By Michael Campbell, News Editor
DINWIDDIE – Down a somewhat winding and rocky path near the intersection of U.S. routes 1 and 460 lies what many in Dinwiddie and in Richmond believe is the continuation of efforts to diversify the Virginia economy, unearthed ground that will eventually transform into a new state-of-the-art distribution center and division headquarters for German grocer ALDI.
While massive construction trucks and earthmovers roam about in the background, members of the Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors, state representatives, such as Del. Lashrecse Aird, and Governor Terry McAuliffe joined members of ALDI US’ corporate team to break ground on the previously announced 500,000-square-foot facility that will be housed just off Boydton Plank Road and employ nearly 150 people once the facility is completed in summer of 2018.
Entering his 30th year on the Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors, Chairman Harrison Moody praised county staff, his fellow supervisors and the state for their tireless efforts to make Friday’s groundbreaking a reality.
“This project has been quite some time in the making and there were some obstacles and challenging points to overcome,” he remarked to the group of guests at the event. “A project of this magnitude doesn’t come together without true collaboration and teamwork.”
The commonwealth competed against North Carolina for the project, with the governor’s office stating the investment from ALDI will total $57 million.
For Moody, he sees the county’s infrastructural and logistical assets as something that can tip the scales in Dinwiddie’s favor when pitching to businesses.
“We are blessed with having such a great network of highways, 85 and 95, with 460 running east and west, along with two rail lines in the county, it makes an optimal place for these kinds of facilities to come to Dinwiddie,” he remarked. “We are right in the true spot for this type of industry.”
Those points were echoed by McAuliffe during his brief remarks leading up to the groundbreaking, touting the county and state’s logistical advantages over its neighbors and West Coast counterparts.
“As you know, about 45 percent of the U.S. population is within a one-day drive of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” he shared. “We have a unique asset here if you are into distribution and logistics.”
Additionally, the governor discussed how important projects like the ALDI division headquarters and distribution center are in diversifying the state’s economic picture, an initiative the McAuliffe administration calls “The New Virginia Economy.”
“The key for me when I talk about ‘The New Virginia Economy’ is that we build on the assets we have and continue to expand,” he remarked. “We are such a pro-military state, with Virginia being the largest recipient of Department of Defense dollars, but we got whacked in 2011, losing $9.8 billion,” McAuliffe continued, referring to massive defense cuts as part of sequestration, noting that he has been advised of another continuing resolution likely being passed this year by Congress, which could result in “the second round of sequestration hitting this October.”
Watching the heavy equipment work at the Dinwiddie site, McAuliffe remarked that his goal as governor was to focus on economic development and stay out of “socially divisive issues,” such as North Carolina’s House Bill 2, also known as the “bathroom bill,” which has been the result of fierce debate in North Carolina and prompted some businesses, including the NCAA, who moved championship events from the state over the bill, to re-evaluate business operations in the state over a bill they see as discriminatory to the transgender community.
“We have to be open and welcoming to everybody,” he remarked. “Don’t put walls up around our state, we need to focus on jobs. This dirt is going to be something where 145 families are going to be impacted positively. Once others see this, they are going to want to put their facilities and I hope this is the first of many logistics facilities here in Dinwiddie.”
Prior to the groundbreaking, Dan Gavin, Vice President of Real Estate and Construction for ALDI told onlookers that this large-scale project is just a portion of their “accelerated growth plan” over the next five years around the commonwealth and nation. According to Gavin, the company plans to add another 650 stores in the United States over the next five years and the company has recently committed $1.6 billion to expanding and renovating their existing 1,600 stores in America.
In addition, ALDI said they plan to expand from their current level of 30 stores in Virginia to “in excess of 80 stores” over the next ten years, buoyed by the support of the new Dinwiddie facility.
“To say there’s not much going on at ALDI would be an understatement, ” Gavin joked.
Following the flurry of dirt and clicks of cameras at Friday’s groundbreaking, Dinwiddie County Administrator Kevin Massengill spent time taking in the progress being made on the project by A M King Group out of Charlotte, North Carolina. For Massengill, ALDI is bringing more to Dinwiddie than just jobs.
“When ALDI comes in, they really partner with the community they are in,” he remarked. “And, when you have a county the size of Dinwiddie, ALDI can have a tremendous impact, not just jobs, and investment, but the overall community and we look forward to cultivating that relationship for years to come.”
As construction continues and the summer of 2018 gets closer every day, Massengill hopes that Dinwiddie residents are among the people applying for openings at the new facility.
“When you talk about 145 jobs, there are people here and in this region that their prevailing wage could be really impacted and their lives would be changed here,” he remarked. “They would be able to do some things and improve their quality of life so we hope that many people in Dinwiddie apply and we want those Dinwiddie people who want good paying jobs and to work for a first-class company to come here and consider ALDI.”
Copyright 2017 by Womack Publishing