There is plenty of economic expansion in and around Winchester, which has resulted in a tremendous ripple effect – more job opportunities and higher standard of living throughout the area.
Here is a look at the economic development leaders who are building the business climate in the city of Winchester and Frederick County.
Access to major highways, two large, national airports and a port are some of the key advantages Winchester’s economic development team is touting to companies considering the area.
For those reasons and many more, Winchester is the ideal site for growing companies in innovative fields such as health care, IT, light manufacturing, professional services and retail.
A few of the most notable projects in the past year according to George Hoddinott, Business Retention and Expansion Manager for the City of Winchester, include:
- The Continental expansion project, which created 61 new jobs and around $10 million in commercial investment.
- The Glaize expansion, which is a $1 million in commercial investment. The project will ensure that 100% of its apples and 147,000 bushels are from Virginia growers.
- A 51,000-square-foot redevelopment project that could include up to 47 new apartments, two retail/restaurants spaces and indoor parking. This project is slated to be ready for occupancy by fall 2020.
“One of the things we are currently working on as a community and led by Shenandoah University is an accelerator/incubator,” Hoddinott said. “Also, we’re creating a virtual marketplace, led by the university’s Shenandoah Center for Immersive Learning, which infuses AR and VR simulation models into teaching and learning.”
One of the challenges for Winchester is convincing local college graduates – ones who grew up in town and/or went to Shenandoah University – to stay in the area.
“One of the ways we are doing this is by connecting our local business with the Shenandoah University Business School so that they understand the careers that are available to them upon graduation,” Hoddinott said.
Winchester also works with many regional partners to bring business to the city and help it expand, including Frederick and Clarke County Economic Development Authorities, the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Workforce Initiative and the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission; post-secondary institutions like Shenandoah University and Lord Fairfax Community College; the local school systems; and resource agencies like Virginia Career Works.
“It’s important that we all work together to ensure a long and fruitful economy for our community,” Hoddinott said.
As a growing community of more than 88,000 and access to a labor force of more than 360,000 in a 45-mile radius, Frederick County is perfectly positioned to attract new businesses to the area and help the established ones expand.
The Frederick County Economic Development Authority has four primary tasks, according to Executive Director Patrick Barker:
- Talent: To work with employers and educational systems to make sure students graduate with the skills employers need.
- Retention/expansion: To make sure manufacturers and other large employers have access to available assistance and resources so they prosper and remain in the county.
- Business attraction: To keep building up Frederick County’s critical assets and pursue strategic business targets.
- Business climate: To ensure we boast a competitive environment for a variety of industries, by having a diverse supply of buildings and sites ready for occupancy.
“We pride ourselves on “Your move, our commitment,’” Barker said. “Commitment is a really strong word. We walk the walk and want to make sure we’re committed to companies as they grow and make sure they have the resources to grow.”
The dedication to serving the needs of businesses is paying off with recent moves, including:
- An expansion for Navy Federal Credit Union, which is adding 1,000 workers over five years.
- A new Amazon Fulfillment Center.
- Expansions of several new manufacturing operations like M&H Plastics and Blue Ridge Industries.
One of the major initiatives (The Workforce Initiative) comprised of educators and businesses, has a mission to foster partnerships that support workforce opportunities and career journeys, with the goal of a skilled workforce that meets the needs of local employers.
“We have a partnership with companies to make sure they have the workforce for right now and we’re also looking down the road as they start facing retirement options and growth plans,” Barker said.
With a business-friendly leadership structure, qualified workforce, regional efforts to grow our own workforce and a small-town feel along with numerous entertainment and recreation options, it’s an ideal place to locate a business.
“This area has long been an economic center,” Barker said. “We’re among the top areas in economic performance in the state – a consistent performance year in and year out. We’re committed to businesses being successful here for the long haul.”