Southside Va. key player in Commonwealth’s ‘Top State for Business’ honor

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: September 6, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.

Prince George among counties experiencing growth in multiple sectors

PRINCE GEORGE – Earlier this summer, the Commonwealth received national recognition by being named America’s “Top State for Business” and, while the state as a whole was honored for its business-friendly practices and overall economic climate, many see the growth happening across the state, including within Southside Virginia, as being part of the greater picture of the Commonwealth’s success in the business world.

In July, business news network CNBC announced Virginia as its top state for business, sharing the news live from Shenandoah River State Park, joined by Governor Ralph Northam who discussed the Commonwealth economic strengths with the news organization, a title Virginia has won four times – 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2019, tied with Texas for most top rankings.

“I am proud to bring the title of America’s top state for business back to Virginia,” Northam renarked. “One of my primary goals has been to make Virginia the number one place to do business, and to do it in a way that benefits all Virginians and every region of the Commonwealth. This recognition underscores our work to build an inclusive and diversified economy, invest in our workforce, and create quality jobs—and is proof that companies of many different sizes and industries can find a home in Virginia.”

According to CNBC’s analysis of the Commonwealth, one of the key areas Virginia found great strength in when compared to its contemporaries was in the area of the state’s workforce, with U.S. Census data showing nearly 38 percent of Virginians having earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. In addition, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state has the fourth highest concentration of science, technology, engineering, and math, STEM, for short, employees in the country, comprising of nearly ten percent of the Commonwealth’s workforce in 2018.

The well-educated job pool is seen as a key reason Amazon opted to locate their new headquarters known as HQ2 in Northern Virginia in Arlington, bringing with them over 25,000 jobs and an economic impact well over $2 billion.

In August, a ribbon cutting for Tree Time adventure park heralded the opening of the sprawling tree-based experience with a network of trails and other experiences for people to enjoy across the region. (Michael Campbell)

“We were really excited by Virginia, what it had to offer,” Brian Huseman, vice president for Amazon’s public policy and selection team member told CNBC in an interview. “Probably the most important thing was the attraction of this place to talent, and particularly tech talent.”

Virginia was also praised for its commitments to education, ranking first in the nation in CNBC’s methodology and tying with Massachusetts and for fostering a business friendly environment, rising to third overall in America, up from fifth the previous year on the shoulders of positive business support within the General Assembly and governor’s office and the number of companies opting to make Virginia the center of their businesses by locating their headquarters in the state.

While Northern Virginia and areas close to the central hub of suburban Washington, D.C. tend to capture headlines when looking at the overall economic picture of the Commonwealth, contributing to that growth roughly two hours due south is Southside Virginia as many of the county’s below the James River are experiencing their own positive trends when it comes to business.

In Prince George County, the announcement of the state’s recognition as a top state for business came days after several new businesses either opened their doors for the first time or expanded into new spaces within the county’s borders.

Along the Puddledock Road and Temple Avenue corridors, the growth in both medical services and retail continue to be seen as popular convenience store chain Sheetz opened their first location in Prince George County along Temple Avenue, joining a number of smaller retailers that have made their home near Swaders Sports Park, the Crossroads automotive dealerships, and other businesses.

Just a short walk away from Sheetz, Virginia Physicians for Women heralded the opening of their state-of-the-art space just off Puddledock Road after moving from their old location across from the Lowe’s hardware store, which was one of the first retailers to establish itself in the corridor before even more businesses found the advantages of the area to be attractive, given its connection to the entirety of the Tri-Cities through both Puddledock Road and Temple Avenue, its proximity to Interstate 95 and 295, along with vital infrastructure like water and sewer begin available to support a mix of commercial and medical offerings in the area.

County leaders join staff at Virginia Physicians for Women at their new Prince George medical office for the facility’s grand opening. (Prince George County)

“We are seeing growth at all levels,” Prince George Deputy County Administrator Jeff Stoke shared, “whether it be commercial, residential, and industrial, and we have seen a lot of new growth come to our community recently. If you have a strong local component that leads into a strong regional and state component and bringing in a new workforce component, I think we are moving in the right direction.”

To that end, smaller businesses are thriving in Prince George County with local restaurateur Jose Pedraza opening his second eatery in the county, Morelia, which serves authentic Mexican cuisine, after having moved Luca Italian Restaurant into a larger building just down the street, with both restaurants enjoying a steady stream of patrons.

In addition, Tree Time Adventure Park, located within the forestry of Scott Memorial Park, opened its doors in July, bringing an elevated, tree-based outdoor experience to the county and region as the park is expected to draw visitors from across the region and state as they offer a variety of activities for patrons to take part in, both paid and free-of-charge.

“Literally, at every level, we are seeing great growth opportunities here in Prince George County,” Stoke remarked.

The county has also been eyed by prospective businesses looking to fill the vacated ACE Hardware distribution center building following its shuttering recently, with Stoke saying there have been “a few serious leads” there but nothing specific can be announced as of this time.

“I think the key is that we are seeing a lot of activity on all levels,” Stoke continued. “There is a lot of interest in the community, we are constantly showing the community to national and international businesses and I think it is that flow of prospects and leads that are going to result in some great announcements in the future.”

Being engaged in economic development on a daily basis, Stoke explained the gravity of national recognitions like CNBC’s Top State for Business isn’t lost on the county and serves to bolster their own efforts locally.

“I think when we talk to other businesses, we show the great wins here,” he remarked. “Wins beget wins and if you win a Rolls Royce or you win an Amazon, we can say that we have been there before, we have been through the process, we can help your business grow and thrive in Prince George County and in Virginia.”

“I think it is that experience at all levels – local, regional, and state – of succeeding and winning projects, that is what future businesses look at when they are looking to come into our community,” he closed.

To learn more about CNBC’s Top States for Business list, visit their website at http://cnbc.com/topstates.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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