Who has the best lights in town? Vote now for your favorite in our holiday lights contest.
Ardagh brings jobs for highly skilled workers and a $93.5 million investment to Roanoke County.
Monday, August 12, 2013
The Ardagh Group’s can manufacturing operation that will bring at least 96 jobs to Roanoke County will be taking over the old Hanover Direct building, where 200 people worked at the time the mail order distribution center closed last year.
The swap will be more than even, though — and not because there was anything wrong with Hanover’s presence. The can manufacturer will bring significantly more revenue into the community by paying higher wages and by having taxable machinery and equipment.
“You don’t get that in a distribution center. That’s where the value added is,” Jill Loope, the county’s acting director of economic development, explained the day after the announcement.
There, and in wages for highly skilled workers with associate-level degrees, “who understand precision technology” — mechanical, electrical, robotics, computer technology — “and how all these systems integrate,” Loope said.
Ardagh, a global food packaging manufacturer based in Luxembourg, projects its average annual wage here at more than $40,000 a year, plus benefits — higher than the prevailing average in the county, in a time when the nation’s last jobs report showed slow growth driven mainly by part-time and low-wage service jobs.
The company’s decision to invest $93.5 million to buy and renovate the building in Roanoke County was not a product of the Economic Regional Summit of local government leaders that supervisors Chairman Mike Altizer convened this spring. The deal already was in the works by then.
But the money it will put into the community and the company’s potential for generating spin-off businesses make it exactly the kind of development he wishes for a regional economy he sees falling behind.
Ardagh has a “very clean, automated, sophisticated process,” Loope said. “They’re green and sophisticated — the community wins at every level.”
And it chose Roanoke County because it found a site here that suited it to a T: a 525,000-square-foot building on a large tract.
The Roanoke Valley has a lot of pluses attractive to businesses: Interstate 81, good rail access, a stellar workforce training asset in Virginia Western Community College, good quality of life, all packaged in a low-tax state.
But Ardagh had a big contract to fulfill and needed to move fast, a circumstance that usually means finding an existing building — in this case, a large one with room for expansion.
Wooing economic development prospects is a numbers game, Loope said. “The majority need a certain kind of real estate in a certain kind of market. We’ve got the market and the quality of life. It’s the real estate that gets their attention.”
And the region, as she noted, is “topographically challenged” — a big part of its charm.
It will have to be proactive, identifying and preparing more marketable real estate if it wants more industries like Ardagh. That will take an ongoing community conversation. Because there’s not much developable land left.
Weather JournalStorm track isn't very snowy for us