Avtex, Dominion among top business stories of the year

Martha Craig, 86, left, of Front Royal, chats with her former co-worker Audrey Darr, 87, right, of Middletown, during the Avtex Celebration held in September in Front Royal. Craig worked 44 years and Darr worked 26 years at the former Avtex Fibers plant. Rich Cooley/Daily

In 2014, the Northern Shenandoah Valley saw its share of hirings and firings, openings and shutterings, sales and fails.

One of the top business stories of the year was the Dominion power plant going on the grid in Warren County in December. The $1.1 billion project went onto the grid Dec. 10, generating 1,300 megawatts of electricity, employing 40 people directly and another 60 indirectly and raising $4 million in annual revenue for Warren County.

Dan Genest, a Dominion Power spokesperson, said the plant would be an economic powerhouse for Warren County.

“Before we decided to put a plant there, we had an economic study done that projected the economic impact on the state of Virginia will be $35 million,” Genest told the Northern Virginia Daily. “Most of that money will stay in Warren County.”

Warren County also saw the return of the Avtex site Sept.20 to the town of Front Royal. The former site at 400 Kendrick Lane was home to the Avtex Fiber Company until 1989, when it became a superfund site and the Environmental Protection Agency began cleaning it up. A total of 162 acres were devoted to redevelopment and job creation, while another 240 was dedicated to a Shenandoah River conservancy park.

Jennifer McDonald, executive director of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development authority, said the move would lead to new businesses coming to Warren County, as well as new tax revenue for the community.

The following is a listing of some of the other top business stories in 2014, broken down by county:

Frederick County

• Valley Health sold its property at 333 W. Cork St., the former site of the Winchester Medical Center, to HealthCare Development Partners, a Chicago-based health care real estate development company, in August. The 5.85-acre property housed a seven-story tall building and five parking lots for the Winchester Rehabilitation Center since the Winchester Medical Center moved to Amherst Street in 1990.

• Joe’s Steak House opened its third location in five years in June at 25 West Piccadilly St. in Winchester. The site of “The Piccadilly Mansion,” the 11,000-square-foot building is said to be home to the ghost of Colonel George S. Patton.

• The Kmart store on South Pleasant Valley Road in Winchester closed in June.

Shenandoah County

• Shenandoah County saw a lot of business deals in 2014, with Strasburg-based First National Corporation, the holding company of First Bank, acquiring six Bank of America branches in the Valley for $377.3 million in November. The deal made the bank the largest in the valley north of Roanoke and was its first penetration into the Central Virginia market.

Scott Harvard, president of First Bank, said the deal was a way to expand his bank’s presence.

“It’s an opportunity for us to keep growing our bank, our stockholders’ investments and our staff,” Harvard said.

• Holtzman Oil also saw some growth with the purchase of Cline Energy of Harrisonburg in October. Cline Energy’s 18 gas stations and truck stops in Rockingham and Page counties will join the Holtzman Oil family in 2015.

• Shentel announced in November that it will be the official telecommunications provider for the Old Dominion Athletic Conference for the next four years.

• Richard Anthony Perryman, the previous owner of the Strasburg Home Theater, was charged with obtaining money by false pretense in Fauquier County Circuit Court in March.

• The former C.E. Thompson & Sons at 201 Stoney Creek Blvd. in Edinburg went up for auction in April, but did not receive any bids.

Warren County

• Along with the Dominion Power Plant and the Avtex site, Warren County made other strides in economic development over the past year.

• Interchange, a Harrisonburg-based warehousing and logistics company, announced in July it had plans to expand its property adjacent to the Inland Port. Nature’s Touch Frozen Foods, a Canadian frozen fruit company, announced in December it would be moving into part of InterChange’s facility in 2015, investing $1.8 million and adding 25 new jobs.

• Naughty Girl Donuts opened in June, sparking controversy among some in Front Royal who believed its name promoted promiscuity among young women in the area. The shop is set to expand to the D.C. area in 2015.

• Kmart announced in October it would be closing its Front Royal store in mid-January 2015.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com