County sees growth in business and jobs |

The economies of Eden and Reidsville, as well as Rockingham County as a whole, are growing tremendously, especially in the areas of tourism, manufacturing and small businesses. Even as the county has navigated the twists and turns brought about by COVID-19, the county has remained resilient as new industrial projects have taken shape, small businesses have made Rockingham County home, and new and longtime established businesses have grown and flourished.

REIDSVILLE

Reidsville has experienced growth in all sectors in the past five years, even more so in the past two, with about 2,000 new industry jobs added since 2016, said Jeff Garstka, the city’s economic development director.

This has been the result of recruitment, as well as existing business growth.

“International investment continues to be a shining star for Reidsville,” Garstka said. “We have had two recent announcements with Italian companies, one Japanese, an Israeli and also have industries based in Australia, Belgium, Germany and Singapore.”

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Based on data collected from the water department about new customers, it’s estimated that Reidsville has had an influx of 1,500 new residents over the past two years, adding to its 15,000 population.

More than 400 new accounts have been created during this time period, including many families with children, as well as active, older adults who decided to retire, relocate or pursue a second career in Reidsville. Many of these new residents are also ex-military.

“This is a ‘young’ and very active population that contributes to enhance the commerce, volunteerism and overall vibe of the city,” Garstka said.

The City of Reidsville spends money to recruit retirees nationwide and younger residents from Greensboro and southern Virginia.

“We have seen people flock from all over the U.S. and a considerable amount from our target areas,” Garstka said. “We have seen interest from large national residential developers who propose single-family neighborhoods with hundreds of homes sites, and apartments and townhomes continue to also be a strong product here.”

Reidsville’s retail growth looks good, too, as companies like Love’s Travel, Biscuitville, Tractor Supply and Harbor Freight have invested in the city.

Other national retailers are working with the city’s community development department on plans for investment here. Construction plans for Cook Out and Starbucks have also been received by the City’s Community Development department.

“This triangle, so to speak — jobs/residents/commerce — all flow circular,” Garstka said. “We are hitting our stride on all three; when it comes to retail and food, as we see more national chains invest here, it sends a strong signal to others that Reidsville is not only a viable market but the premier destination in Rockingham County.”

In addition, Downtown Reidsville continues to be the centerpiece and major focus of economic development efforts. Two of the newest projects in downtown include Lucky City Brewing and the Reidsville Showcase theater.

“These two projects together with strong merchant growth, even during COVID, have put our downtown on the map,” Garstka said.

The City Council approved in April a $1.5 million streetscape plan that will essentially re-design Scales Street from the Budding Future sculpture to Market Square. New decorative light poles, enhanced power and fiber, new cameras, and an overall facelift are coming soon.

Much like in Eden, Reidsville economic development leaders also believe the new Caesar’s casino, slated to open in 2023 in Danville, will have a positive impact.

Twenty minutes from Reidsville, it is estimated the casino project will increase traffic counts on the new I-785, as most guests will travel the corridor, taking them right through the heart of Reidsville.

In addition, Garstka believes the area around Love’s Travel, much of which is owned by the City of Reidsville and the county, will attract popular interstate corner restaurants and other businesses, and new apartments are under construction within a half mile of the interstate at the exit.

Garstka foresees many casino employees choosing Rockingham County as a good place to live and raise families, and he hopes visitors to the casino will consider Reidsville for day trips. Hotel development could also be a plus.

“Not everyone who gambles stays in the casino itself,” Garstka said. “Many choose a quieter, less expensive option, and Reidsville is a perfect destination for that group; there will be more workers than housing in the immediate area, and we are planning for the attraction of a sliver of that workforce to live here.”

Looking ahead, Garstka said the goal is for Reidsville to continue to diversity its economy, which includes recruiting a variety of industries, from pet food manufacturing and e-commerce distribution to food processing and steel distribution.

“Not being tied to one major industrial sector is a positive thing,” he said.

He also would like to see the city diversify by growing the residential and commerce sectors.

“It grows the tax base and jobs but also acts as a balance if and when local industry shuts down,” Garstka said. “Then, the hit to the tax base isn’t as severe.”

With this in mind, the city recently adopted a plan for the Depot District, a mixed-use development of the 1800s and early 1900s tobacco warehouses, grocery warehouses and textile mills in this area. The plan calls for a pedestrian/bike-friendly, eco-conscious, eclectic mix of residential and commercial uses.

“Much of our effort from today forward will be to steer this long-term redevelopment strategy,” Garstka said. “This concept has proven extremely popular in hundreds of cities, many nearby, large and small; Reidsville can’t afford not to join the party of communities who have found creative ways to create commerce, community camaraderie and historic preservation.”

As the county as a whole grows, projects in other communities, such as the Nestle Purina PetCare project in Eden, benefit Reidsville, as well, by providing jobs for residents and contributing to the overall marketability of the region.

