Shenandoah Valley races to develop industrial sites
A flurry of recent industrial investment in the Shenandoah Valley has regional economic development officials eager to make new sites shovel-ready as companies put a premium on locations that will enable them to stand up operations as fast as possible.
Fast-casual restaurant chain Cava’s September announcement that it will build a $30 million, 57,000-square-foot processing and packaging facility in the Mill Place Commerce Park in Verona snatched up the last remaining site in the Shenandoah Valley with a Tier 4 classification — sites ready for construction to take place in 12 to 18 months or sooner, with infrastructure improvements in place or doable within that timeframe — as designated by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s Virginia Business Ready Sites Tier program.
This and other recent developments have regional officials racing to bring new sites to market that will meet businesses’ needs to begin construction quickly, says Jay Langston, executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Partnership.
“The speed-to-market component of our businesses — regardless of sector — has increased beyond anything that we have seen before,” Langston says. “They need it now. So having sites that remove the risk and time delay is paramount to being competitive.”
In March, the state’s GO Virginia economic development initiative awarded the region $821,000 for improvements to six industrial sites totaling 1,112 acres in Augusta, Frederick, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren counties. Work is expected to be completed in the next few months and includes environmental, wetlands and geotechnical surveys to raise the sites’ tier categorizations.
One area where officials see promise for future development is the land surrounding the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave. A 500-acre site near the airport is part of the site enhancement project. Complementing that site, the airport received a $100,000 GO Virginia grant in September to fund utility design and engineering at its Aviation Technology Park. The regional airport commission plans to build two 14,000-square-foot hangars in the park.
Airport Executive Director Greg Campbell says this could be the start of more aviation-related development in this part of the region, adding, “There is so much technological evolution in aviation now.”