Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade James S. Cheng announced on behalf of Gov. Bob McDonnell that Falls Stamping & Welding Company of Ohio will invest $5.7 million to open up operations in the town of Pulaski’s old Renfro location next to Maple Shade. The company serves the automotive, trucking and non-automotive markets.
The announcement was made Thursday at 2 p.m. during a special gathering at the historic train depot. It included speeches from the town of Pulaski’s Economic Developer, Dr. John White, Mayor Jeff Worrell, Delegate Nick Rush, Falls Stamping & Welding Company Vice President of Sales Lane Witte and Pulaski County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Charles Bopp.
“On behalf of Gov. Bob McDonnell, I’m honored to be here today to make this tremendous announcement,” said Cheng. He said the Falls operation would supply metal sub-assemblies to Volvo in Dublin.
“And, you know, we like to boast about this, Virginia competed successfully against Ohio, Tennessee and especially North Carolina,” he said to laughter.
“We have such a pro-business legislature,” said Cheng. “It doesn’t matter what party you are, jobs are the most important thing to all Americans, especially right here in hardworking Pulaski County, Southwest Virginia.” Cheng pointed out the success of Volvo was a key factor in the decision for Falls to set up shop in Pulaski. He thanked Volvo for their involvement in the project.
“This announcement represents the largest job announcement in the town of Pulaski since 2005,” he said. He also thanked the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Town of Pulaski, Pulaski County and the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance.
Cheng said Gov. McDonnell approved a $175,000 grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to assist the town of Pulaski and Pulaski County in the project, and the Falls company is also eligible to receive state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone program administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. He further said that the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funding and services to support the company’s recruitment and training activities through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.
After White announced him, Witte addressed the gathering on behalf of the company, saying, “I’m really excited about this new opportunity for us. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve actually been working on this almost two years.
“Rick Beckner, our owner, could not be here today. Unfortunately for him, now I can say whatever I want,” Witte said, to the crowd’s merriment. “So basically, these guys in blue shirts,” he said, indicating the Volvo representatives present, “I’m gonna tell them that Jason (Taft, of Falls, also present) and I took full credit for this whole process.”
More seriously, Witte said of business planned from the Renfro location, “It’s going to be a lean operation, it’s new technology for us that’ll enable us to compete, to be more competitive price-wise, in lead time, and the obvious benefits of being across town from one of our biggest customers.”
Witte also said the main reason Pulaski was chosen for Falls’ new location was “the quick response and assistance given by all levels of government.”
Also during the meeting, Town Manager John Hawley and Bopp presented golf shirts with the Raymond F. Radcliffe Memorial Transportation Museum logo on them to Falls representatives; White also presented Witte with a Virginia seal flag to fly over the site.
“It’s absolutely great, to not only see a new business, but a new business get an existing building in the southwest corner of Pulaski which had the tornado, getting the business,” remarked Pulaski Town Councilman Dave Clark afterwards. “What can you say? It just doesn’t get much better than that.”
“Growth creates growth,” added Vice Mayor Joseph Goodman. “People are seeing the town redeveloping…and the main driver behind that is the reemergence of a strong partnership between the town, the county, and the whole New River Valley.”
When asked if he saw the likelihood of new businesses coming in as a result of the Falls move, Worrell answered, “I do. You know, it’s 112 new jobs, but they’re not only helping 112 people, they’re helping 112 families. Plus you’ve got 112 people in town every day, and that can’t do anything but help us. That’s what I tell people when they say, ‘You need this restaurant or you need this hotel.’ I say, ‘No, we need people.’ If you get people in the town, all that’s going to follow.”
Hawley also said that Falls’ use of an existing building might help start a trend where incoming businesses could repurpose old industrial buildings for new uses.
“Well, it’ll be more interest moving in, more jobs, it’s going to make our economy stronger,” said Bopp. “If you’ve got that, that’ll help with the tax base. If you’ve got the money, you can do more things.”
Asked of his role in helping create the project, White said, “It’s all team. There isn’t a single individual you can point to and say they were critical. Everybody who worked on this project was critical.”
Lars Blomberg, Vice President and General Manager of Volvo, was pleased with the announcement and said, “I feel very good about it, because they are a very good supplier to us, and also this is also very much in line with our strategy to bring more supplies in. So of course this is a good day for us as well.”
Aric Bopp, NRVEDA Executive Director said, when asked what role the Alliance played, “We kind of heard they might be looking at doing something down here, and as the marketing outreach organization for the area, we reached out to say, ‘Hey, we hear you’re needing a facility closer to the plant,’ and started courting them, meeting with them down here and showing them different properties. We worked closely with Shawn Utt and John White to keep everything on track and keep the project going.” He said he felt the project would significantly benefit Pulaski.
Pulaski County Community Developer Shawn Utt discussed the state grants Falls’ new operation could receive, saying, “Depending on how their investment breaks out, they’ll qualify for another $150,000ish from (Virginia) Enterprise Zone. That’s for investment. And for the jobs, they’ll get another $200,000.”
State-level politicians approved of the new growth as well. “Well, obviously, any time you can announce 112 new jobs is important for the community,” said Rush, while Senator Phillip Puckett said, “They worked long and hard to make this happen.”