“I validate Reidsville’s status as a first-class business and residential destination by letting the private companies who locate here do the talking,” Garstka said. “More companies will recognize the names of those investing here and try Reidsville for themselves; it’s a powerful tool that grows organically.”

Henniges Automotive

A leading global supplier of highly engineered automotive sealing solutions, Henniges Automotive operates plants worldwide, including its highly successful one in Reidsville, which opened in 1994. An automotive manufacturing facility which produces automotive seals for Ford, BMW and Chrysler, the Reidsville plant employs about 350 team members.

In the past several years, Henniges has added customers, automation and employees in Reidsville, also working to provide an inclusive culture for employees and taking an active role in the community.

“Rockingham and surrounding counties have hardworking individuals looking for opportunities to be successful and support their families,” said Robin Rudd, human resources manager. “As a large employer, we like to help those individuals with career opportunities to meet their personal goals.”

Garstka said he is happy to have Henniges, a top-three employer in Reidsville in terms of full time workers, as one of the outstanding corporate partners of Team Reidsville. The company is continuously willing to sponsor, volunteer and be visible in Reidsville.

“Bottom line for me is that their plant is one of the coolest, most modern manufacturing facilities I’ve seen — the robotics, the size of the extrusion machines, all of it,” Garstka said. “And, they are proud to display it to invited guests to show off their capabilities and to share some best practices with other industry leaders in the city.”

Henniges Automotove has also hosted meetings of the Reidsville Industrial Alliance, a local coalition of industry leaders that meet semi-regularly to discuss relevant topics, have guest speakers from state agencies, and other activities, such as lobbying for projects like I-785 and the Manual Machining Academy at Reidsville High School.

“I have worked with them on a Job Seekers Boot Camp class through the community college, too,” Garstka said. “Overall, they are just a great company that has always had top-notch professionals in the management roles but also throughout the entire team.”

Rudd said Henniges Automotive continues to grow.

“We continue to strive for product and process innovation, work to diversity and broaden our customer base and attract and develop exceptional people,” she said.

I-785 Project

A critical infrastructure upgrade, the conversion of U.S. 29 to Interstate 785 will benefit the City of Reidsville and Rockingham County, bringing continued growth in residential development, commercial/retail and industrial sectors.

“In my nearly 20 years of experience, when it comes to certain industry recruitments, the blue shield is everything,” Garstka said. “You have companies that require sites within ‘x’ number of miles of an interstate, and if you do not have a site in the required proximity, you literally fall off the map of the consultant helping with the location search.”

Reidsville already has a strong four-lane highway in US-29, but the I-785 project will certainly benefit the area.

“It’s (US-29) a viable transportation route north and south for industry and other things, as evidenced by the industry presence here, but having a named interstate means a whole lot for the growth of Reidsville,” Garstka said.

Enhanced connectivity to the Greensboro metro area and other cities in the Triad and beyond is also a huge plus. Perhaps the most important part of the I-785 project it the connectivity it provides to I-840, Greensboro’s northern beltway, which is currently under construction.

According to Aaron Moody, public information officer with the NCDOT, the final section of the Greensboro Urban Loop, project U-2525C, which is located between North Elm Street and the US 29 Interchange at the existing I-785/I-840, is scheduled to open to traffic in late spring of this year (2023).

Interstate 840 will tie directly into the Piedmont Triad International Airport, and its relation to I-785 will place Reidsville as a legitimate “sub-market” for suppliers of the growing aviation industry at PTI. In addition to I-785, other key transportation routes are on the NCDOT’s schedule for future enhancement, including the Reidsville 158 Corridor, a major thoroughfare traveling east/west through Reidsville.

Moody agrees that the I-785 project and other enhancements will present future opportunities for Reidsville and Rockingham County.

“Upgrading the U.S. 29 corridor to interstate standards will improve safety and mobility for those traveling between Rockingham and Guilford counties and will add another element of connectivity of highways in the Triad region,” he said.

EDEN

Eden continuously gets inquiries from businesses interested in opening all around the city, Randy Hunt, community and economic development manager for the City of Eden, said.

Retail and restaurants continue to pop up as commercial real estate investor and developer Marty Kotis has gotten involved, and after several years of pursuit and negotiations, Burkes Outlet opened this past summer on Kings Highway, Hunt said.

In addition, a family medicine practice and chiropractic practice expanded to the Central District. With three specific “downtowns” in Leaksville, Spray and Draper, Eden is the perfect place to live and run a business.

“I see us being able to recruit upper management to our area, as people don’t want to live on top of each other,” Hunt said. “Eden is a beautiful place to live.”

The former Spray Mill facility is being converted into 94 apartments, and other apartment and condo complexes have sprung up across Eden.

