Inland port touted as key attraction to companies considering area

MIDDLETOWN – The Virginia Inland Port “represents such a great asset to this region,” Barry DuVal, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, told those attending a symposium Thursday at the Corron Development Center of Lord Fairfax Community College.

The Port of Virginia – in association with Potts Productions – hosted the symposium for local officials and business leaders to talk about the benefits of the inland port and its assets during panel discussions covering economic development and the port’s capabilities in foreign and domestic trade.

The speakers included David Steffens, CEO of Keystone Transportation Solutions Forest Productions Group; David Stevenson, director of logistics and distribution at Mercury Paper; and Carrie Chenery, executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Partnership.

“Being connected to the outside world … helps this state be competitive, it helps us grow in those jobs that are connected to trade,” DuVal said of the port, which is located in Warren County.

DuVal, key speaker at the symposium, noted that the port “brings products to this region that can be then distributed to other parts of the Northeast.”

In 2014, the port turned a profit of $16.1 million – putting it just behind the ports in Savannah, Georgia, and New York City.

“I think Virginia’s brightest days are ahead. I believe that our keys to success lie in the workforce … and the human capital of our future,” DuVal said.

Citing Norfolk Southern Railroad, Interstate 81 and CSX Transportation, DuVal stressed the foreign market connections the port offers to companies.

Jennifer McDonald, executive director of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority, also spoke Thursday as a part of a three-person economic development panel.

McDonald is working with partners, including LFCC and local manufacturers, on ways to increase job opportunities through workforce courses in trade jobs in areas such as transportation and manufacturing.

McDonald also talked about the impact the inland port has had on the Front Royal and Warren County economy.

“We started in 1995 with an aggressive recruitment effort in marketing our area to distribution centers and manufacturing companies,” McDonald said. “The inland port was key in having companies look at our area.”

She also cited the enterprise and foreign trade zones as key factors in attracting manufacturing companies to the area.

Prior to that 1995 recruitment effort, McDonald said the county was receiving $19,833 in taxes on sites that would eventually belong to companies like Keystone Transportation Solutions – a company focused on the transportation of agricultural goods.

“Since we have built those sites out with these industries, the county was receiving $1.8 million in tax revenue (in 2013),” McDonald said, adding that the tax revenue has allowed the town to pursue additional projects such as new schools.

The industries that the town and county have been able to attract have produced 2,300 jobs and have invested more than $500 million to the Front Royal and Warren County area, McDonald noted.

With those facilities in place, McDonald said they are hoping that having the inland port will lead to even more industries setting up shop in the Front Royal area.

“Nothing’s in the pipeline, but we have sites available. We’ll keep marketing and trying to get them here,” McDonald said, adding that they would like to see more manufacturing companies in the area.

McDonald noted that the port has been reaching out to the local communities more over the past year.

“We’ve seen them more. They’ve been out here telling us what they are doing, what programs they are offering and any expansions that are happening,” she said. “That’s been really good to see – just to have that communication.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com