Company News For the Record

For the Record - January 2019

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Henrico County-based Altria Group Inc. announced it had entered into an agreement to acquire newly issued shares in Toronto-based Cronos Group Inc., a cannabis and marijuana company. The transaction between the two publicly traded companies represents a 45 percent equity stake in Cronos Group at a price of $16.25 (CAD) per share for an aggregate investment by Altria of approximately USD $1.8 billion. Altria CEO Howard A. Willard III framed the investment as a response to the declining cigarette market in the U.S. “It’s a very attractive future growth opportunity for Altria,” Willard said of the cannabis industry. “We believe it is an adjacent business and a complementary business.” (

With unanimous approval of a special use permit from Campbell County supervisors, the Depot Solar Center project, a 150-acre solar farm project near Rustburg is one step closer to construction beginning in 2020. Depot Solar Center LLC, an offshoot of Coronal Energy, would produce 15 megawatts of energy, enough to power about 3,000 homes, and construction would take from 150 to 200 workers. (The News & Advance)

Insite Properties broke ground in November on 3TWENTY3, a five-story office building that will add 120,000 square feet to the Charlottesville downtown market. The building will include 200 underground parking spaces. Construction should be complete by spring of 2020. (The Daily Progress)

Pennsylvania-based Kinsley Construction Inc. plans to open a plant in Richmond as it expands its steel fabrication and erection services. The construction company plans to hire 70 employees in Virginia. The positions would include machine operators, fitters, welders, painters, truck drivers and project managers. The facility, previously owned by Williams Bridge Co., is undergoing renovations. (

The historic Stewart-Lee House in downtown Richmond, which was home for a short period to the family of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, has been sold. The Family Foundation, a conservative social action group, bought the Greek Revival town house at 707 E. Franklin St. in November. The group paid $800,000, according to Henrico County-based commercial real estate brokerage Commonwealth Commercial Partners, which represented the buyer. The Home Builders Association of Virginia, which bought the town house in January 2001 and fully renovated it, was asking $1.2 million. The house is assessed at $1.24 million, city property tax records show. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

A $5 million initiative seeks to teach Virginia Community College System students specific workforce skills at the beginning of their education as opposed to the end. Currently, students typically take general education classes before learning more specific skills. Gov. Ralph Northam has allocated $5 million in federal funds to support the redesign of Virginia’s community college system. Each college will compete for the funds. Colleges will receive a minimum of $100,000 and a maximum of $500,000. The pathways will be endorsed by businesses to ensure they’re meeting employers’ needs. (

After a year-long hiatus, Carnival is making its way back to Norfolk and bringing cruises to Cuba with it. The Miami-based line announced that it will deploy the $200 million refurbished ship Carnival Radiance to Havana, Cuba, as a port-of-call on its Oct. 18 and Oct. 25, 2020, trips. The Radiance and a remodeled ship, Carnival Sunrise, will be deployed from Norfolk for spring and fall Bahamas cruises. (The Virginian-Pilot)

The Virginia Beach City Council is moving forward with the new sports center at the Oceanfront. The city approved the $68 million project over the summer, and in December voted to pay a company, Eastern Sports Management (ESM), to run it. According to the agreement, the city will pay ESM $15,000 monthly during construction. When the center is complete the management fee will go up to $30,000 each month. Eastern Sports Management estimates the city will get about $56 million over 20 years for their initial investment. (WAVY)

The newest building at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk will be called Waitzer Hall in recognition of a $4 million gift. The donation from the Leah and Richard Waitzer Foundation is the largest family gift ever made to EVMS. Waitzer Hall, a 138,000-square-foot education and academic administration building, is scheduled to be complete in 2020. (

Some new Optima Health hires have Medicaid to thank. The Virginia-based company announced that it is adding 197 employees to its staff as a direct re­­sponse to Medicaid expansion. That news is particularly good for Norfolk’s Military Circle Mall. Most of the new hires will be working at the existing Optima customer-service center inside the former J.C. Penney store in the mall — a move that will double the space the company is using in the mall. More than 200 employees already work at the 45,000-square-foot center. The company is adding another 45,000 square feet within the former store. (The Virginian-Pilot)

