By Sarah Vogelsong, The Progress-Index
DINWIDDIE — Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore touted Dinwiddie County’s new Aldi distribution center as another step forward in the governor’s ambitious plans to build a “New Virginia Economy” at a groundbreaking for the project held March 24.
“This is just a continuation of what we have,” McAuliffe declared, citing the 78,000 people in the commonwealth who work in logistics and distribution.
When it opens in August 2018, the Dinwiddie division headquarters and distribution center will add at least another 145 Virginians to that total. Between those labor force increases, the 500,000 square foot building that will be constructed and the $57 million in investment the new facility will require, the Aldi represents one of the largest economic development projects in the county and the region in several years.
“This is the kind of project we like to see in our part of the world,” said Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission Executive Director Evan Feinman. “That’s 145 families that are going to have better lives.”
The Dinwiddie distribution center was, as Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors Chairman Harrison Moody pointed out, “quite some time in the making.” Most notably, Virginia competed against North Carolina for the project and won, a victory McAuliffe later attributed to the commonwealth’s “low-tax, business-friendly” environment.
“We have a better total package,” he told The Progress-Index. “And let’s be honest, North Carolina has been badly hit by HB2,” a reference to the state’s controversial “bathroom bill” banning transgender people from using public restrooms that do not match the sex listed on their birth certificates.
Other inducements Virginia used to attract the grocery retailer included $680,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity funds and $450,000 from the Commonwealth Opportunity Fund.
Aldi’s expansion into Dinwiddie is part of a broader plan to increase the company’s footprint in Virginia, a goal that will be significantly aided by the opening of its first distribution center in the commonwealth. Over the next few years, Aldi expects to add an additional 80 stores to the 38 it currently operates in Virginia.
“It’s the shoppers who are taking notice of our products,” Aldi Vice President for Real Estate, Design and Development Dan Gavin told the crowd March 24.
To McAuliffe, the Dinwiddie project also represents important links to other growing industries, including the shipping business that operates out of the Port of Virginia just under 30 miles north from the new Aldi site near the intersection of Route 1 and Route 460.
“We have had a huge turnaround,” said McAuliffe. “That is why these distribution centers are so important for us.”
For Virginia Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, part of the significance of the new development lay in the promise it offers communities caught in food deserts.
“Ultimately, this is going to be a huge win for citizens, not just in Dinwiddie but for the region as a whole,” she said.
As earth-movers and backhoes moved through the county landscape behind him, Dinwiddie Board Chairman Moody summed up the jubilant feel of the morning’s groundbreaking: when it comes to Dinwiddie and Aldi, he said, “it’s a good match.”