About $46 million in investment and 160 new jobs are coming to Airside Industrial Park in Danville.
Litehouse, Inc., a Sandpoint, Idaho-based company, said it will bring its first East Coast production facility to the industrial park off U.S. 58 that already has Nestle USA.
The company, which operates manufacturing facilities in Idaho, Michigan and Utah, produces and markets refrigerated salad dressings, cheeses, dips, sauces, apple cider and freeze-dried herbs under the Litehouse label. The products are sold through supermarkets, including stores in Danville, warehouse clubs in the U.S. and Canada.
“This is the their [first] manufacturing/food processing plant on the East Coast, which I think speaks volumes to the fact that Danville was able to compete for that,” said Danville Economic Development Director Telly Tucker.
The company will invest the $46 million to buy Sky Valley Foods, located at 145 Cane Creek Blvd. in the industrial park. Sky Valley has produced natural and organic sauces and salad dressings at the facility for nearly five years.
The state-run Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the city of Danville to secure the project. Gov. Ralph Northam approved a $600,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to help the city with the project.
Also, the Virginia Tobacco Commission has approved a $340,000 grant and a $220,000 loan for the project.
“Litehouse’s decision to take root in the City of Danville and establish its first East Coast production facility is another great example of how Southern Virginia’s industry-responsive training programs and highly skilled workforce create an ideal environment for manufacturers to thrive,” Northam said in a prepared statement Thursday.
The investment is expected to bring an additional 160 jobs over the next five years. The jobs will include entry-level positions and management-level roles requiring previous operational and technical experience.
Litehouse spokesman Chris Blanford, when asked by email why they picked Danville, pointed to the city’s location, investment in strong infrastructure and utilities to support the company’s growth, and the area’s highly trained and skilled workforce.
“Danville is strategically located in a part of the country that will allow us to continue offering best-in-class customer service [to] our customers on the East Coast,” Blanford said via email Thursday.
Litehouse is an employee-owned company that allows its workers to have stock ownership in the company.
“The better the company does, the more your stock goes up,” Tucker added.
He would not say whether city officials approached the company first or vice versa. Doing so would reveal recruitment secrets to other localities, Tucker said.
Sky Valley Foods currently has about 50 employees, Blanford wrote, adding that he could not confirm how many total jobs the facility will have when the 160 are hired. Blanford did not respond to a question asking whether any Sky Valley jobs would be eliminated. A news release from the city, however, stated that Litehouse will retain Sky Valley Foods’ employees.
“As the jobs will be added over a five-year period and there are a number of market conditions that could change [and potentially increase] our hiring needs, we are unable to confirm the final number of jobs at this time,” he said.
A Sky Valley representative told the Register & Bee at the facility Thursday that employees were being notified of the purchase, but she would not provide any other details.
Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones said the timing of the announcement was perfect — just before summer—following the 500 jobs the PRA Group announced for the former Telvista building at the same industrial park just before Christmas last year.
“Other companies are seeing what we are doing in Southside and want to be a part of the growth in Danville,” Jones said.
The announcement also is a good opportunity for graduating college students figuring out their career goals.
Available positions will be posted at Litehouse’s website at www.litehousefoods.com and through the Virginia Employment Commission.