With Montgomery County businesses expanding and offering more employment opportunities, the area has become a hot spot for families to plant roots.
According to the Economic Development Authority of Montgomery County, seven new or expanding companies announced plans in 2011 to create 572 new jobs and invest $43.5 million in the county.
Compared to the 134 counties and cities in Virginia, Montgomery Country ranked 15th for monetary investments and eighth for job creation.
This marks one of the most active years in the past decade. Last year had the most job creation since 2001, when 700 jobs were created, and the highest investment since 2004, when $44.1 million was put into the county.
Out of the various business announcements made over the past year, the three most significant came from Modea, Federal-Mogul Corp. and Backcountry.com.
Here’s a breakdown of the biggest players in the local economy.
Federal-Mogul Corp., a global automotive supplier employing close to 400 people in Montgomery County, announced in October 2011 its intent to expand its 275,000-square-foot engine-bearing manufacturing facility, located in Blacksburg Industrial Park. The $10 million expansion will bring new equipment and manufacturing lines and create 50 new jobs.
In the accompanying press release, Gov. Bob McDonnell stated the importance of expanding existing companies.
“Virginia is recognized as the top state for business not only for our ability to attract new companies, but, equally important, for our ability to grow these relationships and retain business,” McDonnell said.
Both state and regional agencies worked with Federal-Mogul in the expansion. Through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program — which is from the Virginia Department of Business Assistance — the company will receive funding as it finds and trains new employees. Brian Hamilton of the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development said such methods can allow one branch to flourish over others.
“While Federal-Mogul has closed plants in Michigan, they have grown the plant here in Virginia,” Hamilton said. “We try to work with our local plant when they start competing internally for business to provide them with incentives that lower the cost of producing the product, which therefore allows them to attract that new business to their plant.”
Later that October, Backcountry.com, a major outdoor retailer based in Salt Lake City, Utah, announced it would build its first East Coast center in Christiansburg.
The company’s Utah location separated it from half of its customer base, prompting it to build a new center to lower the costs and time of shipping. As Backcountry.com searched for an eastern location, it was courted with competing offers form Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia.
Backcountry.com eventually chose Virginia, and specifically Montgomery County, over other
competitors after it was offered a large incentive package.
The $2.3 million agreement included a $300,000 grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to assist with site costs. In addition, Christiansburg gave $80,000, as well as a 46-acre plot of land at Falling Branch Corporate Park, bought by the Economic Development Authority of Montgomery County in 2000 for more than $1.1 million.
According to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the lot was a major factor in the landing of the project in Montgomery County. The proximity of the corporate park to I-81 and the nearby Roanoke UPS center makes shipping along the East Coast practical.
“From a logistics perspective, there are huge advantages for companies to have a presence in Virginia because of the access to markets,” said Brent Sheffler of the VEDP. “They can reach half of the United States population in overnight trucking.”
Liz Povar, director of business development for the Virginia Department of Business Development, said communities along I-81 have seen solid growth.
Much like with what it did with Federal-Mogul, the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will offer aid in hiring and training employees. The county will also offer a 50 percent rebate on property taxes for five years.
Backcountry.com’s director of operations Jeff Carter said the state and county’s commitment to economic development made the area attractive to the company.
“Virginia has been this friendly climate that’s worked for us,” Carter said. “Kudos to Montgomery County for helping us find a lot to build on and working with us to make it an option that would be profitable for us.”