New plant promises 2,500 jobs for southwest Virginia

A medical glove manufacturing plant promising to employ nearly 2,500 people is coming to southwestern Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam said on Monday, calling the news the biggest job creation announcement in the region. struggling for a generation.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – A medical glove manufacturing plant promising to employ nearly 2,500 people is coming to southwestern Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam said on Monday, calling the news the biggest announcement in job creation in the region in difficulty for a generation.

Supported by heavy federal spending, the project in County Wythe, 400 kilometers west of the state capital, is expected to create a number of jobs per capita equivalent to Amazon’s new headquarters in Arlington, according to the governor’s office.

In an interview with The Associated Press ahead of an official announcement Monday afternoon, Northam called the project a big win for Southwest Virginia and said the pandemic and associated supply chain issues had shown the need for increased production of personal protective equipment on land.

Two companies, Blue Star Manufacturing and American Glove Innovations, have agreed to form a joint venture and invest $ 714 million to create both a nitrile butadiene rubber manufacturing plant and a nitrile glove production operation, according to a report. Press release. The facility is expected to occupy more than 200 acres in an industrial park near the junction of highways 77 and 81.

The project will increase the production of raw materials and the manufacture of gloves now mainly made in Asia, the Northam office said. The company aims to sell the gloves to distributors and large end users, such as healthcare companies.

The announcement comes after one of the LLCs being part of the company was awarded a $ 123.1 million Department of Defense contract to increase nitrile butadiene rubber production capacity in May, according to records of federal spending.

Virginia was competing with Tennessee and Texas for the project, which state officials say is expected to create 2,464 new jobs over the next three to five years.

In order to secure the project, the Commonwealth agreed to pay $ 8.5 million for the modernization of the hydraulic infrastructure at the industrial site, called Progress Park.

An Associated Press review in 2019 found that despite significant spending, many industrial parks in the state were empty. Local officials said in the press release that Monday’s announcement showed that their previous investments in Progress Park had paid off.

The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, the entity created to spend and invest Virginia’s share of the national tobacco regulations, also approved $ 1.02 million from the Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund to “support additional public infrastructure,” said said Northam’s office.

A legislative commission created to strengthen oversight of economic development initiatives approved the $ 8.5 million investment in water infrastructure, according to the press release. The project is also eligible to apply for state benefits under a rail access program and a workforce services initiative.

GOP Representative Morgan Griffith, who represents Southwest Virginia’s 9th Congressional District, called the announcement “tremendous news for the region.”

“This will provide an opportunity for our citizens, economic growth for local communities and tax revenues to support public services,” he said in a statement.

Northam said the project would create “well-paying jobs”. The press release did not specify the average salary.

County Wythe is located about an hour’s drive southwest of Roanoke. For more than a decade, its unemployment rate has tended to be higher than that of the state as a whole, according to state data, although in 2020 its rate was lower than the national average. .

Southwest Virginia is experiencing a long economic decline as coal mining jobs have dried up and many manufacturing jobs have been moved overseas. The region has also lost population. An initiative examining how the state can support economic transition to coalfields is currently underway, with a report expected later this year.

The Northam administration has also sought to improve broadband access and transportation in the region, including rail access.

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