The Automotive Industry in Virginia

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Automotive Industry

Liebherr USA, Newport News Goodyear, Danville Volvo Trucks North America, Pulaski County Mack Trucks, Roanoke County Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

Top automotive companies choose to locate or expand in Virginia for its thriving automotive ecosystem, skilled workforce, innovative culture, outstanding logistical advantages, competitive cost of doing business, and top-ranked business climate. In the past decade, over 80 automotive projects have been announced in Virginia, representing more than 8,000 jobs and $4.5 billion in investment. These companies include truck and van manufacturers Volvo Trucks North America, Mack Trucks, and Morgan Olson; automotive parts manufacturers STS Group and IAC; and a leader in self-driving vehicle systems, Torc Robotics — an industry trailblazer with origins in Virginia.

Why Virginia? 7 Strategic Mid-Atlantic Location 9 World-Class Logistics Infrastructure 11 Robust Portfolio of Project-Ready Sites 13 Attractive, Stable, and Predictable Operating Environment 15 Exceptional Quality of Life 5 America’s Top State for Talent 1 Thriving Automotive Industry Ecosystem 3 Dynamic Center of Automotive Innovation

Thriving Automotive Industry Ecosystem

Illustrative Examples

A diverse, steadily growing ecosystem of automotive manufacturers, innovators, and customers already thrives in Virginia, with ready access to specialized supply chains and a strong manufacturing base. The Commonwealth’s automotive companies span the entire value chain and all major industry sub-sectors, including manufacturers of auto parts and tires, vehicle assembly operations, and suppliers of parts, materials, and subcomponents, among others. Industry leaders in Virginia include Volvo Trucks, Volkswagen, Micron, Eldor Corporation, Perrone Robotics, Tenneco, Mack Trucks, Yokohama, Goodyear, and Toray.

Dynamic Center of Automotive Innovation

Virginia ranks 10th nationwide and third in the Southeast in research spending in areas relevant to automotive manufacturing. In 2021, Virginia’s public universities invested more than $400 million in automotive research. Major automotive research centers include a Federal Highway Administration Highway Research Center; the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Vehicle Research Center; the Racing College of Virginia; and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute — a renowned center for transportation research, analysis, and development. Motorsports is a major contributor to automotive innovation, which has historical and cultural roots in Virginia. VIRginia International Raceway and other facilities throughout the state serve as test sites for the automotive industry.

Torc Robotics, Montgomery County Torc Robotics, a Virginia-based company acquired by Daimler Trucks in 2020, is a leader in self-driving vehicles specializing in commercializing heavy-duty, self-driving vehicle technology.

Virginia has been one of the leaders among all the states across the country when it comes to automated vehicles.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), the second-largest university-level transportation institute in the U.S., is committed to finding solutions to the greatest transportation challenges facing the world. The Institute offers a number of unique infrastructure-related programs helping to define the technological innovations of tomorrow in the transportation industry, including:

■ Virginia Smart Roads is a state-of-the-art, closed test-bed research facility managed by VTTI in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Transportation and is proving ground for new transportation technologies including commercial vehicle logistic technologies. The facility offers 2.5 miles of roads, a reconfigurable urban setting, weather towers to create a variety of conditions, and light towers to replicate most highway lighting conditions.

■ Virginia Automated Corridors allow the testing of any automated vehicle on Virginia roads under the guidance of VTTI.

TOM M c MAHON Former Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Government Relations, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Virginia Smart Roads at VTTI rendering

America’s Top State for Talent

Ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for Education by CNBC, Virginia is home to almost 260,000 workers in the automotive industry and related occupations. Employers can draw from the tens of thousands of skilled workers in transportation equipment manufacturing industries in Virginia, including the East Coast’s largest shipbuilding cluster, and from the thousands of service members exiting the armed services from military installations in Virginia each year. Virginia is home to excellent K-12 schools — No. 1 in the South according to WalletHub — and the No. 2 higher education system in the U.S. according to SmartAsset, ensuring a steady flow of new talent every year.

The Virginia Talent Accelerator Program

— VEDP’s world-class customized talent acquisition and training solution — is available to new and expanding companies to ensure they can quickly attract and onboard high-quality employees. The program is offered at no cost to qualified companies as an incentive for job creation. As an alternative, Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP) grants are available for companies that prefer to manage their own recruitment and training.

I have worked with workforce development programs in four different states throughout the Southeast. The Virginia Talent Accelerator Program has been the most engaged that I have worked with.


Morgan Olson Steps into Southern Virginia

In 2019, Morgan Olson, North America’s leading manufacturer of all-aluminum walk-in step vans, announced the transformation of a 925,000-sq.-ft. former furniture manufacturing plant in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, into a state-of-the-art automotive manufacturing facility, creating 703 new jobs. The plant was operational by June 2020.

Morgan Olson received support from the Commonwealth’s world-class custom workforce

initiative, the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program. The Program’s support ranged from training operators on assembly procedures to creating what is known as Morgan Olson’s Leadership Academy, an immersive program tackling topics such as emotional intelligence, A3 thinking, conflict resolution, and managing across generations. The Virginia Talent Accelerator Program enabled Morgan Olson to hire more than 700 employees in about half the originally planned time.

