A year of big wins

Winchester-Frederick County set the pace for growth in 2016

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Cary Dunston heads American Woodmark, which is building a new
headquarters in Frederick County. Photo by Mark Rhodes

The Shenandoah Valley saw solid business growth in 2016, anchored by Winchester-Frederick County.

The Winchester area also began this year with a major economic development coup. In January, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced in his State of the Commonwealth address that Navy Federal Credit Union plans to spend $100 million in expanding its Frederick County operations center, creating 1,400 jobs.

Navy Federal opened its Frederick County campus in 2006 and has expanded twice since then. The credit union already is one of the region’s largest employers, with more than 1,000 employees.

Just one month before the Navy Federal announcement, cabinetmaker American Woodmark said that it will build a new corporate headquarters in Frederick County. The new space will consolidate employees from four Winchester-area buildings. The central office, to open in 2018, will be self-funded for approximately $30 million. The move will retain 377 local jobs, while creating 55 new positions.

“By bringing our employees together at one location, we will further strengthen our interpersonal connections, drive efficiency in our day-to-day interactions and greatly enhance our ability to move our culture towards our vision,” Cary Dunston, the company’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

American Woodmark makes kitchen cabinets and vanities for the remodeling and new home construction markets. The company is coming off a strong fiscal year 2016 in which sales jumped 15 percent to $947 million and net income was $58.7 million, up from $35.5 million in the previous year. Its products are sold directly to home centers, including Lowe’s and Home Depot, as well as major builders.

Employees now produce as many as 25,000 cabinets a day at American Woodmark’s nine factories across the country.

Frederick County also secured the valley’s biggest deal of 2016 in terms of new jobs by reeling in Centro Global Solutions, an international provider of customer service contact solutions. The company’s new call center on West Brooke Road is expected to bring 300 new jobs.
Centro handles calls and web support on behalf of its customers, primarily in the U.S. health-care and telecom companies. Centro operates facilities in five cities in four countries.

With its new facility in Frederick County, Centro is looking to reduce expenses and customer-care cycle times. “Our international expansion was sparked by strong quality of service for our current clients that led to increased business with them and new clients,” CEO Sean Farag said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing Winchester become one of our largest sites.”

The top of Virginia continued to see growth in warehousing and distribution as well.

Home Depot opened its third distribution center in Frederick County in the fall. The company now occupies 250,000 square feet in the Stonewall Industrial Park. Home Depot will use the space as an overflow facility, complementing its other distribution center at 480 Park Center Drive. The home improvement retailer also operates an international distribution center in southern Frederick County.

The $12.2 million Mopar Parts Distribution Center opened in Frederick County in late 2016, creating more than 70 jobs. Mopar is the service parts and customer-care brand for London-based Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The new facility handles the distribution of parts to more than 200 dealerships, primarily in the mid-Atlantic region. The facility is projected to ship approximately 9.2 million items annually.

Meanwhile, decking and railing manufacturer Trex Co. Inc. expanded into two new warehouses in Frederick County last year.

The first building measures 350,000 square feet and is the home of Trex University. Winchester-based Trex will use the 10,000-square-foot education center to teach distributors and contractors about the company’s  history and its wood-alternative decking products. Trex leased an additional 230,000 square feet in the same building for prepackaged railing products that are ready for distribution across the country.

A second building, measuring 407,000 square feet, is entirely dedicated to receiving and handling of polyethylene plastics to be recycled. Trex recycles more than 400 million pounds of plastic and wood scrap each year.

In a statement, James Cline, president and CEO of Trex, said the new buildings, located next to Route 37 in the new 65-acre Blackburn Commerce Center, will allow the company “to meet the needs of our customers and pursue our growth objectives.”

Construction is set to begin this year on Phase II of Rutherford Crossing, a Frederick County retail center off Interstate 81 near the West Virginia line. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc., Valley Health Urgent Care and a national grocery store chain are set to join the mix, according to developer NVRetail. 

The first phase of Rutherford Crossing included Party City, McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Texas Roadhouse, Lowe’s, Target and PetSmart.

The central and southern valley also had reason to celebrate in 2016. According to the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, a regional economic development organization, companies announced 344 new jobs and more than $282 million in private investment in the region last year.

MillerCoors is expanding its brewery in Rockingham County, south of Elkton, to increase capacity. The $60 million investment is expected to create 27 jobs. The project marks the second major upgrade of the facility in the past decade. A $300 million build-out in 2007 made the plant one of the most modern large-scale breweries in North America.

Jon Stern, MillerCoors’ director of media relations, said the latest expansion will allow the company to deliver beer to Northeast markets. The plant, which has more than 500 employees, produces Coors Light, Blue Moon Belgian White, Keystone and Keystone Light.

In March, New Jersey-based Merck, a global pharmaceutical company, announced a $168 million expansion of its manufacturing facility near Elkton. Merck will upgrade plant infrastructure, adding manufacturing facilities and equipment. Merck began operations in Elkton in 1941.
Meanwhile, The Hershey Co. invested $17 million last year in a new production line at its Stuarts Draft plant. The company has been producing chocolate and confectionery products in Augusta County since 1982.

Last year was also a good year for rural Bath County, which announced its first economic development project since 2003.

Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, a Scottish company, has chosen Bath for its new stave mill, which will process hardwood used in the production of bourbon barrels. The company is investing $5 million to create a production facility in an industrial park in the town of Millboro, creating 30 jobs.

In another boon for economic development, two of the valley’s regional airports announced major upgrades in 2016.

Winchester Regional Airport is expanding as a result of $1.5 million in funding from the Federal Aviation Administration. The airport plans to construct 11 hangars on undeveloped land north of the runway and east of the Public Safety Building on Coverstone Drive to accommodate future airport development and growth.

Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave has partnered with ViaAir to offer daily nonstop service to Charlotte, N.C., and one-stop service to Orlando/Sanford, Fla. Both routes will utilize a 50-seat Embraer ERJ 145 regional jet. It marks the first time the Shenandoah Valley has had a partner airline offering daily commercial flights with a jet aircraft.

Greg Campbell, the airport’s executive director, said the new service should be an attractive option for both business and leisure travelers. The Charlotte hub is ranked fifth in the nation with approximately 710 daily departures, and Orlando is a popular spot for vacations and conferences.

“We are very pleased with this change in hub and the dramatic increase in connecting opportunities it will give our community,” Campbell said.

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