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Elite Workforce, Strategic Investments Help Virginia Score Major Wins

From data centers to vertical farming to banking, a cross-section of industry is continuing to choose to locate and expand in Virginia, a state that provides them with a top-notch workforce.

Q4 2023
Perrone Robotics, Albemarle County
Perrone Robotics, Albemarle County
Editor's Note: This article was paid for and written by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and approved by Area Development.

The last year saw Virginia land the largest capital investment project in the Commonwealth’s history, with project wins continuing from there. Virginia’s success in 2023 is a direct testament to the quality and continued development of one of the top workforces in the United States.

The historic project announcement kicked off January, when Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced plans to invest $35 billion by 2040 to establish multiple data centers across Virginia. AWS’s investment strengthens an already strong sector in Virginia — the Commonwealth is home to an estimated 35% of all known hyperscale data centers worldwide, with a particularly dense cluster in “Data Center Alley” in Loudoun County outside Washington, D.C. With the third-largest tech industry workforce in the U.S., Virginia’s $2 billion Tech Talent Investment Program, aimed at doubling the number of graduates each year in computer science and closely related fields, will ensure the sector remains robust and provide a pipeline for the future.

AWS is just one example of companies finding a top-notch workforce in Virginia’s diverse regions across multiple industries. The agriculture sector has seen extensive innovation in recent years owing to the development of controlled environment agriculture (CEA) techniques, with smaller physical footprints allowing for facilities in or near major cities and foodways.

The most recent CEA win came when vertical farming giant Plenty Unlimited Inc. announced plans to build the world’s largest indoor farming campus (currently under construction) in Chesterfield County, just outside Richmond, representing a $300 million investment and 300 new jobs.

Virginia has some excellent infrastructure and a very business-friendly government. Capital goes where it’s needed, but it stays and grows where it’s appreciated. We’ve seen a high degree of appreciation for what we’re trying to do, not just commercially, but as an innovation sector. The support infrastructure is there, the educational institutions are there, the policy environment is there. Arama Kukutai, CEO, Plenty Unlimited Inc. While CEA is a tech-intensive industry in its own right, other more traditional tech companies continue to find success in Virginia, with particular pockets of innovation springing up around the Commonwealth’s universities. Self-driving vehicle innovator Torc Robotics cited the region’s talented workforce as a decision factor in its 2020 expansion in Blacksburg, near Virginia Tech, while industry competitor Perrone Robotics continues to expand its location in Albemarle County, near the University of Virginia. Those companies also capitalized on two of Virginia’s popular workforce programs, choosing between the Virginia Jobs Investment Program — which provides funding and consultative services for recruitment and training activities — or the top-ranked Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, which provides fully customized recruitment and training services at no cost.

Outside the traditional tech realm, banking giant Wells Fargo announced an expansion of its Roanoke County customer support center in September, investing $87 million and creating more than 1,100 new corporate services jobs.

The Virginia workforce, bolstered by innovative, forward-thinking programs and investments, continues to attract major companies to do business and expand in the Commonwealth. As AWS Director of Economic Development Roger Wehner said, “Virginia is a world leader in innovation and cloud computing, thanks to its investment in a robust, highly skilled workforce and emphasis on long-term public and private partnerships.” As AWS continues to roll out its data center investments across Virginia, the company — and other corporate partners across a broad cross-section of industries — can rest assured that the Commonwealth will consistently deliver a top-notch workforce.

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