"Aggressive package" sold PGI
Friday, April 02, 2010
Bob Stuart and Megan E. Davis
The News Virginian
State and city cash, tax rebates and a land gift helped bring a "long-shot" manufacturing expansion to Polymer Group Inc.'s Waynesboro plant, officials said Wednesday.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell said the North Carolina-based textile manufacturer will add 41 jobs and invest $65 million in its 180,000-square-foot facility on Shenandoah Village Drive.
"It was a longshot to lure this project away from North Carolina,'' said Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who participated in months of negotiations. "The state put together a very aggressive package. And the city worked well with us. The city went above and beyond the call of duty."
A package of incentives paved the way for PGI to choose Waynesboro over its Mooresville, N.C. location as the site for a new manufacturing line and addition of high-tech equipment.
In addition to two state grants of $750,000 from the Governor's Opportunity Fund and the Virginia Investment Partnership Program,Waynesboro officials offered several incentives.
City officials promised 15 acres of gifted land, a tax rebate program for six years valued at $1.75 million and a $550,000 cash grant for site improvements, said Assistant City Manger Jim Shaw. Waynesboro also received a $17 million federal recovery zone bond allocation that can be used by PGI to finance a portion of the project.
Veronica "Ronee'' Hagen, chief executive officer for PGI, said in a statement that "the efforts of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and local Waynesboro officials to address and meet our unique needs through their combined incentive package have allowed us to make this planned expansion possible in Waynesboro."
Many local players, including the council and city staff, "stepped up" to make the negotiation happen, Mayor Tim Williams said.
"The council was of one accord and determined to see this deal though," he said.
State and regional officials said securing the expansion could lay the groundwork for future PGI growth in Waynesboro and encourage other industries to locate here.
The announcement timing was critical, officials said, as it came just weeks after news that Waynesboro's unemployment rose to 9.2 percent in January, fueled by the December closing of the Mohawk Industries plant and layoffs at Invista.
New jobs, which will pay an average of $18 per hour, will be added to the plant over 36 months.
Based on a payroll of $1.5 million for the roughly 40 jobs the expansion would create, the average annual wage would be $37,500, almost a fourth higher than the city's overall average wage, according to Virginia Employment Commission statistics.
PGI's Waynesboro plant employs 185 people who produce disposable nonwoven fabrics used in medical bandages and gauze, wipes, diapers, feminine products, flooring and flame-retardant materials.
Shaw said the news provides a psychological boost for the city.
"Success breeds success," he said.
"This could not have happened to a more deserving community or a community more in need of a positive announcement,'' said Robin Sullenberger, CEO of the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, which recruits and markets businesses in the area.
Sullenberger said the announcement "sets the tone for other expansions, and makes Waynesboro a drawing card for similar companies" to PGI, a nonwoven textiles leader in the U.S. and abroad.
And during a recession, Sullenberger pointed to another important point: the creation of new jobs in existing industries rather than recruiting and landing a new industry.
"Eighty percent of the growth in the state and the region have been from existing industry,'' Sullenberger said.
He said it makes sense to put resources into existing companies.
"Companies are thriving in our region and they are very high-quality companies that deserve our support,'' he said.
Jim Leech, program head of Blue Ridge Community College's manufacturing engineering technology associate degree program, said with 41 employees being added in a new manufacturing line "the operators on the production floor will require supervision." And Leech said the plant "will have the latest technology."
Shaw said the new PGI jobs will include some engineering and line worker jobs.
Leech said he hopes Blue Ridge will contribute to the training of PGI workers. With global competition, Leech said companies will have to come equipped with a trained work force and automated technology.
Site construction could begin this month with new production by fall.
For additional information contact Ibbie Hedrick at 804-225-2487 or firstname.lastname@example.org.