Ikea shut down its manufacturing facility at Cane Creek Centre Industrial Park in Ringgold nearly two years ago. Since then, the 800-acre park off South Boston Road has seen a windfall of investment and newly created jobs.
Nearly 1,200 jobs and almost $403 million in investment from various economic development projects have been announced for the park following Ikea’s closure.
Just a few months after Ikea announced — in the summer of 2019 — its upcoming closure at the end of that year, delivery van maker Morgan Olson said it was bringing about 700 jobs to the 925,000-square-foot former facility.
Officials at the time praised the way Ikea handled its exit from the region.
“Ikea was a great partner,” said Pittsylvania County economic development director Matt Rowe. “It enabled us to be well positioned to repurpose their facility and re-narrate the story about that industrial park.”
The industrial park is owned by Danville and Pittsylvania County through its joint entity, the Danville-Pittsylvania Regional Industrial Facility Authority. It is located in Pittsylvania County.
A few months after Morgan Olson’s announcement, the company said it planned to add 300 positions, bringing its job-creation total in the region to 1,000 jobs. Its capital investment was announced at about $58 million.
The 1,187 jobs announced at the industrial park since IKEA’s closure do not include those additional 300 jobs.
Other companies have followed suit with projects planned for Cane Creek, including 92 jobs from Aerofarms announced in December 2019, 46 from Walraven in June 2020 and Tyson Foods’ 376 jobs announced this past August.
The Newark, New Jersey-based AeroFarms will invest more than $53 million for its aeroponic vertical farm, which will be the largest and most sophisticated in the world. Its planned job count for the project has increased to 120. Those additional 28 jobs are also not included in the 1,187 figure.
Walraven, a global installation company, is investing $7.15 million to relocate its U.S. headquarters and manufacturing operation from Cadillac, Michigan, to Cane Creek Centre in Ringgold in the current Unison facility.
Tyson Foods will invest $300 million and construct a 325,000-square-foot facility where they will cook, season, flash-freeze, package and ship out foods including Any’tizer Snacks, chicken nuggets, and other items.
When a company considers a new location, it looks for a community that provides the lowest amount of market risk and a reduced timeline to begin operations, said Danville economic development director Corrie T. Bobe.
“Over the past 15 years, our region has heavily invested in key areas to meet these key requirements,” Bobe said.
Those investments have included preparing sites with utilities appropriate for a project and building modern manufacturing facilities, she said.
In addition, the Dan River Region has differentiated itself by investing in building a workforce pipeline that can meet the needs of industries, Bobe said.
Rowe pointed out that Cane Creek Centre is within a day’s drive of 60% of the U.S. population. Also, Danville and southern Pittsylvania County have the main population density — and ample workforce — in the region, he said.
In addition, the area is just about 40 miles from Greensboro, North Carolina and 1-40, Rowe said.
“It’s [Cane Creek Centre] right off 58,” he said. “It’s 200 miles straight to the port.”
Rowe also credited his efforts with Linda Green, executive director of the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance, and other partners working to attend industry shows and recruit prospective employers.
As for the industrial park, the Danville-Pittsylvania Regional Industrial Facility Authority purchased the property over about 18-20 months from 2005-07, said Danville finance director Michael Adkins.
The land making up the park was mostly pastureland and included property owned by Lorillard Tobacco Co., and other individual owners, Adkins said.
RIFA’s capital investment to purchase and have work performed on the land was about $8.5 million, Adkins said. About $1.67 million in bonds issued by RIFA still must be paid off, which is expected to be done Jan. 1, 2025, he said.
As for getting the word out on the region’s properties for development, “our local, regional, and state economic development partners actively market available sites and buildings to prospective industry,” Bobe said.
“When IKEA announced its closure, word quickly spread about the facility that would become available,” Bobe said. “Not often does a community have a nearly 1 million-square-foot modern manufacturing building to market. The facility, along with skilled workers that would be in search of new jobs, were highly attractive to prospective industry.”
Cane Creek Centre Industrial Park also includes Elkay, which has a 250,000-square-foot distribution facility.
RIFA still has about 250 acres at the park and a recently-completed 100,000-square-foot shell building that are being marketed to industries, Bobe said.
“The continued development we are seeing at the Cane Creek Centre is the result of strategic joint investments and work from both the City of Danville and Pittsylvania County and is a testament to the economic resilience of our region,” Bob Warren, chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, said in a prepared statement.
Warren pointed out that Dan River District Supervisor Joe Davis has been a tireless advocate for the success of the Cane Creek Centre, which is in his district.
“The way that our community has rebounded from the loss of one of our pillar employers in IKEA by attracting new companies to the Cane Creek Centre is a testament to the strength of our regional partnerships and our region’s quality business environment” Davis said in a prepared statement. “Between companies like Morgan Olson, AeroFarms, and Tyson Foods, we are thrilled with the capital investments and job creation happening in the Cane Creek Centre, which is quickly filling up.”