DALEVILLE — An Italian-based global auto parts manufacturer will build its first North American production plant in Botetourt County, investing $75 million and creating up to 350 new jobs over the next five years, officials announced Tuesday.
Plans by Eldor Corp. to locate in the Botetourt Center at Greenfield industrial park marked the biggest economic news in the county’s history, and the largest expansion of new manufacturing jobs in the Roanoke Valley since before the Great Recession.
“This is a huge announcement for us,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe told a crowd of state and local officials gathered Tuesday afternoon at Greenfield.
The Roanoke Regional Partnership estimates Eldor will have an annual economic impact of $246.5 million and help create more than 500 secondary jobs across Botetourt and the entire Roanoke region by 2021.
And if long-term projections hold true, another 300 people will find work at Eldor by 2024, adding significant horsepower to what is already an established automotive parts manufacturing cluster in Botetourt County.
“The fact that another global leader in the transportation industry has selected Botetourt County sends a positive message about the future of this county and jobs that will help us attract and retain young people,” County Administrator Gary Larrowe said.
Eldor is expected to begin construction shortly on a 250,000-square-foot facility that will sit on 53 acres in the sprawling Greenfield industrial park located off U.S. 220 in Daleville. The project should be completed by August 2017.
Workers will earn an average annual wage of at least $37,950, which Eldor has promised as part of a performance agreement under which it will receive about $15 million in state and local incentives if it fulfills its obligations.
A privately held company founded in 1972, Eldor has existing plants in Italy, Turkey, China and Brazil. It makes ignition systems, engine control units and electronic systems for hybrid and electric vehicles. The company, which cites $300 million in annual revenues, has three research and development centers in Italy and is based in Orsenigo, located north of Milan in northern Italy near the Swiss border.
The company considered about 200 sites in 20 states before settling on Botetourt, McAuliffe said.
Eldor President and CEO Pasquale Forte said he found Virginia attractive for its pro-business polices and port access, and the Roanoke Valley equally appealing for its quality of life and natural beauty.
“I am confident that people who come to our plant from around the world will be amazed by this beauty,” said Forte, who also cited the region’s universities and a community college system with a mechatronics program that is well suited to train the workers who will run the company’s advanced production lines.
The long-term impact of the project at build-out is estimated at $457 million with 1,600 direct, indirect and induced jobs, according to economic impact modeling by the Roanoke Regional Partnership.
The governor has approved a $3.2 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to Botetourt County to assist with the project.
In addition, the company will receive state benefits from the Port of Virginia Economic and Infrastructure Development Zone Grant Program and money and assistance for employee training.
The county’s incentive package with the company — valued at about $12 million — is based on the plant growing to 650 jobs and an investment of $106 million by 2024. The county is offering the 53-acre site, fee waivers and utility extensions, tax incentives and a performance-based grant of $1.3 million.
Shortly after the project was announced at a 3 p.m. news conference, the county’s board of supervisors and economic development authority approved the performance agreement. The arrangement offers protection to the county should the deal not go through, doling out payments of grant money only after certain milestones are met by Eldor, such as the beginning of grading, the granting of a certificate of occupancy for the building and the hiring of its first employees.
In addition, Eldor has agreed to provide a $1.5 million letter of credit to the county.
Eldor is a “strong company,” Larrowe said, and Botetourt officials have no reason to believe it will not live up to expectations. “This is just doing business, that’s the only thing it is,” Larrowe said.
At the state level, officials with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership also took extra pains to review the company’s background, partly because of a failed economic development deal in Appomattox in which they acknowledge a Chinese company was not adequately vetted.
Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones said officials examined audited financial statements and relied on information from independent parties, in addition to what was provided by the company.
The Greenfield complex is largely vacant, and Tuesday’s announcement was clearly a relief to county officials who have been courting possible tenants for years.
The site of the future Eldor plant is adjacent to a Greenfield parcel slated for the construction of a 100,000-square foot industrial shell building, to be financed by the nonprofit Greater Roanoke Valley Development Foundation. Construction of the building, which county officials hope will lure a new industry to the park sometime in the future, is expected to take about 18 months.
Two historic slave buildings that were once part of the Greenfield Plantation were recently relocated to make way for the shell building, much to the dismay of preservationists and others in the county. County officials said their courting of Eldor, which first looked at the adjacent site last summer, was not a factor in the buildings’ relocation.
When it began considering Greenfield as a possible location, Eldor was interested in moving at a faster pace than what the shell building site offered. County officials say a certified, pad-ready site nearby was crucial to landing the company.
“The fact that Botetourt County had a pre-graded site appealed to Eldor because it will reduce construction costs and increase the speed to market,” supervisors Chairman Jack Leffel said.
To seal the deal, the General Assembly recently added another $1 million to the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund and authorized the governor to give up to $1.5 million for additional grading of the site.
In his remarks Tuesday, McAuliffe praised Del. Terry Austin, R-Botetourt County, for his work in securing the budget amendment “to get this deal over the goal line.”
Staff writers Jeff Sturgeon and Alicia Petska contributed to this report.