The Wanchese Fish Co. in Suffolk is planning to grow rapidly over the next three years by adding staff and production capacity. The company was bought by Cooke Seafood USA in 2015. Cooke plans to hire about 70 employees during the next three years. These include jobs in a new corporate office and on new retail seafood production lines. The expansions include more than $2.8 million in investment. Since its acquisition of Wanchese Fish, Cooke has upgraded the Suffolk operation to handle increased seafood coming into the facility from other Cooke companies. (

Bridgewater College is adding a professional writing major. Denoted by the acronym PWR, the major allows Bridgewater to become a regional power player in attracting students who want to obtain the skills necessary for writing in business, science and technology, along with the opportunity to refine their interests in writing for multimedia, journalism and literature. The core curriculum gives students a solid base in the professional writing discipline, with classes on technical writing, grammar, style and editing, publishing and marketing and writing for visual media, as well as a choice of studying business or science writing. (News release)

James Madison University (JMU) announced three major gifts as it launched its $200 million comprehensive campaign. They included a $5.2 million commitment from the family of Julia Gilliam Sterling of West Palm Beach, Fla. to name the Leslie Flanary Gilliam (’82) Center for Entrepreneurship in the JMU College of Business; a $1 million gift from the Damico Family Foundation to endow a faculty chair for Exceptional Education in the JMU College of Education; and a “seven-figure” gift from Eric and Lara Parker Major of Purcellville to name the  Major Laboratory for Innovation, Collaboration, Creativity and Entrepreneurship in the future College of Business Learning Complex. (News releases)

Continental will expand its O’Sullivan Films production facility in Winchester, creating 61 jobs. Virginia competed against Mexico for the $10.3 million project, according to a news release from the governor. O’Sullivan Films produces films and artificial leather products for the North American automotive industry. The company was purchased by Continental in 2016. Gov. Ralph Northam approved a $188,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund for the project. The company also will receive benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Program and the Virginia Jobs Investment Program. It also is eligible for sales and use tax exemptions on manufacturing equipment. (The Winchester Star)

Winners of this year’s RevUp ShenCo competition were an­­nounced in early December with newcomer Box Office Brewery taking the chamber’s top prize of a $5,000 gold-level sponsorship with the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce. RevUp ShenCo was introduced to the county last year as a way for established and prospective business owners to come together and learn about what it takes to run a small business. Participants submitted business plans and participated in classes and seminars. While 65 men and women representing 31 different businesses participated in this year’s event, not everyone was in the race for a piece of the $20,000 pot. Of the 31 businesses, a little over half joined in on the competition. Six businesses received grant money to help put their new digital marketing plans into action. (Northern Virginia Daily)

Valley Health is among HealthCare’s Most Wired organizations for the third year in a row, affirming the regional health system’s use of information technology (IT) to improve access to patient care, care delivery, patient outcomes and safety. The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, or CHIME, announced the 2018 winners at its Fall CIO Forum in San Diego. (News release)

Tysons-based Capital One has acquired Wikibuy, an Austin, Texas-based startup that helps online shoppers make buying decisions. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. With more than 2 million members, Wikibuy helps shoppers save money by allowing them to track and compare prices and apply coupons at checkout. The free tool was launched in 2016. Wikibuy will remain based in Austin. (

The Greater Washington Partnership released its detailed plan in November to improve transportation in the region connecting Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Richmond. The Blueprint for Regional Mobility calls for short-term and long-term solutions to improve transit — and economic opportunity — in a region of 10.2 million people. The partnership is a group of CEOs trying to boost the economy of the “super region.” (

Kapsch TrafficCom, an Austria-based provider of tolling, traffic management, connected vehicles and other transportation technology, has acquired McLean-based eTrans Systems. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The McLean company is a provider of cloud-based services for connected and autonomous vehicles, including vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure systems that help vehicles manage speed, notice construction zones, road hazards and other potentially dangerous conditions. ETrans also provides smart-city tech for things like crosswalks. Its products will be integrated within Kapsch’s global product portfolio. (Washington Business Journal)

