Spring offers promise of new green jobs

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Print this page by Heather B. Hayes

Winter doesn’t end for several more weeks, but Danville-area job seekers already are looking forward to things turning green this spring.

U.S. Green Energy Corp.  (USGE) is on track to open a 27,000-square-foot headquarters and manufacturing facility in the area in April. The year-old company, which makes roofing, siding and windows integrated with solar photovoltaic and thermal components,  expects to hire 50 people by April, have 100 employees by the end of the year and as many as 400 within three years.

USGE is looking to hire skilled machine operators, machinists and supervisors, with pay rates expected to start in the $15- to $20-per-hour range. “Apparently, résumés are starting to stack up from people who want to work for them,” says Jeremy Stratton, Danville’s economic development director.

Unemployment has been high in the Danville area. The metro jobless rate, which reached 12.9 percent last winter, stood at 10.8 percent in November. By comparison, the statewide average in November was 6.6 percent.

Bob Bennett, USGE’s vice president, briefed city officials in December on a list of tasks currently under way with the plant project, including getting permits, developing relationships with local suppliers and machine shops, and working with Danville Community College’s Regional Center for Advanced Technology and Training to create product models.

USGE announced in October that it was relocating from temporary facilities in Fredericksburg to the Cane Creek Centre, an industrial park just outside of Danville in the Ringgold area of Pittsylvania County.

USGE was the second Northern Virginia company in 2010 to announce plans for manufacturing operations in the Danville area. EcomNets, a Herndon-based software developer and information technology services firm, bought the former EDS building in Airside Industrial Park. It will become the EcomNets Green Technology Center, making Verdio green computers and other products. EcomNets expects to create 160 jobs during the next three years.

Stratton expects that the experiences of these two companies could prompt other high-tech firms to consider Danville as a locale for back-office or manufacturing operations. “We’re a good option for those types of companies, because we’re pretty low-cost in terms of doing business, we’ve got a skilled work force and we’ve got plenty of good industrial sites,” he says.

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