Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced yesterday that Shenandoah Valley Organic (SVO), an organic chicken company, plans to create a 75,000-square-foot facility in the city of Harrisonburg, according to a news release.
The city of Harrisonburg worked with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Shenandoah Valley Partnership to ensure the project was brought to Virginia. Northam approved a performance-based grant of $800,000 from the Virginia Investment Program, a $500,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund and an additional $500,000 from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund to assist Harrisonburg with the project.
The goal of the expansion is to increase production capacity to allow more product availability in grocery stores across the country, according to the release. Virginia “successfully competed with West Virginia” for the expansion, which is projected to bring 110 new jobs to the City.
Northam expressed his optimism about Virginia’s economy and said that projects like this are evidence of a thriving Commonwealth.
“Shenandoah Valley Organic is a homegrown Virginia company that has thrived in Harrisonburg since its founding in 2014,” Northam said in the release. “This significant expansion speaks forcefully about the Commonwealth’s strong infrastructure, dedicated workforce, and bright economic future.”
SVO, founded by Corwin Heatwole, a sixth-generation farmer, said the company wishes to protect generational farming by working in conjunction with independent family farmers to raise organic chicken “responsibly.” According to the release, nearly 70 family farms can thank this business model for creating a “sustainable livelihood” for generational family farmers.
Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball expressed gratitude to SVO for investing in the Commonwealth and highlighted the importance of the food and beverage industry in the Valley.
“Since establishing its manufacturing operation in the City of Harrisonburg, Shenandoah Valley Organic has become a valued partner and employer in the Commonwealth,” Ball said in the release. “Food and beverage processing are the heart of the Shenandoah Valley’s manufacturing sector and the region offers a ready-to-work talent pool in the industry.”
Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring congratulated SVO for its expansion and recounted previous instances of successful collaboration between SVO and the Commonwealth. Ring also explained how monetary awards from AFID allowed the expansion to come to fruition.
“I commend Shenandoah Valley Organic on the growth and innovation they have brought to Virginia’s poultry industry, the largest sector of the Commonwealth’s largest private industry, agriculture,” Ring said in the release. “In 2013, we were proud to help SVO get started with one of our first AFID awards. Today, we are even prouder to support this major expansion with our largest ever AFID award.”
Heatwole said that Harrisonburg was an attractive location to invest in because of its proximity to high-demand east coast markets. He also attributed past SVO successes to the Harrisonburg community.
“We chose Harrisonburg to expand because this community and city is a big part of our success to date,” Heatwole said in the release. “Our production team and our farmers live here and come with tremendous experience in the poultry industry. We are fortunate to live in the beautiful Valley, but are close to large East Coast markets where organic poultry demand is high.”
Mayor Deanna Reed said that the City is enthusiastic about its partnership with SVO and expressed pride in SVO’s growth over the past six years.
“The City of Harrisonburg is excited to partner with Shenandoah Valley Organic (SVO) as they expand their local facilities to meet the growing consumer demand for organic chicken,” Reed said in the release. “Our economic development team worked with Corwin Heatwole six years ago when SVO was just an idea and a dream. Today, this dynamic company has over 500 employees in Harrisonburg and is poised to add 110 more. We are proud of the company’s rapid growth and its commitment to Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley.”
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