A 485,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center for e-commerce companies is scheduled to be built next to Stafford Regional Airport in what county leaders hailed as a game-changing project. The Board of Supervisors voted in November to approve an agreement that guarantees certain tax rebates over 30 years to Maryland-based Property Management Associates, which will build the warehouse at 200 Centreport Parkway. The warehouse is a $35 million investment that will generate $450,000 per year in real estate and personal property tax revenue, according to the county. (The Free Lance-Star)

Virginia Hospital Center can finally move ahead with its expansion, thanks to approval from the Arlington County Board after deferring a decision in September for VHC to address remaining neighborhood concerns. The project will create a new medical building and parking garage on county-owned land currently known as the Edison site. The expansion is part of the 357-bed hospital’s plan to add 100 beds (now with an OK for 44 of those beds) and locate inpatient care — for cardiac, cancer, surgical, mental health and its emergency department — on its campus’ south side, and outpatient services on its north side. (Washington Business Journal)

A long-standing Tazewell County business is expanding and diversifying its product line. AMR Pemco, which is located in the Bluefield Industrial Park, received a $1.4 million loan from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority in November. David Graf, the company’s president and CEO, said the money will be used to upgrade equipment and expand its building. “Through this growth plan, we hope to add 75 jobs in the next several years,” Graf said. AMR Pemco offers products and solutions for mid-to-high-voltage electrical distribution equipment, dry-type transformers and industrial control buildings. (

Tazewell council members got their first look at preliminary plans for a proposed Main Street hotel in November. Greg Mulkey presented conceptual drawings for the hotel and a parking garage to council at its regular meeting. The concept is for a two-story garage for 120 cars; it would be utilized for public parking as well as for hotel guests. The facility will be constructed as a public-private partnership with the town building the parking deck and Mulkey’s company building the hotel. Mulkey said he is negotiating with several hotel chains and has not settled on one yet. He did not offer a time for completion of the project. (

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise has received a $50,000 grant for the Bridging Projects Programs to fund the multicultural center and a focused lecture series, undergraduate research and internships. The funds come from the University of Virginia Provosts’ Bridging Projects Program. The project will create ongoing and future collaborators with U.Va., including its Office of Diversity, Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights, and the Center for Liberal Arts. The project will help the U.Va.-Wise community fully develop strategies to enhance diversity and inclusion on campus to begin and sustain the college’s long-term vision for unity through diversity. (News release)

The Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance held its Excellence in Mining Awards in November. The winners were: Best AML Enhancement: Savage Services Co., Wise County; Best Active Surface Mine: Paramont Contura LLC, Dickenson/Buchanan County; Best Completed Surface Mine: Clintwood Elkhorn Mining LLC, Buchanan County; Best Refuse Disposal: Ramaco Resources Land Holdings LLC, Tazewell County; Best Completed Deep Mine: Red River Coal Co. Inc., Wise County; Best Forestry Reclamation Approach: Clintwood Elkhorn Mining LLC, Buchanan County; Best Active Deep Mine: Paramont Contura LLC, Dickenson County; Best Completed Fill: Norton Coal Co. LLC, Tazewell County; Best Active Prep Plant: Buchanan Minerals LLC, No. 1 Mine Preparation Plant, Buchanan County;  and Best Stewardship in Mining and Reclamation: Red River Coal Co. Inc., Wise County. Fifteen-Year-Legacy Award: Red River Coal Co. Inc., Wise County. (

A $350,000 study that intends to determine what improvements are needed to bring Amtrak service to the New River Valley has been placed on indefinite hold. Officials with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation said in December that Norfolk Southern has halted its involvement in the study due to the company wanting to prioritize other matters related to its rail network. The railroad recently announced plans to move its headquarters to Atlanta. Although the NRV study doesn’t solely depend on Norfolk Southern, the railroad’s cooperation is needed because one major element being examined is some tracks near the Christiansburg Aquatic Center that belong to the Norfolk-based company, DRPT officials said. (The Roanoke Times)