The Historic Leaksville Commercial District has also undergone quite a transformation,

With Hunt’s assistance, the Eden Downtown Development Corporation led the charge for the historic preservation and the economic development of downtown, and in the last few years, the momentum has picked up.

One of the first steps to attracting new businesses was improving parking. The 600 block was all parallel parking.

Hunt worked to develop the Bridge Street parking lot, and after going through “the grueling process” of getting easements, the lot project moved forward.

“It was well worth it…a success,” Hunt said.

Soon after, a developer looked at the old hospital in Eden, and a building inspector decided to also show him the old Central Hotel Building in downtown. The developer was impressed by the parking situation and decided to buy the historic building, with the goal of eventually building apartments.

After proving the concept would work through a few other test projects, he was able to secure funding to refurbish the old hotel building, which had stood vacant for 50 years, and offer modern, new townhomes. People have moved in quickly, and there is currently a waitlist.

Business spaces that had been empty downtown began to fill up as entrepreneurs took a chance on the new Uptown Eden.

Several new businesses opened, including several boutiques; a café; a coffee shop; a quilt shop; an antique shop; and a shop that features handmade items from Middle Eastern countries. Upcoming will be a steak house and a pottery studio.

The EDDI, part of the self-help Main Street program, which has 50 Main Street communities in North Carolina, operates in Uptown Eden and in Draper.

Nestle Purina is opening a $450 million factory in Eden, bringing 350 jobs to the community (read on for details). These workers and executives will be looking for places to shop, eat, and live in the area, and Hunt hopes they, too, will love Uptown Eden.

“Uptown Eden is a great place to work, eat, enjoy and live,” Hunt said.

Hunt assisted some of the older businesses get grants to fix up their buildings, and many have installed new storefront glass and painted their facades.

“The anchor businesses are feeling the excitement, too,” Hunt said.

Businesses are staying open later, work is being done to improve signage and sidewalks, and roads have been repaved.

Amazingly, Hunt said, COVID-19 did not slow down the momentum.

“Seeing other businesses succeed has influenced people, and the revitalization has snowballed,” Hunt said. “All it takes is a just a few successful businesses.”

In addition, Uptown Eden and area merchants have begun offering special events, like the popular Sip ‘n Shop, bands, food and special promotions from businesses.

“The charm of Uptown Eden is that the merchants make you feel so welcome,” Hunt said. “Everyone is so friendly and happy to see you.”

Hunt believes the addition of a casino in Danville and the Southern Virginia Mega Site also will positively impact Eden and the county.

“Eden is a great place to locate if you are a large power or water user, as we have the Duke Energy power plant here,” he said.

He believes Eden’s location on the Smith and Dan rivers will draw people from the casino to Eden for day trips to enjoy canoeing and other outdoor activities.

“It’s almost electric how it feels in Eden right now,” Hunt said. “There’s a spark in the air about how things are taking off.”

Nestle Purina

One of the biggest boons to Eden’s economy is Nestle Purina’s decision to open a facility in the former MillerCoors plant.

Since the announcement in late September of 2020 about the company’s $450 million investment in the project, excitement has built as restoration of the old plant continues.

The Eden factory will produce for dry dog and cat food brands that include Purina Pro Plan, Purina ONE and Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets. The company will hire more than 350 new team members by mid-2023. It has about 40 associates at the facility and is actively hiring for another 45 positions.

Will Steiner, the Eden factory manager, said the facility should be fully operational by spring of 2023.

“We have the unique and exciting opportunity to revitalize a highly functional former brewery with which we could become operational and meet increased consumer demands and efficiently as possible,” Steiner said.

“The unique opportunity to repurpose a lot of building infrastructure and the location of the factory were crucial elements in selecting Rockingham County as our next factory site,” Steiner said.

With sustainability in mind, the company plans to repurpose about 80 percent of the former facility as the transformation takes place.

As construction at the facility has continued, Hunt said, the project has brought in close to 150 vendors, and he expects other businesses to move into the area to support Nestle Purina, thus further adding to the positive economic impact.

“Construction of the facility is adding an estimated $170 million in added value to Rockingham County over the next three years and adding about 1,000 jobs each year of construction,” Steiner said. “Once operational, the new factory will support an anticipated 747 annualized jobs in Rockingham County from direct, indirect and induced efforts, while also generating $37 million of labor income for the county.”

The project is expected to contribute $512 million in total economic output, statewide, per year.

Steiner said he and his team have received an extremely warm welcome from the community, and they are looking forward to giving back.

“At Purina, we’re really passionate about the communities where we operate, and we are excited to deepen our relationships in Eden and Rockingham County,” he said. “We’ll continue adding new team members and sharing more about our company culture, hopefully encouraging more people to pursue a career in manufacturing and join our local team and passionate network of 9,000 U.S. associates.”

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