Central Virginia still feels the Hollywood glow from ‘Lincoln’
The stars of “Lincoln” may have left Central Virginia more than a year ago, but many believe Steven Spielberg’s movie will continue to give the region an economic boost.
“That’s going to continue to be a huge driver,” says Renee Chapline, executive director of Virginia’s Gateway Region, which includes Petersburg, a primary backdrop for the movie. “Hopefully, it’ll seal the deal for Virginia being a location for future movie productions.”
“Lincoln,” shot in Richmond and Petersburg in late 2011, resulted in a $64 million economic impact on the state. In addition to promoting the region as a film location, the critically acclaimed movie also is expected to attract tourists to Central Virginia sites associated with Lincoln, such as City Point in Hopewell, and to restaurants and shops frequented by Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and other members of the cast.
The “Lincoln” film is one of many economic development coups for Central Virginia in recent years. In late 2011, Internet giant Amazon.com announced it was creating 1,450 jobs in the area with the construction of two giant fulfillment centers in Chesterfield County and Dinwiddie County. The online retailer’s total investment in the project reached $145 million.
In 2012, Central Virginia recorded plans to create 2,029 jobs with total investments of $828 million. That year the region had 55 announcements.
Greg Wingfield, president of the A Richmond Partnership (GRP) — which includes Richmond and Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico counties — says companies such as Amazon are drawn to the area because of its proximity to major highways, ports and airports.
Another plus for the region has been the dramatic growth of Health Diagnostic Laboratory, which opened in Richmond in 2009. The company, headed by Doswell native Tonya Mallory, provides clinical lab testing and disease management services.
In January 2012, HDL announced a $68.5 million expansion of its operations in the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park as it adds more than 700 jobs. “Tonya’s company is just growing leaps and bounds,” Wingfield says. “That’s the type of business that really does complement our current economy and helps move the economy forward.”
Wingfield says the Richmond area is seeing growth in three industry sectors: manufacturing, finance and insurance, and data centers. Of more than 400 prospective companies looking at the area in January, 30 percent were expected to make a decision within the next 12 months and half of those are manufacturing companies.
One place hoping to be a game changer for manufacturing is the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), a collaborative research center in Prince George County. CCAM’s research focuses on surface engineering and manufacturing systems.
The center now has about a dozen industry members such as Rolls-Royce and Newport News Shipbuilding as well as three university partners: the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University.
Chapline mentions food manufacturing as a growing sector in Virginia’s Gateway Region, which includes Petersburg, Hopewell and Colonial Heights plus Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Prince George, Surry and Sussex counties. “Even in a down economy, that’s one thing that continues to grow,” she says.
Sabra Dipping Co. is one of those companies. The hummus and dip manufacturer in Chesterfield County announced it was adding 90 jobs last year, a $28 million investment.
Another major development in Chesterfield was a decision by McLean-based Capital One to add a data center in Meadowville Technology Park, creating 50 jobs and investing $150 million.
In the Charlottesville area, the top industry sector is business and financial services, according to a target market report by The Thomas Jefferson Partnership, an economic development organization assisting the city and surrounding counties. The sector has grown by 20 percent, adding 3,534 jobs, in 2006-11. In 2009, for example, State Farm Insurance announced it was expanding in Albemarle County and adding 103 jobs.
A big key to attracting companies to Central Virginia, economic development officials say, is having a readily available work force or being able to attract employees from other areas. Wingfield uses Capital One as an example. He recently talked to a group of Capital One employees, most of whom were young professionals who had relocated to Richmond and stayed because of the area’s quality of life. The city offers a variety of activities, such as attending the Richmond Folk Festival, running the Richmond Marathon or hiking Belle Isle. Wingfield says that while past recruiting efforts in the Richmond area focused on the suburban lifestyle, the area can now market urban and suburban living environments.
“I think what has developed in Richmond over time is that we have such a diversity of lifestyle, that part of the challenge is connectivity,” Wingfield says. “Making sure we can show people where they can connect to other people or other opportunities and activities they want to be engaged in or learn more about.”
GRP tries to bridge the gap with LoveWhatYouFind.com, a website that explores the advantages of relocating to the Richmond area. The website is broken down by interests (work, live, learn, play) and offers an overview of each GRP area (Richmond, Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico). Another GRP resource for job seekers and companies looking to relocate to Richmond is RichmondJobNet.com.
Major employers by number of jobs
State government, 26,845
Federal government, 15,800
Fort Lee Army Base, 12,000+
Chesterfield County, 10,845
Henrico County, 10,694
Capital One Financial Corp., Richmond, 9,995
City of Richmond, 8,583
VCU Health System, Richmond, 7,935
UVA Medical Center, Charlottesville, 7,262
HCA Inc., Richmond, 7,236
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch, Virginia’s Gateway Region, The Thomas Jefferson Partnership For Economic Development
Central Virginia’s recent deals
Amazon, Chesterfield/Dinwiddie counties, 1,450 jobs
Health Diagnostic Laboratory (HDL), Richmond, 919 jobs
Cuore, Chesterfield County, 772 jobs
Capital One Financial Corp., Henrico County, 700 jobs
Commonwealth Applied Silica Technologies, Campbell County, 300 jobs
Intersections Inc., Campbell County, 250 jobs
Wells Fargo, Henrico County, 220 jobs
GE, Henrico County, 200 jobs
PPD Inc., Henrico County, 190 jobs
The Vitamin Shoppe Inc., Ashland, 174 jobs
Source: Virginia Economic Development Partnership