N.C. food firm finds new opportunity in Danville

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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Sky Valley Foods makes sauces and salad dressings.
Photo courtesy Sky Valley Foods

Dennis Daniels, CEO and co-owner of food manufacturer Sky Valley Foods, looked at more than 200 facilities across the United States before making the decision to move the company 15 miles — from Yanceyville, N.C., to Danville.

“None of the [other] facilities  were designed with the infrastructure we needed as food manufacturers,” Daniels says.

One of the key selling points was Danville’s access capacity for potable water and wastewater treatment — 10 million gallons a day of each. “Food processing is a heavy user of water,” says Linwood Wright, consultant to the city’s Office of Economic Development.

The building that will house Sky Valley’s operation previously was occupied by Shorewood Packaging. The structure was acquired by the Australian packaging company Amcor. It closed the facility and vacated the building earlier this year.

The Industrial Development Authority of Danville bought the building in June and now is installing a drain system. The city provided a $100,000 grant to help defray part of the cost of the installation. Sky Valley will move in once work is completed.

The company approached the Office of Economic Development about moving to Danville six months ago. “They had outgrown their facility in North Carolina, which is about 15 miles south of Danville. We agreed that we would purchase the building and provide a loan to purchase the property that would be amortized over whatever period met their capital requirements,” Wright says. “After they have reduced the principal to zero, they can buy the building for $10.”

Sky Valley will expand its operations when it moves into the 132,000-square-foot building within the next four months. “We will have two new high-speed lines,” Daniels says. The company now has 60 employees but hopes to increase that number to 100 by the end of next year. “Most of our current employees live in Danville now,” Daniels says.

The Office of Economic Development continues to look for prospects like Sky Valley, but the market is different than it was when the city was attracting Fortune 500 companies such as Goodyear.

“Those kinds of relocations are traditional but are not happening with great frequency,” Wright says. “We have much more activity with smaller to midsize companies, and we have a fair amount of entrepreneurial activity.”

The city’s bigger projects “tend to be foreign,” Wright adds. “We have an active China strategy, and we are working with some European companies, but they are not as aggressively involved in expansion as they had been previously. We’ve also been working with Turkish and Israeli companies.”

Entrepreneurial endeavors have gotten a boost from The Launch Place, which offers business-consulting services to existing and newly established businesses in Southern Virginia.

Thanks to a $10 million grant from the Danville Regional Foundation, The Launch Place is also offering a variety of services that include “preseed” and seed funding.

“We are actively creating and supporting a culture for entrepreneurship, which is so important in attracting and sustaining startups to the Danville area,” says Eva Doss, the organization’s president and CEO.

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