The Danville area has the potential to be a regional advanced manufacturing hub, said the president of the National Association of Manufacturers.
Smart local investments in projects, a high-quality workforce and an education curriculum that fits the needs of manufacturing facilities are three factors that the Dan River Region has going for it, said Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the association based in Washington, D.C.
“You have the commitment of local leadership and smart investments,” Timmons said. “IALR [the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research] is an example of a cutting-edge manufacturing education facility. You’re starting to see a lot of investment and focus in the region.”
Timmons, who served as chief of staff under former Gov. George Allen, said he has “a very special place in my heart for Danville and Southside Virginia.” Timmons praised the work ethic he has seen in the Dan River Region.
“The commitment to the dignity of work, it’s truly unrivaled,” Timmons said, pointing to an “amazing can-do spirit” among both leaders and the community.
The National Association of Manufacturers represents about 14,000 companies, from small businesses to global companies, according to the group’s website.
Advocating for manufacturers across the country, “we are a one-stop shop for manufacturers and manufacturing across America,” according to the association’s website.
“Our work is centered around four values that make our industry strong and America exceptional: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity,” the website states.
Just more than half of Fortune 500 manufacturers and 79% of Fortune 100 manufacturers are members of the group, according to its website. About 90% of association members are small and medium-sized manufacturers.
As for the Danville region, the education curriculum helps make the area a perfect place for manufacturers to locate here, Timmons said.
The job-training pipeline in Danville and Pittsylvania County includes collaboration among the Gene Haas Center for Integrated Machining, Danville Community College, George Washington High School and the Pittsylvania Career and Technical Center in Chatham to enable the region’s high school students — through dual enrollment — complete a year of precision machining training before graduating.
That enables them to complete a two-year training program after just one year at DCC after high school.
Those seeking advanced training can earn a post-degree certificate/associate of applied science from the Gene Haas Center.
But what is a manufacturing hub? It is a collection of manufacturing facilities that either work to supply a market with a necessary product or good, or it could be factories that provide input products to support a larger manufacturer, Timmons said.
“They kind of feed off of each other,” Timmons said.
Leaders across the country, especially the successful ones, understand the importance of manufacturing to a thriving economy, he said. It provides a strong tax base and pays higher salaries on average than any other sector, bringing a lot of disposable income to an area, Timmons said.
All of that leads to more state and local tax revenues that pay for government services such as transportation and education, Timmons said.
“It’s kind of a win-win,” he said. “The folks of the region are seeing their own quality of life increase.”
Other communities across the state are trying to do what the Danville area has done, he said.
“It’s kind of a gold standard other communities are going to try to emulate,” Timmons said.
The Dan River Region has seen a surge in economic growth over the past few years. From 2018-21, more than $1 billion in economic development projects promising more than 3,000 jobs have been announced.
Timmons also has high hopes for the 3,500-acre Southern Virginia Megasite at Berry Hill in southwestern Pittsylvania County, where city and county officials hope to bring a major industry bringing thousands of jobs.
It’s the type of site that is perfectly suited to attract manufacturing investment, he said.
“It’s outfitted, it’s got infrastructure, it’s impressive,” Timmons said. “That’s a highly likely place for landing a facility.”