Company News For the Record

For the Record - August 2019

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CENTRAL VIRGINIA

Chesterfield County-based vape shop chain Avail Vapor LLC has announced its expansion into CBD products under the brand name Leafana Wellness. CBD is a non-intoxicating compound derived from cannabis and hemp plants that is sometimes used to relieve pain, anxiety and stress. Avail, which has 99 retail stores, including seven in the Richmond region, has carried third-party cannabidiol products since February and will add the Leafana product line at all of its stores and make it available to U.S. distributors. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Plans to make Bedford a scheduled stop for Amtrak trains traveling between Lynchburg and Roanoke still are on track following a state board’s decision to pay for a study on a Bedford stop. Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board approved $300,000 to conduct a planning study on adding a train platform in Bedford. In 2016, the General Assembly directed the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) to conduct a feasibility study on a Bedford stop. (News & Advance)

With a combination of federal, state and local grants, Fluvanna County will soon receive fiber internet access, along with hundreds of rural homes, businesses and buildings in Central Virginia counties, including Albemarle, Cumberland, Goochland and Louisa. Across the state, an estimated 10% of homes don’t have internet access, and Gov. Ralph Northam has made rural broadband access one of his priorities. Grants totaling $4.9 million from the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative will extend service to areas not yet served by a broadband provider. (The Daily Progress)

Richmond pharmaceutical company Kaléo announced a deal in July with Walgreens to stock epinephrine injection devices for infants and toddlers amid a nationwide shortage of the drugs. Kaléo’s Auvi-Q, an automatic injector used to treat serious allergic reactions, is the only device approved by the Food and Drug Administration for small children. Manufacturing delays at the plant that makes EpiPens has caused a yearlong shortage of the drug that is expected to continue. Auvi-Q is free for patients with insurance, and Kaléo announced it would immediately reduce the price of a two-pack to $178 and produce a generic version. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Loving’s Produce Co., the Richmond company that supplied restaurants, caterers and schools with fruits and vegetables for nearly 75 years, shut down its operations in June. Owners Gary and John Loving, sons of founder Harry Loving, decided to retire and didn’t have anyone in the family who wanted to take over the business, which was in downtown Richmond until a fire in 2005, after which it moved to a South Richmond warehouse. Loving’s had about 40 employees at the time of its closing but was once one of the city’s largest wholesale fresh fruit and vegetable distributors. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Crozet-based Perrone Robotics launched a self-driving shuttle bus service in July, with a three-month pilot program running two routes in the town of Crozet. In a partnership with regional public transportation system JAUNT and Albemarle County, the autonomous shuttle has a general-purpose robotics operating system that runs Perrone’s shuttle technology platform, which will be capable of driving a wide array of vehicles. The launch was delayed from March to July because of additional safety testing and establishing a public body called Smart Mobility. (The Daily Progress)

Henrico County Planning Commission members voted unanimously to recommend plans to rezone the aging Regency mall, which would be redeveloped as a contemporary, high-density urban town center with up to 1,250 residences. The Rebkee Co. and Thalhimer Realty Partners purchased the indoor shopping mall in 2015, after it was no longer the region’s premier shopping destination, having ceded that title to Short Pump Town Center. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Prince George County-based manufacturer Service Center Metals has been acquired by an affiliate of Richmond businessman William H. Goodwin Jr.’s Riverstone Group LLC, which purchased a majority ownership stake for an undisclosed price. The aluminum extrusions manufacturing company, with annual revenue in excess of $225 million, was started in 2002 by three local businessmen who worked for Henrico County-based Reynolds Metals Co. before its acquisition by Alcoa Inc. in 2000. The company employs 247 workers in a 426,000-square-foot factory in SouthPoint Business Park. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Shamin Hotels’ plans for an upscale hotel and conference center off Midlothian Turnpike are moving ahead after Chesterfield County supervisors approved a multimillion-dollar incentive package for the Chester-based company. The series of tax breaks aimed at luring a $30 million investment to the county-owned 14-acre site was lauded by most supervisors as promoting Chesterfield’s growth. The project would help Chesterfield draw business travelers and people attending sports tournaments in county facilities, officials said. They defended the value of the incentives by noting the company would receive a tax break only on money it was making with new projects. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

