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Governor Bob McDonnell today announced that Dan River Plants, LLC (DRP), which uses tissue culture technology to replicate high-value horticulture and grass plants for conversion into bio-energy, will become the first official commercial venture by the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR).
DRP will invest more than $1.3 million and create at least 27 new jobs in Pittsylvania County’s Ringgold East Industrial Park, as part of its move and expansion from the Charles Hawkins Research Center at the IALR.
Speaking about today’s announcement, Governor McDonnell said, “Dan River Plants’ project highlights the high-level of cooperation in the Commonwealth between our research universities, the private sector, and our local and regional economic development allies. It also underscores the economic transformation taking place in Southern Virginia as the region leverages its agricultural and manufacturing heritage to create employment opportunities using modern technology. This administration has focused on fostering economic opportunities in every corner of the Commonwealth, particularly in our rural regions. Fully incorporating agriculture and forestry into our overall economic development and jobs creation agenda, appointing the first-ever Deputy Secretary for Rural Economic Development, and creating and funding the first of its kind Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund (AFID) are key components in our efforts to partner with the private sector to create more jobs and opportunities for our citizens.”
The micropropagation technology employed by DRP stems from the collaboration between the Institute for Sustainable and Renewable Resources at IALR and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech. The technology allows for the production of a large number of identical plants from a single plant, by removing small portions of the plant material and using special growing media and techniques to grow each portion into an identical plant. This technology is very useful for the mass production of high-value, specialized plant varieties that do not reproduce identically or quickly under other production systems.
“While I am thrilled about the new jobs and investment this project brings to the region, as well as the important milestone IALR has reached, I am especially pleased to see the deployment of an important new asset for Virginia’s horticulture and nursery industry, the fifth largest agricultural sector in the Commonwealth,” said Todd Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. “I applaud the entrepreneurial spirit of Dan River Plants’ leadership and the important work they’ve done with IALR and Virginia Tech to further boost Virginia’s diverse agricultural economy.”
Operations at Dan River Plant Propagation Center, now DRP (www.danriverplants.com), have been underway at IALR for over two years, thanks in part to start-up support provided by the Danville Regional Foundation. With current expansion plans in place, the project is expected to move quickly, with a ground breaking ceremony planned for August and hiring to begin by spring 2014.
“The expansion of Dan River Plants proves that the technology developed at the Institute translates into economic impact for Southern Virginia. Danville will be recognized as a leader in modern, innovative ag-based business,” said Jerry Gwaltney, IALR’s Acting Executive Director.
“We are pleased that a site in Ringgold East Industrial Park, developed with assistance from the Tobacco Commission, could be part of the incentive package that helped make this project a reality. We welcome the new jobs and investment in our community and look forward to their long term success.” said Marshall Ecker, Chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. “This project shows how well the County and its partners can work together to further the interests of the region.”
“It’s great that the Institute has spun off DRP, just as they had envisioned. I wish them lots of success. This is good for the region,” said Jeremy Stratton, Director of Economic Development for the City of Danville.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked with Pittsylvania County and IALR to help make the project a reality. Governor McDonnell approved a $150,000 matching grant from the Governor's AFID Fund to assist Pittsylvania with the project. The project is receiving additional assistance through the State's Enterprise Zone Program and through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program; the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funding and services to support the company's recruitment, training and retraining activities.
According to a 2013 economic impact study, agriculture and forestry are two of Virginia's largest industries, with a combined economic impact of $70 billion annually. Agriculture generates more than $52 billion per annum, while forestry induces over $17 billion. The industries also provide more than 400,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.