Armstrong to Expand
Announcement part of federal economic grants
BEVERLY — An expansion project to create a distribution center at Armstrong Flooring’s manufacturing plant in Beverly could bring up to 50 new jobs, officials announced Wednesday.
The expansion will add 85,000 square feet to the local facility, which is the largest pre-finished hardwood flooring plant in the country. Made possible by a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the project was announced by U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., along with federal, state and local officials, the Randolph County Development Authority and Armstrong leaders.
The distribution center project also is expected to help retain 60 existing jobs and generate approximately $16.2 million in private investment, officials said.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Capito said, noting how the project is a result of a great deal of collaboration and hard work between a variety of government agencies and private investment. “It’s just an amazing thing to see, from start to finish.”
She added the manufacturing industry has changed in recent years, as companies use new technologies to become more efficient and environmentally friendly, but manufacturing is continuing to grow in West Virginia.
Opened in 1989 along Route 250 south of Beverly, the Armstrong facility produces flooring from oak, hickory and maple and currently employs more than 600 people. Plans call for the new construction to begin in the summer of 2018 and be completed in the summer of 2019.
The project will enable Armstrong to consolidate storage of its finished flooring products at the plant, instead of shipping product to off-site distribution centers. Additional space also will be available for potential future expansion of manufacturing capacity, officials said.
Dominic Rice, senior vice president of global operations and manufacturing for Armstrong Flooring, said the company continuously works on ways to enhance and streamline its operations, and this expansion will be a great step forward.
“A big part of our work is done right here in West Virginia,” Rice said, adding he appreciates all the work of everyone involved, as well as the opportunities available at the Beverly location.
“The Appalachian forests have an ample supply of timber,” he said. “In addition, we’re fortunate to have an experienced team of employees who turn that lumber into beautiful flooring used in homes and businesses nationwide.”
Robbie Morris, executive director of the RCDA, said the expansion will be owned by the RCDA and leased to Armstrong as part of a long-term partnership. He added that between grants, loans and private investment, the RCDA has put together more than $9 million to secure the project.
“The hardwood industry has been an important part of Randolph County and the entire state of West Virginia for generations,” Morris said. “When this plant opened in 1989, it forever changed the landscape of the Randolph County economy. … Throughout the years, Armstrong has been a great corporate citizen for Randolph County, donating thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours of volunteer work and the overall comfort in knowing that good-paying, highly skilled manufacturing jobs are located right here in our own back yard.”
The Armstrong announcement was followed by a trip to the Wood Technology Center in Elkins, where Capito joined EDA officials and local leaders to announce an additional $8.235 million in funding from the EDA.
“For several years, I have urged EDA to renew its focus and invest in West Virginia,” Capito said, noting the EDA has since hired a state representative who has been able to dramatically increase the number of successful grant awards for West Virginian projects.
From 2015 to the present, the EDA has invested more than $21 million in West Virginia. These investments are expected to create 1,429 jobs and retain 1,147 jobs, impacting nearly every county in the state through manufacturing, entrepreneurship, infrastructure and planning projects.
“These grant awards represent our ongoing work to ramp up our efforts and make sure we get our fair share for West Virginia,” Capito said. “Whether it’s manufacturing, entrepreneurship or tourism, vibrant local communities are vital to the strength of our state’s economy. These public-private partnerships will fuel growth, and make West Virginia the best place to live and work.”
Capito was joined by Dennis Alvord, acting head of the EDA, at the Armstrong plant and the Wood Technology Center.
Alvord said the grant announcements were part of the 2017 Assistance to Coal Communities initiative, which will assist regions severely impacted by the declining use of coal through activities and programs that support economic diversification, job creation, capital investment, workforce development and re-employment opportunities.
He said the grants they celebrated Wednesday are part of a $30 million investment to support 35 projects in 15 states.
“Eight of those projects will be right here in West Virginia,” Alvord said. “This is a great new program for EDA. It’s specifically targeted to job creation and workforce development.”
In addition to the $2.5 million grant for the Armstrong/RCDA project, other grants for West Virginia announced Wednesday included the following:
• $1.478 million to the Flatwoods Canoe Run Public Service District, in Sutton, to make water infrastructure improvements to serve the Weyerhaeuser manufacturing facility and other business needs. According to grantee estimates, the project will help to retain 164 jobs.
• $1.392 million to the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, in Williamson, to provide water service to the new Twisted Gun Gap development and the Hatfield-McCoy trail system. According to grantee estimates, the project will help create 55 new jobs and generate $7.5 in private investment.
• $767,442 to Pierpont Community and Technical College, in Fairmont, to purchase training equipment and hire additional staff to double the current enrollment, graduation, and placement program of the Robert C. Byrd National Aerospace Education Center. The project will directly support the Bombardier expansion project to create up to an additional 150 jobs in the next three years.
• $750,000 to the Center for Applied Research and Technology, in Bluefield, to foster new businesses, diversify production lines of existing business, create and retain jobs by providing high-tech industrial technical assistance to the new Bluefield Commercialization Station, an industrial incubator.
• $747,123 to West Virginia University, in Morgantown, to provide staffing and equipment over a three-year period that will enable the LaunchLab services to be offered in both the north central and southern West Virginia. LaunchLab is WVU’s startup resource center that uses applied innovation creating new prototypes and products.
• $400,000 to the West Virginia Coalition for Technology Based Economic Development (TechConnectWV), in South Charleston, to support the continued development of high-tech positions and companies, the development of a coordinated approach of services by the existing incubator/accelerator system, and the development of a larger regional private investment consortium.
• $300,000 to the Business Development Council of the Northern Panhandle, in Weirton, to develop a Weirton Area Reuse Plan for redeveloping infrastructure and attracting new investment to 1,300 acres of former steel facilities and underutilized industrial land.