Regions Southern Virginia

JTI aids city’s River District development

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli

A global company is making its mark in Danville, in more ways than one. Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has donated $400,000 for a fountain to be built in Danville’s River District, a project aimed at revitalizing Danville’s downtown.

“It was a good opportunity to bring back a little history … continue to be a part of the old tobacco heritage here and help the city at the same time,” says Steve Daniels, president of JTI Leaf Services, which is part of Geneva-based JTI.

The fountain is expected to be finished next year. It is meant to symbolize “the legacy of tobacco as an economic engine for Danville over a span of four centuries,” according to a news release.

JTI located its first U.S. plant in Danville in 2009. A big draw for the company was Danville’s ready-to-go work force, which has experience with tobacco processing. Two major tobacco processors left the area in 2005: Dimon Inc. and Universal Leaf Tobacco Co.  “We would have had to compete for that labor in another place, so it worked very well for us,” Daniels says.

JTI Leaf Services buys tobacco from farmers and processes it at the Danville facility. The tobacco then is sent to a central storage location. “From that facility, [the tobacco leaves] are shipped to a manufacturing facility, as needed,” Daniels says.

U.S. tobacco is considered to be some of the most flavorful in the world, and the leaf grown in the Old Belt of Southern Virginia and North Carolina “is considered to be best of the best,” Daniels says.

The company originally planned to invest $19 million, hire 39 full-time employees and 150 seasonal workers. JTI ended up committing more than $40 million, hiring nearly 50 full-time workers and 230 seasonal employees. “That to me was a very nice surprise,” says Jeremy Stratton, Danville’s economic development director. “They’ve been very successful here and done a great job.”

JTI has more than 25,000 employees and sales in 120 countries. It is the global tobacco division of Japan Tobacco Inc., the world’s third largest global manufacturer of tobacco products.

Daniels says JTI Leaf Services has seen consistent growth since the company began operations in 2010. “We’re planning a steady growth into the future and that continues to be our plan,” Daniels says.

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