Morgan Olson, Pittsylvania County

Strategic Mid-Atlantic Location

Virginia’s central location provides important advantages for automotive and related companies, including proximity to major clusters of original equipment manufacturers (OEM) in the Midwest and the Southeast, as well as access to major hubs of economic activity along the Northeast corridor, across the Southeast, and throughout the Midwest. Virginia is also ideally positioned for the export and import of automotive products.

These facilities and work environment give us not only a tremendous competitive edge to create autonomous vehicles and robotics, but also attract high-tech staff who want to be part of the historic gold rush in robotic vehicles while embracing the rich and diverse lifestyle in the heart of Virginia.


Perrone Robotics Powers Innovation in Virginia

Perrone Robotics, Inc. has been refining and manufacturing its autonomous car software at its Albemarle County headquarters and test track since 2003. In addition to its turnkey solutions kits, which allow existing vehicles to be retrofitted as autonomous vehicles, the company provides services ranging from last-mile shuttles to logistics and work site operations.

Since 2003, Virginia has hosted the first FAA-approved drone delivery (Wise County, 2015) and the country’s first commercial drone delivery service (Christiansburg, 2019) and become the first state to allow unmanned personal delivery devices to operate on sidewalks, shared-use paths, and crosswalks. In 2019, during a successful three-month open-road trial in the company’s hometown of Crozet, Perrone’s Autonomous Vehicle, Neighborhood Use, or AVNU, became the first fully autonomous shuttle to operate on public streets in Virginia.

Albemarle County was a natural choice for Perrone’s headquarters and prompted the company to again select Virginia for the $3.8 million expansion of its research and development operation after a national search in 2017. VEDP supported the project’s creation of 127 new jobs through the state-funded Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP), which provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs to support employee recruitment and training activities.

Nearly a century after the unmanned systems industry first took off from a Virginia runway, the Commonwealth is at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies and offers an environment that fosters the growth of innovators like Perrone Robotics.

Perrone Robotics, Albemarle County

World-Class Logistics Infrastructure

In Virginia, a modern and expanding network of roads, railways, ports, and airports allows for efficient operational logistics — domestically and internationally — and a consistent flow of cargo. Virginia’s transportation system is integrated with the Eastern United States’ vast network of highways, interstates, and double-stack freight rail. This transportation system connects several important manufacturing and population centers across the Southeast, Northeast, and the nation’s Heartland with The Port of Virginia’s three deepwater marine terminals in Norfolk Harbor and two inland port locations. The port, through its $1.4 billion Gateway Investment Project, is expanding its assets, capabilities, and reach and creating one of the most advanced ports in the Western Hemisphere.

2 nd densest roadway and railway networks in the Southeast

6 major interstates, including major North-South and East-West trucking routes

3,000 miles of railways (anchored by Class I railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern)

300 k + tons

of air cargo handled annually by Washington Dulles International Airport

28 8 1 3 1 7 3 6 0 5 8 5 8 2 9 3 3 ¡ 2 3 1 9 30 1 25 0 2 1 1 50 1 22 0 22 1 1 5 6 0 7 7 7 5 2 6 8 5 9 5 6 4 7 7 9 5 7 1 7 0 6 8 7 9 6 4 4 0 4 0 4 0 6 6 6 4 8 1 8 1 95 85 95 6 4 2 9 77 77 TENNESSE E KE N TUCK Y OHI O WES T VIRGIN I A NO R TH CAROLI N A M A R Y L AN D DE L A W AR E NEW JERSEY BWI CHO DCA GSO IAD LWB LYH ORF PHF RDU RIC ROA SHD TRI TYS SBY Bristol Charlottesville Nor folk Richmond Roanoke Danville Winchester Kn oxvill e Charles to n Baltimo re G reensbo ro Raleig h Washington, D.C Commercial Airpor t The Por t of Virginia 6 4 Interstate 5 8 U.S. Highway 288 State Route Railroad

One of the Most Advanced Ports in the U.S.

2 auto import yards are often used by automotive carriers at the Newport News Marine Terminal

5 terminals comprise The Port of Virginia and operate on a combined 1,577 acres, including three deepwater terminals

RoRo cargo

Norfolk International Terminals and Newport News Marine Terminal are both deepwater terminals that are uniquely equipped with modern berths to handle roll-on-roll-off (RoRo) cargo

41 minutes

average turn time for motor carriers in 2022, significantly below the industry standard of 60 minutes

$1.4 billion modernization and expansion project on track to create the deepest, widest, and safest commercial shipping channels and harbor on the East Coast

Source: The Port of Virginia

Virginia International Gateway, Portsmouth

Robust Portfolio of Project-Ready Sites

With 300+ fully characterized sites of 25 acres or larger, dozens of certified sites, and a growing inventory of spec buildings and virtual buildings, Virginia is continuously expanding its portfolio of real estate options for the automotive industry. For large OEM projects, Virginia has two business-ready megasites, which are fully zoned and characterized with infrastructure in place or deliverable within 12 months. Companies looking for ready-built options have ample choices among the thousands of existing buildings with space for lease, representing over 20 million square feet of industrial space for lease, including more than 440 industrial buildings with 10,000 or more square feet available. Construction is underway on an additional 14.6 million square feet of industrial space.