A new choice will be added to the menu of cable television and internet providers in Lynchburg. The Lynchburg City Council unanimously approved a franchise agreement to allow Edinburg-based Shentel to operate a nonexclusive video franchise in the Rivermont Avenue and Fort Avenue areas. The company hopes to begin work by the end of the year. (News & Advance)

A Richmond Circuit Court judge upheld a Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles decision in 2016 to allow California-based Tesla Inc. to open a company-owned electric automobile dealership in Henrico County over the objections of the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association, a trade group for independent dealerships in the state. The dealers appealed DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb’s decision, but Tesla opened its store in western Henrico in August 2017 despite the legal challenge. The association plans to appeal the ruling, CEO Don Hall said in a statement. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Gov. Ralph Northam announced a new 120-kilowatt rooftop solar facility at the Virginia Department of Forestry’s headquarters in Charlottesville, which will offset energy usage and costs for the agency. This is one of five state agency projects that have received support through Virginia’s solar initiative; the state Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy based in Richmond has worked with the agencies to identify ways they can install solar facilities on their properties. (News release)

 

EASTERN VIRGINIA
A Portsmouth-based specialist in packing agriculture products for shipment is looking to expand its export business with a facility on Norfolk International Terminals. Arreff Terminals Inc., a certified organic grain handler, wants to lease a pier, install transloading equipment and rehabilitate a disused rail spur at the terminal, said Jeremy Latimer, director of rail programs at the state Department of Rail and Public Transportation. (The Virginian-Pilot)

A federal lawsuit alleges Huntington Ingalls Industries underpays pension benefits to some retired shipbuilders by using outdated information, the latest in a string of similar court challenges against major U.S. companies. The lawsuit, filed in May at U.S. District Court in Newport News, affects employees hired before June 7, 2004, who are covered under a contract with United Steelworkers Local 8888, the suit states. Huntington Ingalls filed a motion to dismiss the case. In a supporting memo, the company said the case “would lead the court down paths that defy common sense and would transform the judiciary into a legislative body.” (The Virginian-Pilot)

Metropolitan Solutions, a Portsmouth company that conducts lab testing for the Hampton Roads shipbuilding industry, recently completed a facility upgrade of more than $500,000.  The expansion will allow the small business to go beyond its roots in the maritime industry, company President and CEO David Spinazzolo said. (Daily Press)

Thirty-six railroad cars full of coal went off the tracks in late June, landing in the Great Dismal Swamp, officials said. The 3,600 tons of coal has a fine, sand-like consistency. It went into the water along with some of the cars. Norfolk Southern spokesman Tom Werner said it would take two to three weeks for workers to remove damaged railcars and tracks from the refuge. The company then will need to work with various federal and state agencies to restore the 2.3 acres of the swamp that’s been impacted. (The Virginian-Pilot)

The state community college board has given Thomas Nelson Community College the green light to build a $38 million, three-story replacement for its existing buildings, slated to be finished in late 2022. (Daily Press)

Chicago-based Tribune Publishing is selling The Virginian-Pilot’s downtown Norfolk headquarters for $9.86 million. The company also is offering its Virginia Beach distribution warehouse for $6.13 million. Tribune Publishing bought The Pilot and all of its related real estate in 2018 for $34 million.  (The Virginian-Pilot)

 

SHENANDOAH VALLEY
The long-awaited Blue Ridge Children’s Museum could open in Waynesboro as early as this fall. After a lengthy search for a permanent building, volunteers are busy clearing out a warehouse near Constitution Park that will be the museum’s home. Organizers are counting on community support — and elbow grease — to get at least part of the space ready for visitors by fall 2019. (News Leader)

The combined populations of Frederick and Clarke counties and the city of Winchester are expected to increase 24.5% by 2040, according to the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center, which recently released its statewide population projections. Since 2010, the Winchester area’s population, which is forecast to grow from 133,428 to 166,064, has been one of the fastest-growing in Virginia, which as a state is experiencing its slowest population growth in almost a century at 8% from 2010 to 2020. However, the Winchester region’s growth rate is still slower than in previous decades, compared to a peak of more than 30% in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, researchers said. Winchester’s population growth has been driven by retirees and relocating families from the Washington, D.C., area. (The Winchester Star)

