- Last Updated on 07:51 AM 03/01/10
- BY By KEITH CORUM/NEWS-PROGRESS
Gov. Bob McDonnell visited Red Oak Friday to make his first announcement concerning economic development in the commonwealth since taking office last month.
Addressing a standing-room only crowd at Morgan Lumber Co., McDonnell announced a $4.2 million investment by the company, coupled with $100,000 from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund and $125,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Commission that is expected to lead to the creation of 25 jobs and usher in state-of-the-art dry kiln technology at the Charlotte County facility.
McDonnell addressed the hard economic hit sustained by Southside Virginia in recent years and vowed to follow through on a campaign pledge to fight for more jobs and new business opportunities across the region.
“We have endured eight recessions since the Great Depression. We are a tough and resilient people, and that is not evidenced anywhere anymore than here in Southside. The loss of textiles and other industry, the loss of agricultural dollars and a number of other factors have contributed to make Southside Virginia the hardest hit of any region in the state,” said McDonnell. “I am pleased that my first economic development announcement since taking office is new jobs and investment for Charlotte County. A major priority for my administration is energizing the economy in Southside. The region boasts one of the most determined and dedicated workforces in the state.”
The expansion will result in the addition of a “continuous dry kiln” at an ongoing, successful business established in the 1940s by J. C. Morgan and his two sons, W.C. and Billy.
The dry kiln method will allow for a 100 percent increase in production and increased energy efficiency, according to company representatives. State Forester Carl Garrison III said the project will go far toward bolstering Virginia’s forest products industry at a time when a boost is most welcome.
“It’s been very tough for the industry in the past few years. A lot of loggers and companies have shut their doors. A lot of things are happening today that add stress to the forestry industry. We have worked closely with Morgan Lumber in years past and are behind them all the way on this project,” said Garrison.
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Charlotte County to secure the project for Virginia. North Carolina also competed for the project, officials said. The Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide training assistance through its Virginia Jobs Investment program for the expansion.
Deputy Charlotte County Administrator Susan Adams thanked the county’s IDA for its role in helping to move the project forward.
“The Charlotte County Industrial Development Authority provided invaluable assistance to make this project possible. This project not only provides needed employment, but greatly impacts the future of the local economy and the wood products industry in Southside Virginia,” said Adams.
Due to legislative commitments in Richmond, Senator Frank Ruff, a commissioner of the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, could not attend Friday’s event but in a statement praised Morgan Lumber and expressed satisfaction that the Tobacco Commission was able to play a role in the expansion.
“Morgan Lumber has been a strong Charlotte County employer for many decades. I am glad that the Tobacco Commission was able to play a role in this expansion, and look forward to the company’s continued success in Charlotte County,” said Ruff. “It is doubly good when we can assist a locally-owned company that has been a proven employer in the region for decades.”
Morgan Lumber Company owner Ken Morgan emphasized the company’s ongoing, positive relationship with the officials and citizens of Charlotte County.
“We consider our relationship with Charlotte County as a partnership,” said Morgan. “The county promotes a friendly and cooperative work environment along with a readily available workforce of good people with strong work ethics. For these reasons it was a logical decision for us to continue to strengthen our roots here in Southside Virginia.”
IDA Chairman Ralph Moore said that the estimated 25 new jobs would result in at least 50 more loggers becoming directly involved in a process that would likewise result in an eventual, exponential curve that stands to have a direct and positive economic impact on roughly 200 families in the local community, as well as the county as a whole once the expansion is complete.