Steel fabricator’s expansion will add jobs in Emporia

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SteelFab’s new building in Emporia should be finished
by the end of the year. Photo by Mark Rhodes

A national steel fabricator plans to add 18 jobs in Southern Virginia, thanks to a $2.1 million expansion now underway.

Charlotte, N.C.-based SteelFab is constructing an additional facility across the street from its current location in Emporia, where it has been since 1990. SteelFab’s new building should be finished by the end of the year. Hiring is expected to start after that.

SteelFab, which makes steel for the commercial construction industry, has 14 locations across the Southeast and Texas.

The new jobs will be manufacturing positions, including welders, fitters and forklift drivers, says Rob Burlington, president of SteelFab of Virginia.

Virginia competed with several states for the project, including Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina, where the company has other existing facilities.

Brian Thrower, Emporia’s city manager, applied for a grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and received $60,000 to go toward the project. He also obtained a $50,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund, which was matched by Emporia. The Virginia Jobs Investment Program also will provide funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities.

The deal happened quickly and was easy to negotiate particularly with the number of benefits available in the city, Thrower says.

“We have a low cost of living and a relatively low tax rate,” Thrower says, with a real estate tax of 90 cents per $100 assessed value.

Jeff Reed, executive director of Virginia’s Growth Alliance, an economic development organization covering part of Southern Virginia, notes Emporia’s need for an economic boost.

“Emporia is one of the most economically depressed communities in the state of Virginia, so [the expansion] could have a direct meaningful impact on not only Emporia, but the region as a whole,” says Reed.

In April, for example, Emporia had an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent, as opposed to 3.6 percent for Virginia as a whole. Those rates were not seasonally adjusted, meaning they don’t take into account seasonal fluctuations in the labor force.

However, SteelFab has been a success story for the city, expanding repeatedly over the years.

“They were great to work with, and they’ve been good business partners for 27 years so I’m just glad they chose us,” Thrower says.

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