The town of Front Royal filed a $3 million civil lawsuit in June against the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority and its former director, Jennifer McDonald, in attempts to recover overpayments the town made to the EDA. McDonald resigned from the EDA late last year and in March was named as one of eight defendants in a $17.6 million embezzlement and misappropriation civil lawsuit filed by the EDA. She was arrested in May on felony counts of embezzlement and fraud and is being held without bond. (Northern Virginia Daily)

Motorists in counties along, or even near, Interstate 81 began paying more for fuel in July. In a special session in April, the Virginia General Assembly approved a gas sales tax increase of 7.6 cents per gallon for unleaded gasoline and 7.7 cents per gallon of diesel fuel to help fund $2 billion in improvements along the 325-mile-stretch of Interstate 81 from Winchester to Bristol. The tax will initially be placed on all oil companies serving the area. It will then make its way to the consumers at the pump. (The Northern Virginia Daily)

Harrisonburg-based James Madison University adopted a living wage for its full-time employees in July. A total of 109 employees who were earning less than $24,960 per year had their wages adjusted to meet the living wage standard. JMU determined the living wage using information published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT determined the living wage for a single adult in Rockingham County to be $11.38 per hour. Those JMU employees who received the living wage increase now earn $12 per hour. The annual cost to the university of the living wage increase is $75,263, while the average increase per employee is $690. The hourly rate is calculated using a 2,080-hour work year. (News release)

 

SOUTHERN VIRGINIA
After a six-month emergency repair to a part of the Danville Expressway, the busy roadway was back to normal in mid-June. The Virginia Department of Transportation has opened all lanes of U.S. 29 near Barkers Branch and lifted all travel restrictions, according to the city. An 84-inch underground pipe failed late last year, causing VDOT to shut down the northbound lanes. A detour was in place at first, then crews rerouted northbound traffic to a southbound traffic lane. In May, the northbound lanes reopened, but southbound traffic was still restricted to one lane to allow for repairs to the southbound bridge, the city reported. (Danville Register & Bee)

The Halifax County Board of Supervisors has enacted a new, much-discussed land-use tax ordinance. The new ordinance replaces ag-forestal districts with a new set of tax-favored zones that place minimum requirements for landowners to be considered “bona fide farmers and horticulturalists.” These basic requirements include farming for at least five years and turning at least a $1,000 profit from farming. (SoVaNow.com)

Ikea will shut down its operations at Cane Creek Centre industrial park in December, forcing its nearly 300 employees to find work elsewhere. The company announced the decision in July, citing high costs for raw materials in the United States. Production will move to existing Ikea Industry manufacturing sites in Europe to meet demand for affordable furniture in North America. The plant opened in Danville in May 2008. (Danville Register & Bee)

An application by Landmark Asset Services Inc. to the Virginia Housing Development Authority scored high enough to receive financing for renovation of the former Blairs Middle School into loft-style apartments.  Southside Lofts will create 55 apartments for working families in Pittsylvania County and surrounding areas. Landmark will bring this historic structure back to life, while keeping the former school’s history intact. All efforts are being made to preserve the former school’s rich history and will include displays of school memorabilia. (Chatham Star-Tribune)

 

NORTHERN VIRGINIA
Amazon has yet to break ground in Northern Virginia on its second headquarters, but residents are already turning away persistent speculators, recalculating budgets for down payments on homes and fighting rent increases. Amazon announced in November that its second headquarters would be in National Landing, which includes parts of Crystal City, Pentagon City and Alexandria, all suburbs of Washington. As of June, the median home price in Arlington County was on track to spike 17.2% by the end of 2019, according to a report by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis. (The New York Times)

Middleburg real estate development and investment firm Crimson Partners is considering purchasing the Center forÊInnovative Technology property in Herndon. On June 27, Crimson Partners filed for a pre-application conference in Loudoun County for the property that straddles Loudoun and Fairfax counties. Included in the application are plans to build around the current CIT building to create a mixed-use, master-planned community with 1.1 million square feet of office space, 60,000 square feet of retail, a 250-room hotel and 1,120 residential units.  (Loudoun Times-Mirror)

