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Kaine hails success of Monogram Snacks
While stumping at local plant
U.S. Senate candidate and former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (right) talks with Monogram Snacks Plant Manager Greg Staley during a tour of the plant Wednesday in the Patriot Centre industrial park in Henry County. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Monogram Snacks in Martinsville is a success story, according to U.S. Senate candidate and former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who was in Martinsville-Henry County on Wednesday seeking support, answering questions and touring the company whose predecessor he helped recruit here.
Monogram has a total of 1,200 employees at its four facilities, said Donna Martin, human resources and safety manager at the meat-processing company in the Patriot Centre industrial park in Henry County.
The number of local employees has increased from 135 in 2009 — when Monogram took over the facility that formerly housed Knauss Snack Foods — to 410 workers now, Martin said.
“In this economy, that you all have added jobs” is remarkable, Kaine said, before touring various parts of the production operations.
Kaine, a Democrat and previous Richmond mayor, said he helped put together the deal to recruit Knauss while he was governor, and is amazed at the progress and growth there since then.
Employees in Martinsville work two shifts, with sanitation employees working a third, to produce about 500,000 pounds of wet jerky each week, Martin said.
Touring the facility, Kaine noted he grew up in a manufacturing family. His father was an iron worker, and Kaine, his mother and remaining siblings worked in the family’s welding shop. There were “five employees in a bad year, and seven employees in a good year,” he said.
It was different than the advanced food processing facility in Martinsville, where “the speed and complexity” of production is impressive, Kaine said.
“The growth in this company has just been magnificent,” he told a group of employees.
Kaine said elected officials in Washington must put partisanship aside and work together to help the economy grow faster.
He cited his accomplishments while governor, including Forbes naming Virginia as the best state for business four years in a row, and Virginia labeled the “best managed state, best state for business and best state to raise a child” by other publications.
He noted that those accomplishments occurred with him, a Democratic governor, working with Republican majorities in the House of Delegates and state Senate.
“The key to making it happen is working together,” Kaine said.
He added that he is running on his record of working across the aisle to get things accomplished.
“I also am a big believer in economic development and investing in infrastructure,” such as roads and bridges, he said. “I want to make sure that we protect the commitment we’ve made to Medicare and Social Security,” and he said he is convinced that education “is the key to success.”
Monogram employee Thelma Wright asked Kaine about the future of Henry County and Martinsville as it relates to jobs.
Kaine said that although many industries (furniture, textile and others) moved offshore, some manufacturing operations are moving back to the U.S., and he anticipates areas such as this will do well as that “reshoring” continues.
On the prospect of uranium mining in Pittsylvania County, Kaine said he believes the state ban should be lifted only if a study that is underway shows it can be done without hurting the environment.
“My attitude has been a little bit skeptical, unless it can be mined in such a way that it will not hurt” the water supply, he said in response to another employee’s question.
When asked about the local education system, Kaine cited improvements that occurred at Martinsville High School during his tenure as governor, including a spike in the number of students taking advanced placement classes.
Patrick Henry Community College also is a needed part of the equation, Kaine said, and noted Tuesday’s announcement that the Harvest Foundation will contribute up to $8 million toward an educational facility for the New College Institute (NCI).
“My hope is” that NCI “eventually will turn into a stand-alone university in Martinsville,” Kaine said. “It can happen.”
Kaine is running against Republican George Allen, also a former governor, in the Nov. 6 election. They are seeking the seat held by U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat who is not running for re-election.