40+ sites are certified as project-ready under the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program

12 of Virginia’s certified parks have graded pad sites available for construction

12-18 mos.

for project-ready sites to have utilities on-site and all infrastructure in place

Size and certification status of sites across Virginia

The Southern Virginia Megasite is a large, shovel-ready, publicly owned site in Southern Virginia near Danville. The site offers numerous advantages:

■ 2,500+ acres of developable land (largest contiguous parcel is 2,100 acres)

■ 200-acre graded pad, expandable to 800+ acres

■ Infrastructure for typical large industrial projects deliverable on an aggressive schedule

■ Dual-feed 300 MW electricity work completed Q2 2023

■ Class I rail line on-site (Norfolk Southern) connecting site to The Port of Virginia

■ Planned and fully funded 2-mile industrial connector road, which will connect the site directly to the designated Interstate 785

■ Environmental, cultural, historical, wetlands, geotechnical studies and confirmations in place

■ Capability of fully supporting 100% renewable energy

■ Easy access to skilled, competitively priced labor in Danville-Greensboro areas

■ Strong regional training assets

■ Simple and competitive negotiations of land transactions with property under public ownership

The Mid-Atlantic Advanced Manufacturing Center (MAMaC) is a large, shovel-ready, publicly owned site designed to accommodate heavy industrial users. The site offers numerous advantages:

■ 1,600 publicly controlled acres available for development

■ 400-acre site, expandable to 720 acres

■ Infrastructure for typical large industrial projects deliverable on an aggressive schedule

■ Secured Right of Ways for Electrical and Natural Gas extensions

■ Strategic location along Interstate 95 with interstate visibility and two interchanges

■ Easy access to the adjacent National Gateway rail line, CSX’s primary intermodal train corridor connecting The Port of Virginia and international markets to major markets in the Midwest

■ Easy access to The Port of Virginia by road and rail

■ Capability of fully supporting 100% renewable energy

■ Environmental, cultural, historical, wetlands, and geotechnical studies and confirmations in place

■ Ability to draw competitively priced labor from the Richmond and Hampton Roads regions

■ Simple and competitive negotiations of land transactions with property under public ownership

Southern Virginia Megasite, Pittsylvania County Mid-Atlantic Advanced Manufacturing Center, Greensville County
Torc Robotics, Montgomery County O’Sullivan Films, Inc., Winchester Volkswagen Group of America, Fairfax County

Attractive, Stable, and Predictable Operating Environment

Ranked one of America’s top states for business, Virginia is frequently recognized for its favorable regulatory climate and consistently rated one of the best-run states in the country. Having maintained an AAA bond rating since 1938, longer than any other state, Virginia offers a stable tax environment and competitive wages, construction costs, and industrial lease rates. Virginia also has one of the oldest right-to-work laws and 5th-lowest private-sector unionization rate in the country at 2.4%. In every region, Virginia is at low risk for natural hazards, so automotive industry operations are at low risk for disruption.

Virginia has had a stable 6% corporate income tax rate, one of the lowest in the nation, since 1972.

Sound economic policy and prudent financial management has earned Virginia an AAA credit rating since 1938 — longer than any other state.

Virginia is the northernmost right-to-work state along the I-95 Corridor.

Exceptional Quality of Life

With a competitive cost of living, a mild four-season climate, and a diverse range of natural and cultural attractions, Virginia offers an exceptional quality of life. Vibrant urban centers and picturesque small towns are alive with arts, culture, history, and stunning landscapes. Outdoor enthusiasts are within easy driving distance to the scenic shorelines of Virginia’s beaches and rivers as well as hiking trails and mountain vistas. For these reasons and many others, Forbes ranked Virginia No. 1 in the U.S. for Quality of Life.

Tinker Cliffs, Botetourt County Virginia Creeper Trail, Washington County
The Omni Homestead Resort, Bath County Smith Mountain Lake, Bedford County Old Town Winchester Sandbridge, Virginia Beach
Carpenter Theatre, Richmond

VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) is a multi-purpose road course that offers professional and amateur auto and motorcycle racing, drawing tens of thousands of spectators every year. VIR is a key testing facility for the automotive industry, which makes use of its uphill S-curves and sharp elevation changes.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s team of dedicated and knowledgeable professionals is committed to Virginia’s economic success, and connects industry-leading businesses to the resources they need to make relocations and expansions successful. From site selection, customized research, cost analysis, and coordination with public and private partners, to discretionary incentives and workforce solutions, VEDP’s services are tailored to companies’ unique requirements.

To learn more about VEDP’s expertise and resources, visit

© August 2023

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