Deschutes Brewery will not break ground on its Roanoke plant in 2019 as originally planned, its president said. The Oregon-based craft beer brewer had planned a June 2019 start on construction since its 2016 announcement that it would expand to the East Coast on a site in the Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology. But earlier this year President Michael Lalonde said a slowing of growth in the craft beer market had caused the company to re-evaluate the scale and timing of its expansion. (The Roanoke Times)

The Horace G. Fralin Charitable Trust and Heywood and Cynthia Fralin will donate a record $50 million to Virginia Tech to support research at the newly renamed Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in the evolving Virginia Tech Carilion Academic Health Center in Roanoke. Construction of a $90 million, 139,000-gross-square-foot Biomedical Research Addition building at the VTC Health Sciences and Technology Campus is expected to finish in spring 2020. The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and the VTC School of Medicine are also located on the campus. The campus’ economic impact in Virginia was $214 million in 2017 and is projected to more than double, approaching half-a-billion dollars per year, by 2026. (News release)

An upswing in market demand has allowed Harris Corp. to add nearly 50 new jobs to its Roanoke County site since the beginning of this year, county officials said. The facility, which employs a little over 500 people, makes night-vision technology. The new hires were primarily for production jobs with some positions for supervisors, technicians and engineers as well, said Erik Fox, a vice president and general manager with Harris. (The Roanoke Times)

The Wilkinson Group is teaming up with the Vinyard family to bring new life to the old Vinton Motors Co. property in Vinton. Details are being finalized, officials said, but the concept plans envision an updated look for the site with space for a taproom-style restaurant and other destinations. The redevelopment, which will be named Vinyard Station, is aiming for a late 2019 or early 2020 opening. Vinton Motors Co., a family-owned car dealership, was a community staple for 77 years before it closed in 2008. The property, which spans 1.4 acres, is currently dormant. Last year, the town started working with owner Billy Vinyard to court proposals for redevelopment.  (The Roanoke Times)

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research and Halifax County plan to co-host the 2019 Industrial Hemp Summit on Feb. 25-26 in Danville. The Industrial Hemp Summit is a multi-stakeholder collaboration focused on building the industrial hemp industry in the U.S. A specific focus of the summit will be on building the supply chain and market-making for industrial hemp food, fiber and flower.  (Danville Register & Bee)

Ikea Industry Danville plans to lay off about 90 employees — nearly a quarter of its workforce — in January, company officials announced in December. High inventory and lower-than-expected sales led to the decision, said Site Manager Bert Eades. Danville’s plant has about 375 employees, and the reduction will lower that number to about 285. Both hourly and salaried workers, or co-workers as IKEA calls its employees, will be laid off, Eades said. The Danville facility makes mostly shelving units — or bookcases — and television benches sold in retail stores in the United States and Canada. (Danville Register & Bee)

Start of construction is mere months away for a $2 million laboratory building at the Southern Virginia Technology Park, which will expand Halifax County’s C-Care coatings research program under the outsourced management of an Ohio-based business consulting firm. The reboot of the C-Care project — established in 2011 with a $2.5 million investment by the Virginia Tobacco Commission to increase advanced manufacturing jobs in the area — comes after the tobacco commission voted in 2016 to put another $600,000 into the effort. The money will be used to build a new coatings formulation lab at the SVTP, formerly known as Riverstone Technology Park. The Halifax County Industrial Development Authority is matching the tobacco grant with a $575,000 investment of its own, which the IDA says will be covered by rental income from the facility. (News & Record)

A regional authority has been created to stimulate economic development in northern Pittsylvania County. The Staunton River Regional Industrial Facility Authority will allow Pittsylvania, Danville and the towns of Hurt and Altavista to coordinate resources and share costs in an effort to draw companies to the Southern Virginia Multimodel Park in Hurt. Over the years, there have been few physical changes to the park. (Danville Register & Bee)

Halifax County has gained a key piece of outside funding to move forward with a $2.5 million project to rehabilitate the runway and connectors at William M. Tuck Airport. The Virginia Aviation Board approved a $202,464 grant for the county airport, which last summer had obtained a $1.76 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Total federal funding for the runway renovation work is expected to amount to $2,277,720. (

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