Shenandoah County hires consulting firm to attract businesses

WOODSTOCK – After months of deliberation, the Shenandoah County Industrial Development Authority  hired consulting engineering firm Draper Aden Associates on Monday to help attract businesses to the county.

The consulting firm will perform land surveys, wetlands planning, due diligence work, borings to investigate soil grade and the potential for sinkholes, and other activities to prepare IDA-owned land for businesses to move in.

“Their goal (the IDA’s) is that they own quite a bit of land, which is a huge blessing, and not many local governments own a whole lot of land,” said Deborah Flippo, economic development program manager for Draper. “They want to get it closer to development-ready so that it’s more attractive to companies who are looking to put in a new plant or office.”

Flippo and Carolyn Howard, Draper vice president and regional manager, anticipate a long working relationship with the IDA.

“The goal is to develop more parcels,” Howard said. “Our goal is to continue being part of their team, to help them today and in the future, to get more product ready for prospects to come in.”

For instance, Flippo pointed to TruckVault, Inc., a Washington-based manufacturer of in-vehicle equipment storage units that announced in November that it would be opening a plant and bringing 60 jobs to Mount Jackson.

Flippo’s reaction was to look past that event and consider its impact on future business opportunities.

“Well, they’re going to take up a site, so what’s the next site?” Flippo said. “Because if they take up a site, and that’s the only one ready, now we’re looking at prospects just driving through again.”

After the IDA motioned to hire Draper, the two company representatives launched into an introductory conversation about potential business sites in Shenandoah County, with emphasis on the Mount Jackson Industrial Park and the North Shenandoah Business and Industrial Park in Strasburg.

The Draper associates said they plan to start work in Shenandoah County by the end of February or early March, after they have had time to review old land documentation and due diligence that the IDA has on file.

During the conversation, Flippo said that many local governments in Virginia don’t own much land.

“If you look in the Interstate 95 corridor between Richmond and Northern Virginia, those local governments do not own any sites,” Flippo said. “Hanover County, Caroline County owns a little bit, Stafford, Spotsylvania — all they have is private sites that they are marketing.”

IDA Director Vince Poling was not surprised that most of the area’s potential corporate sites were county-owned, not private.

“We’ve had very little interest in this county for a private development of industrial or business sites,” Poling said. “That’s why the county’s involved in it. Most people would rather do subdivisions than build houses so they can maximize their investment.

“It’s stymied for water and sewer, and infrastructure. If there were a sanitation authority that provided water and sewer to everybody then that doesn’t matter that each town (handles local services). So we’re at the good graces of the towns in order to get water and sewer.”

Draper Aden Associates has been in business for more than 40 years. The company has six locations in Virginia and three in North Carolina.