Hitachi Energy is planning a $37 million expansion of its Halifax County operation, a move expected to create 165 new jobs.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced the investment via news release Wednesday morning.
Hitachi Energy — formerly known as ABB — will add 26,000 square feet to its facility on U.S. 58 for a new production line to manufacture larger transformers specifically to support the utility and renewable energy markets, the governor’s release reported.
The expansion project is expected to be completed in 2024, Kurt Steinert, external communications manager for Hitachi Energy, North America, shared with The Gazette on Wednesday. The project will be completed in phases.
“Hitachi Energy’s ambitious expansion in Halifax County represents a strong commitment and tremendous vote of confidence in the Commonwealth of Virginia as a great place to do business,” Youngkin wrote in a statement. “Hitachi Energy has been an important, long-standing employer in Southern Virginia for nearly 50 years, and we are thrilled the company will create additional good-paying jobs in the community.”
According to Hitachi Energy, the starting salary for assembly positions is $18 an hour, adjusted for prior experience with a shift premium for second and third shift positions. The company also offers a competitive benefits package starting on the first day of employment.
The South Boston manufacturing facility has been in operation since 1968. The company serves customers in the utility, industry and infrastructure sectors.
“Hitachi Energy welcomes the support of the commonwealth of Virginia and Halifax County for the expansion of our facility in South Boston,” said Steve McKinney, senior vice president and head of Hitachi Energy’s transformer business in North America.” This expansion will help us address the growing demand for transformers from customers including utilities, renewable energy developers, and more. Southern Virginia has been and continues to be a great place for us to do business.”
Steinert elaborated that one of the drivers for the increasing demand for larger power transformers from customers is renewable energy development projects, such as “onshore and offshore wind, and large-scale solar.”
Rick Short, chairman of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, called Hitachi an “excellent corporate citizen” and said the expansion comes with complete support of Halifax County.
“Hitachi Energy’s decision to reinvest in its Halifax County facility is a testament to Southern Virginia’s skilled manufacturing workforce and integrated transportation network that allows the company to extend its market reach,” said Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick.
“Existing business and industry is the number one priority of the IDA,” Rick Harrell, chair of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority, said. “We are proud to be able to support Hitachi Energy’s continued growth in Halifax County.”
The company’s North American headquarters is located in Raleigh, North Carolina, and has more than 4,600 employees in both manufacturing and office locations throughout the region, the state reported. According to the governor’s release, about 370 work at the South Boston facility in Halifax County. However, a statement from Hitachi put the local figure at about 450 employees.
The South Boston factory currently covers an area of approximately 607,000 square feet.
“We are pleased to see global manufacturers like Hitachi Energy expanding their footprint in Southern Virginia,” said Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “As The Port of Virginia moves forward on its goal of becoming carbon-neutral [by 2040], we look forward to providing a supply chain solution for a company that will deliver a sustainable energy future for all. When we work with like-minded businesses, like Hitachi, we see opportunities to grow and learn.”
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Halifax County and the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority to secure the project for Virginia.
“I believe that Virginia is the best state in which to do business, and when a global company like Hitachi Energy announces a major expansion, like this one in Halifax, it underscores that point,” state Sen. Frank Ruff, also the chairman of the Virginia Tobacco Commission, said. “I am proud that the tobacco commission was able to play a role in bringing the 165 jobs this expansion will create to Southside Virginia, and I thank Hitachi Energy for strengthening their commitment to our region.”
The project also includes investments in automated equipment and changes in factory processes to reduce factory cycle times and improve operational performance, Hitachi said. Officials said that’s particularly critical in the face of current supply chain challenges brought on by the pandemic and other factors.
“The decision Hitachi Energy has made to expand yet again in Halifax County is, I believe, a testament to their commitment to the citizens of Halifax County that they are here to stay,” said Delegate James E. Edmunds. “I commend the Halifax County IDA for recognizing that not all new jobs come from new industry, and I hope all of the businesses of Halifax County, large and small, know that they will be appreciated not only when they move here but also the whole time they operate here!”
Youngkin approved a $511,500 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist Halifax County with the project. The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission also approved a grant for $220,000 from the Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund for the project.
The company is eligible to receive benefits from the Port of Virginia Economic and Infrastructure Development Zone Grant Program, as well as state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.
Funding and services to support Hitachi Energy’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.
Hitachi Energy also has developed partnerships with the following local schools to give prospective job applicants the opportunity to gain skills required for jobs at the South Boston facility: Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, Danville Community College and Southside Virginia Community College.
According to Hitachi Energy, the company is an industrial manufacturer of electrical transformers, and qualifications for job applicants are:
• The ability to understand documentation to perform mechanical/electrical assembly and wiring.
• The ability to operate industrial equipment including cranes and forklifts.
• Basic computer skills and understanding of lean manufacturing tools.
In addition to assembly positions, Hitachi Energy also has positions for test technicians which require an associate’s degree in an electrical program.
This marks the second major economic development announcement recently for Halifax County. Late last month, Youngkin announced that IperionX plans to establish Virginia’s first titanium demonstration facility at the 50,000-square-foot “shell building” in Halifax County’s Southern Virginia Technology Park.
That project, an $82 million investment, is expected to bring 108 new jobs.