Editorial: A Great Investment in Economic Development

The Progress-Index

Virginia’s Gateway Region last month celebrated its 55th anniversary, but more importantly marked its success as the region’s economic development organization.

For years, Virginia’s Gateway Region has attracted businesses to the region and also helped existing businesses expand.

Virginia’s Gateway Region exists to enhance the economic development opportunities for the cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell and Petersburg, and the counties of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Prince George, Surry and Sussex.

VGR President and CEO Renee Chapline said that in the last five years there have been announcements of 10,000 new jobs in the region that include $3.4 billion in capital investment.

“The capital investment dollars offer incredible promise for our tax base and our people as the investment brings new direct as well as indirect dollars to the economy through additional consumer spending and investment,” she said.

One of the group’s biggest accomplishments was its role in attracting British aerospace giant Rolls-Royce to Prince George. The nearly 1,000-acre Rolls-Rolls Crosspointe facility is now one of the most advanced manufacturing facilities in the world.

The facility is a center for the manufacture of precision-engineered engine discs, turbine blades and other jet engine components sold to aircraft manufacturers around the world.

The campus comprises two manufacturing facilities that employ about 300 people. The first facility, the Rotatives factory, opened in 2011. The second, the Advanced Airfoil Machining Facility, began production in 2014, and plans are to expand its capacity by 2017. The investment in both facilities is more than $300 million.

Adjoining the 986-acre campus is the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, a unique partnership between more than 20 international manufacturing companies and five Virginia universities.

Although the organization is a vital part of the region’s economic development, it had a humble beginning. It was originally known as The Appomattox Basin Industrial Development Corporation and was formed on April 2, 1960, by a small group of local businessmen. It operated with a part-time staff for the following 25 years who were tasked with “hosting the activities of industrial prospects.” Under new leadership, the organization then shifted its focus and became more active in shaping the future economic climate of the area in 1985. Since then, VGR has grown into a nonprofit organization that fosters an economic development partnership between public entities and private industry.

The economic development group has earned its share of accolades over the years. Business Facilities magazine presented Virginia's Gateway Region with the 2008 Economic Development Deal of the Year Award for its role in bringing Rolls-Royce to Prince George County. Recently, Virginia's Gateway Region was recognized in the first annual “Best of Economic Development in Virginia” by Southern Business and Development magazine.

Having a regional economic development organization has been one of the best investments made by area businesses and governments. Let’s hope Virginia’s Gateway Region continues its stellar work in bringing economic development to our area.