The proposed development sites previously pitched as International Place at Tysons sold in late June for nearly $50 million to two separate buyers, more than a year after affiliates of their former owner sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Thallium LLC, an affiliate of Cogent Communications Holdings Inc., closed on its previously announced acquisition of 8133 Leesburg Pike for $30.25 million. It acquired the property, which includes a nine-story office building, from an affiliate of Stafford-based Garrett Cos. In a related transaction, Tepe & Hisar LLC, an affiliate of a Turkish real estate company, paid $19.5 million for 8201 Leesburg Pike, the site of a former Ford dealership, from another Garrett affiliate. (Washington Business Journal)

After hearing from nearly 60 people, the Prince William County Planning Commission voted unanimously in mid-July to defer a rezoning application for a 92-acre mixed-use development proposal on the Kline property near Prince William Parkway and Liberia Avenue. Before the planning commission adjourned the meeting, the board deferred approving or denying the application until its meeting on Oct. 2. The proposed development in the Coles District includes 310 residences (houses and town homes), 145,000 square feet of commercial space, a park and a site to be dedicated to the county for a school and three outdoor playing fields. (InsideNova.com)

Walmart continues its reign as the dominant player in the Fredericksburg-area grocery market for the seventh straight year. Its 10 area stores raked in a total of $302 million in food and drug sales from April 1, 2018, to March 31, according to Food World magazine’s latest annual market share study of the Mid-Atlantic region. That’s a nearly 1% increase from the previous study’s tally of $299.1 million in sales for Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, Culpeper, King George, Orange, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Westmoreland.  (The Free Lance-Star)

SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA
The Virginia Department of Transportation recently asked for public feedback on a series of road projects between Bristol’s city limits and the town of Abingdon. The concept includes up to 12 small roadway projects that would connect existing road segments to give local drivers an alternative to short trips on busy Interstate 81. The study, which is not related to last year’s corridor safety study that resulted in new fuel taxes, would assist with future project planning with Abingdon, Washington County and Bristol for state Smart Scale funding. (Bristol Herald Courier)

The Federal Trade Commission has started a COPA Assessment Project on state laws that shield merging hospital rivals from antitrust actions, focusing on how Tennessee and Virginia regulate Ballad Health. Last year, Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System merged to form Ballad, which covers about a million people in Southwest Virginia and Tennessee’s Tri-Cities region. For decades, the FTC has viewed state laws like Certificate of Public Advantage, called COPAs, as a way to circumvent the commission’s authority to assess whether the benefits of a hospital merger outweigh the pricing, access and quality that could come with monopolies. (The Roanoke Times)

Employees at coal producer Blackjewel LLC, which filed for bankruptcy in July, say work has stopped at its mines in Southwest Virginia and paychecks have bounced. The country’s sixth-largest coal producer in 2017, Blackjewel also operates mines in Kentucky, West Virginia and Wyoming. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in West Virginia and acknowledged the outstanding payroll checks. In an affidavit, former CEO Jeff Hoops said the company needed about $6 million to pay salaries and benefits. The court authorized Blackjewel to borrow up to $5 million for emergencies, but did not provide specific authorization to use the funds for payroll. (Bristol Herald Courier)

In a ranking of the nation’s 15 top hotels, Travel and Leisure magazine named The Bristol Hotel the fourth-best hotel operating in a U.S. city. The adaptive reuse project of the seven-story former Executive Plaza office building scored No. 53 in the magazine’s “Top 100 Hotels in the World.” The Bristol Hotel, managed by Charlestowne Hotels, opened last year. It received a score of 96.09 on a scale of 100 and is currently the only boutique hotel in downtown Bristol. (Bristol Herald Courier)

Coldwell Banker Select Real Estate in Wytheville recently moved to a new location on Lee Highway, with a home center where real estate agents and experts in new construction will answer customers’ questions. Next door, at Xterior Plus, the staff will assist with answers about flooring, windows, siding, roofing and pricing. The real estate firm, owned by Barry and Angie Catron, started with a focus on building homes but turned to real estate. The new facility marks a return to the Catrons’ roots. (SWVA Today)

