The Shenandoah Valley is home to four of the top five agriculture counties in Virginia producing more than $1.3 billion annually in commodities sold. According to the 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture Census, Rockingham, Augusta, Page and Shenandoah Counties are ranked number 1, 2, 4 and 5 respectively as the largest agriculture localities in Virginia. Rockingham County is the state’s powerhouse for agribusiness, impacting over 13,000 jobs in the area relating to the agriculture industry. In addition, the Shenandoah Valley’s employment in agriculture and forestry is 82% above the national average, increasing by 28% since 2010.
Agriculture and agribusiness represent a broad range of companies including forestry operations and farm-dependent operations. Overall, this sector contributed nearly $388 million to the Shenandoah Valley’s GRP in 2021.
Due to its breadth and incorporation of non-traded sectors, agribusinesses have separated and made themselves stand apart from the food and beverage manufacturing sector.
Expansion Made Naturally
In 2016, Bath County was chosen as the location for Speyside Bourbon Cooperage’s first U.S. stave mill manufacturing location. In 2019, within the first year of operation, the Stave Mill announced an expansion thanks to the Shenandoah Valley’s strong manufacturing base and plentiful natural resources.
Analogous to the IT sector is the professional business service sector. With a myriad of programs to choose from, and utilizing many of the same skill sets as computer science, this sector also seeks broader certifications and degrees.
The Shenandoah Valley is one of three targeted locations in Virginia that is part of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s Rural and Small Metro Tech Centers Initiative. Thanks to our region’s access to a highly educated workforce, low cost of doing business, and phenomenal quality of life, we’re working with our state partners to encourage companies to find their tech talent in the Shenandoah Valley.
Cybersecurity Workforce Development Project
A GO Virginia state grant allowed the cities of Harrisonburg and Waynesboro to partner with Blue Ridge Community College to develop a cybersecurity training program which trained dozens of analysts and recruited Tiber Creek Consulting to establish an office in Waynesboro.
Driving technology, productivity and innovation, the Shenandoah Valley is home to a host of different manufacturing companies across multiple industries including: food and beverage, plastics, metal and automotive, HVAC and life sciences. Manufacturing has a heavier concentration in the Shenandoah Valley than in most regions of Virginia and, according to the Virginia Employment Commission’s demographic profile, manufacturing constitutes the largest private-sector employment. According to a December 2020 SmartAsset report, the Staunton-Waynesboro Metro Area ranked #10 and the Harrisonburg Metro Area ranked #21 for the best places to work in manufacturing.
The Shenandoah Valley is also invested in the life sciences. In 2006, SRI International established the Center for Advance Drug Research where they focus on health and biomedical research and drug discovery and development with the ultimate goal of bringing new therapies and diagnostics to market. In 2019, Merck announced an investment of up to $1 billion to expand their Rockingham County facility to increase production of its Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines.
Many of the Shenandoah Valley’s best kept secrets are name brands being produced in state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities throughout our region.
Of the top 100 food and beverage companies in the United States and Canada generated by Food Processing Media Group, the Shenandoah Valley is home to 11 including: Anheuser Busch InBev, Cargill, Coca-Cola Bottling Co., DanoneWave, Dr. Pepper, The Hershey Company, McKee Foods Corporation, Molson Coors Beverage Company, PepsiCo Inc., Perdue Farms and Pilgrims Pride.
The Shenandoah Valley has its own local champions in this sector. Route 11 Potato Chips started production in the Shenandoah Valley in 1992. At the time, Route 11 Chips were only available at local restaurants or for purchase directly from the factory. After a number of expansions, Route 11 is now a local success story and a contender in international markets. Click here to download an infographic highlighting the region’s food and beverage manufacturing assets.
Route 11 Potato Chips Proudly Calls the Shenandoah Valley Home
Sourcing at least 40% of its potatoes from Virginia farmers, Route 11 helped spark the creation of Virginia’s Governor’s Agriculture & Forestry Industries Development Fund, becoming a model for companies to source raw product from Virginia’s vast agricultural portfolio.
The Shenandoah Valley’s strategic location and access to markets is key. As John Lesinksi describes in Colliers International10 Emerging U.S. Industrial Markets to Watch in 2019, “The Shenandoah Valley region offers a plethora of advantages including land available for development and proximity to the metro Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Ohio Valley population bases. The market can reach one of the largest population concentrations in the country, as nearly 40 million people live within 250 miles of the market’s core.” The 137 miles of interstate, via I-81 & I-64, offer 1-day trucking access to major markets including Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Atlanta, Nashville, and Indianapolis. Shenandoah Valley rail connections also provide transport to additional major markets through CSX and Norfolk Southern, and strong short-line railroads, Shenandoah Valley Railroad and Buckingham Branch Railroad.
“Being strategically placed here in the Shenandoah Valley allows us access to all major interstates. We can be right on Interstate 81 in just a few minutes from all three of our facilities that we ship from which allows us to have direct access to our customers and minimize our shipping time,” says Tara Rutherford, Logistics Manager, Mercury Paper Inc. Watch this discussion to hear more from Mercury Paper, The Port of Virginia, Shenandoah Valley Airport, and InterChange Group, Inc. who experience daily how this network fully supports businesses in the Shenandoah Valley. (51:36 min. watch)
Market access and a growing need for additional cold storage across the region inspired InterChange Group, Inc., a regional Third Party Logistics (3PL) provider and developer, to begin their newest project. InterChange Cold Storage is the first of its kind in the Shenandoah Valley in over 20 years. Continuously adapting to market needs, InterChange has established their role as a vital leader in the growing supply chain centered within the region’s thriving food and beverage industry. (1:37 min. watch)