Microsoft and other economic success stories
Published 12:53 pm Wednesday, April 3, 2019
Just nine years ago, Microsoft expressed interest in visiting Mecklenburg County. I was returning from Lexington, Kentucky, having received a Southern States innovation award on behalf of the Tobacco Commission for our Student Forgivable Loan Program, when I received a call from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. They asked if I would join them in hosting a team from Microsoft. I agreed and asked the following:
Was the Governor coming, if not, the Lt. Governor, and finally, if not, the Secretary of Commerce? Each time the response was “no.” I instructed them to start with the Governor and get someone from the administration to Boydton.
The reason for this was simple. Just one year prior to that, we received a similar visit from Apple Computer. Apple executives fell in love with the Boydton site. While we were sitting at Kahill’s Restaurant in South Hill, the lead Apple executive was drawing on a napkin. At that point, he had made the decision to double the proposed data center. They then headed to Richmond where they were so poorly received by then Governor Kaine’s Administration that they never returned to Virginia. I was determined that was not going to happen under the McDonnell administration.
Governor McDonnell did come to Boydton. The decision was made shortly thereafter that the site was perfect for Microsoft. Since that time, before they had finished one phase, they began the next phase with at least six phases to date. In January, as part of his State of the Commonwealth speech, Governor Northam announced Microsoft’s latest plans for expansion. This one has the possibility to double their current operation. It will expand operations across Route 58 to the old Mecklenburg Prison site. So far, they have invested or have committed to invest $3 billion in Mecklenburg County. In addition to their full-time employees, their contractors, both construction and non-construction, employ hundreds of employees. These workers have bought and rented houses, they patronize restaurants, motels, and other retail businesses. Microsoft has added to the economy of not just Mecklenburg County but the region. Employees are currently coming from surrounding counties.
Dominion Power’s decision to come to Brunswick County is another example of how teamwork has made things happen in our region. The company had made the decision to build a natural gas power plant. Dominion narrowed their search of locations to two sites. The location in Brunswick County and one in Chesterfield County. They preferred the Brunswick site. However, the cost of running a new gas pipeline from the main line in Pittsylvania County to Brunswick would cost $30 million more than a similar yet shorter one from Appomattox County to Chesterfield.
At my urging, the Tobacco Commission assisted adding a new gas line from Pittsylvania through Halifax, Charlotte and Mecklenburg to serve Dominion Power. This would also serve as a valuable attraction for manufacturing to these counties to hopefully attract or expand manufacturing facilities to our region.
ALDI AND AMAZON
In Dinwiddie, the focus has been on distribution centers and fulfillment centers because of their proximity to interstates 85 and 95. Already home to a massive Walmart Distribution Center, Dinwiddie was successful in attracting both an Amazon Fulfilment Center and a distribution center for the Aldi grocery chain. The Tobacco Commission played a role in each of those projects.
If space permitted, I could cite many other examples of economic successes. All these projects came about because the right people were in the right position to make things happen. I am honored to have played a role in each.
Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen. Ruff@verizon.net.