The new Lisa H. Moore Counseling Center, named for the former executive director of Mount Rogers Community Services Board, recently opened in Marion to serve individuals with mental health issues, developmental disabilities and substance abuse problems. Clients will receive counseling, primary care, case management and other services at the center, which also will have an in-house pharmacy through a partnership with Genoa Healthcare. MRCSB serves people in the counties of Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Smyth and Wythe and the city of Galax, with a budget of $56 million. (SWVA Today)

Powell Valley National Bank recently opened a new full-service office in Abingdon. The bank, which is Virginia’s sixth-oldest, is locally owned and headquartered in Jonesville, with full-service branches throughout the Southwest Virginia region.  (News release)

Southwestern Virginia Community Health Systems recently celebrated its 40th anniversary in Saltville. It has expanded from one clinic to four centers serving people in Bristol, Tazewell and Meadowview, as well as dental centers in Saltville and Tazewell, and New Day Recovery, a substance abuse recovery program. In 1997, the health systems started the Migrant Health Network to provide basic services for migrant and seasonal farm workers and their families in Southwest Virginia. Last year, SVCHS served more than 12,000 patients. It focuses on assisting all individuals, regardless of their ability to pay. (SWVA Today)

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise will help bridge the technology gap this fall by providing each full-time student, faculty member and staff member with an iPad, Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, through its $1.6 million innovate2eleVAte project, funded by a private donation that will be paid in installments over the next four years. Chancellor Donna P. Henry says that 85% of the 2,065 U.Va.-Wise students enrolled last year received financial aid, and many lack resources to buy laptops and other devices. The college held a trial run last year, purchasing 50 iPads for faculty and staff to improve teaching and other student interactions. (Coalfield Progress)

Remote Area Medical announced it will discontinue its leadership in organizing a free clinic in Wise County next year, although the local nonprofit Health Wagon will continue to offer the health-care services. Next year’s clinic will be called the Move Mountains Medical Mission and will feature the same partners that have been at the RAM clinic, which offered vision and dental care and other services over the past 20 years. RAM said that the number of patients at the annual free clinic has declined because of more medical resources in Wise, and other communities across the country have requested their services. (Bristol Herald Courier)

Raleigh, North Carolina-based Advance Auto Parts is challenging a fine proposed by a state labor agency in the 2018 death of a worker in Roanoke. The auto parts retailer should pay $12,726 for not ensuring proper training, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry said in a June 11 citation released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Advance Auto is contesting the proposed fine, Paul Saunier, regional health director for the department, said in July. Saunier declined to say why the company decided to challenge the penalty, or when the dispute might be resolved. (The Roanoke Times)

A Botetourt County automotive parts factory released ex­­cessive levels of hydrochloric acid into the air, according to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Dynax America Corp. agreed to pay a fine of $168,204 and fix the problems in a recent agreement with state regulators. The releases did not lead to any documented harm to the public or the environment, according to Robert Steele, senior enforcement agent for the DEQ. (The Roanoke Times)

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is asking Mountain Valley Pipeline officials about the safety of a protective coating on the 42-inch-diameter steel pipe being buried through West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. Delays in construction of the natural gas pipeline have led to some sections of pipe being stored above ground for more than a year, generating concerns that the coating could degrade over time and contaminate nearby air, soil and water. Questions raised by FERC and pipeline opponents come as legal challenges continue to delay work on Mountain Valley and a similar project to the east, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. (The Roanoke Times)

Humm Kombucha, the Oregon-based beverage maker that planned an East Coast factory in Roanoke, won’t be coming after all. The company told city leaders in May that challenging market conditions and improvements in production and transportation capabilities at its home plant led it to halt its plans for Roanoke. The company had planned a $10 million, 100,000-square-foot plant on 12 acres in the Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology that was to employ 46 people. (The Roanoke Times)

Metalsa Structural Products Inc., a Mexico-based automotive components company, plans to spend $6.4 million to expand its manufacturing operation in Botetourt County. The expansion is expected to add 25 positions to an existing workforce of 230. Virginia successfully competed with Mexico for the project. Founded in 1956, Metalsa is a subsidiary of Grupo Proeza, based in Monterrey, Mexico. The company, which employs more than 13,500 workers globally, makes structural components for light and commercial vehicles. (VirginiaBusiness.com)





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