Forty-one new jobs may not sound like the beginning of an economic turnaround. But Assistant City Manager Jim Shaw predicts that plans by Polymer Group Inc. to expand its Waynesboro plant will have major ramifications for the region.
PGI is a Charlotte, N.C.-based producer of engineered textile materials. It has 15 operations in nine countries. The company will invest $65 million to expand the Waynesboro plant, add a new manufacturing line and increase production of non-woven products used in diapers and hygiene and medical products. The company, which now has 185 employees in Waynesboro, expects to open the new facility in September 2011.
Shaw says the new jobs, which will pay an average of $18 per hour, will generate $1.5 million annually in the local economy. “Then you add the primary [return on investment] based on local tax dollars, machinery and tools tax and services and products that the company itself buys locally, and we think the impact is going to be pretty significant,” he says.
PGI could have expanded elsewhere but was given good reasons to invest in Waynesboro. The city provided $550,000 in cash incentives, six years of tax breaks and 15 acres of land next to the PGI plant. The state chipped in a $750,000 grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund and a $750,000 performance-based grant from the Virginia Incentive Partnership program, which is available to the state’s existing companies.
Waynesboro’s status as a manufacturing center has suffered in recent years. At its height, nearly half of the city’s jobs were in manufacturing. Now only 20 percent of its workers hold factory jobs. Likewise, annual machinery and tools tax revenue, formerly $4 million to $5 million, has dropped to less than $1 million.
Shaw believes that PGI’s decision to expand also gives the region a psychological boost. “At a certain level, this company represents the future, which is specialized, niche manufacturing, and so they’re a good player to have in our mix,” he says.
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