Kilgour Industries Ltd. expects to break ground on its new site at the Patriot Centre at Beaver Creek industrial park this year and begin hiring in the fall, according to CEO Ray Kilgour.
The U.K.-based aerospace firm will hire 155 people over three years to work at the new facility, which will be the company’s first in the United States, it announced Friday to an audience of local, state and company officials. It expects to start production in 2015.
Kilgour specializes in machining and treating aerospace components, Ray Kilgour said.
The county was connected to Kilgour, County Administrator Tim Hall said, through Joe Anwyl with the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) in Disputanta, near Petersburg.
“My role is to locate European advanced manufacturing companies who are looking to expand and are looking for a location in North America,” said Anwyl, who is based at the advanced manufacturing park in Sheffield, England, “and to make sure that location is the tobacco region of Virginia. It just so happens that the first place we managed to get a company to is Martinsville and Henry County.”
Gov. Terry McAuliffe came to Henry County to announce Kilgour's decision to locate here. (See related story.)
According to Hall and other officials, the county contributed the roughly 17-acre tract at Patriot Centre where the 59,000-square-foot facility will be constructed.
Also, he said, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) contributed $250,000 to the project through the Governor’s Opportunity Fund (GOF), and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission contributed $1,155,000 to the project in the form of a Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund (TROF) grant.
Several factors made the area appealing for Kilgour, Anwyl said, including the geographic proximity to the burgeoning aerospace firms in North and South Carolina, proximity to Washington and much of the East Coast, hardworking employees and a low cost of living.
Ray Kilgour and his colleagues first arrived to inspect the area in June, Anwyl said. It was the last of about eight sites they visited in Virginia.
“We put in a really strong case to Ray and Ray’s colleagues,” Anwyl said, “and ultimately, after looking at a number of other states (including Florida, Michigan, North Carolina and South Carolina), Ray decided that ... Martinsville/Henry County was the right place for him.”
Additionally, Kilgour officials’ interest in the area was piqued when Leanna Blevins, associate director/chief academic officer of the New College Institute, was describing advanced manufacturing equipment that will be in the new NCI building in Martinsville, according to Sen. William Wampler, executive director of NCI.
That equipment includes a Mazak machine that is valued between $500,000 and $700,000, Wampler said. A piece of titanium is placed inside and can be cut on five axes to the micron level, he said, explaining that a micron is as thin as a strand of hair.
The Martinsville Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) played a major role in the company’s location decision as well, Anwyl said.
“There are many people to thank for this long journey,” he said, “not least (the EDC) who, for the record, are possibly the best I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with organizations from all over the world. They’re doing a sterling job for you, and you should be very proud of them and congratulate them whenever you get the chance.”
According to Ray Kilgour, although they both are in the aerospace business, Kilgour Industries does not compete with Patriot Centre neighbor RTI International Metals.
“It’s completely different,” Kilgour said. “They produce material, and we machine material.”
Kilgour Industries, he said, machines, treats and tests aerospace components.
“Aerospace is a pretty large industry, and it’s growing all the time,” Kilgour said. “There’s no way the supply chain can keep up with current demands.”
Most aerospace firms specialize in either soft metals, such as aluminum, or hard metals, such as titanium, Kilgour said. His company, however, machines both soft and hard metals. Also, he said, while most companies either machine or do surface treatments, Kilgour does both.
“This makes you very desirable towards customers,” Kilgour said, “which is why during the recession, we have actually doubled in size as most people either stayed the same or dropped by 30 percent. We just keep on increasing.”
Much of the credit for Kilgour’s move to Virginia, Anwyl said, can be traced to aerospace engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce’s decision to build in Prince George County.
“Without the tobacco commission and VEDP bringing Rolls-Royce and CCAM, we wouldn’t be here today with Kilgour,” Anwyl said.
“As great as Virginia is, most European business people have no idea where Virginia is. The fact that Rolls-Royce had the confidence to build a facility 300 miles away gives other businesses like Kilgour, who supply them, the confidence that they can come here and they can locate in a community like Martinsville. It’s the right place for them,” he added.
Anwyl said there’s reason to believe other European businesses may follow the lead of Rolls-Royce and, now, Kilgour.
“Virginia has not necessarily had its fair share of investments in the past,” he said. “But I think VEDP are working exceptionally well. Now with the tobacco region providing funding to help me work with them, there’s every reason we can bring a large number of other companies to the tobacco region, and more companies, perhaps, to Martinsville and Henry County.”