoting Southern Virginia because this is her home."

Cockram, who joined the SVRA as executive director on June 15, praised Bolling's efforts in creating the alliance.

"We would not be here without your leadership in bringing all the parties together and facilitating this partnership," Cockram said.

Cockram said the need definitely exists for a regional alliance explaining "company executive and site selection consultants don't see county, city, town or state lines. What they see and remember are regions."

She described her job as one of "building the numbers story."

The numbers story to which Cockram referred includes the overwhelming manufacturing experience of the workforce in the region, the variety of workforce training sites, and the number of shovel-ready sites and existing buildings.

"We want to get companies to see the true value of the assets that we have here," she said.

Cockram also cited the number of international companies that currently operate within the region.

"They chose southern Virginia, and we need to start telling that story. These are not Halifax County jobs, Danville jobs or Patrick County jobs. They are southern Virginia jobs. That is the world in which we live in. We need to start celebrating southern Virginia as a region."

That's what she plans to do — compiling all of the localities' data collectively to market to national and international site selection consultants and companies in an effort to get them to see "the true value and the assets we have sitting in our backdoor."

Her main job is to get people to the region.

"It's just getting people here, and it's getting our message across to our target audience that this is a place that you can come and do business and do it well," she said.

She pointed to an existing manufacturing workforce available in the region, saying that more than 40 percent of the unemployed here have a manufacturing background.

"We have the labor force and skill set needed to attract manufacturing companies, and that's who we are going to be targeting during this initiative," she said.

"We have wonderful training facilities that sit in our backyard, and when you start pooling all of this together and compiling mass numbers ... you start building capacity. That's what we need to start selling to America and international companies," she added.

Cockram concluded her remarks urging all in attendance to promote where we live.

"At the end of September, we will start hitting the road," Cockram said. "We will meet with site selection consultants and start selling the area. It will be up to local economic developers to close the deals. We are not here to take the place of any local economic development office but to complement their work.

"Our goal is to put our citizens back to work in Southern Virginia jobs. We have to start marketing ourselves as a region telling our story because regionalism is the way. That's how we're going to start getting more exposure," she concluded.

from the Gazette-Virginian