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Chesterfield On Point

Posted on: February 3, 2022

State official: Upper Magnolia Green property potentially 'transformative'

Jason El Koubi


Jason El KoubiJason El Koubi, interim president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership

How attractive is Chesterfield’s Upper Magnolia Green West property to advanced manufacturers? Even in a “raw” state – forested, with no utility infrastructure or prepared pad sites for buildings – it was one of the final five locations Intel considered for its new semiconductor fabrication facility.

The company recently announced the selection of a site in New Albany, Ohio, on the outskirts of Columbus, where it will construct the $20 billion computer chip plant and create about 3,500 high-tech, high-paying jobs.

It’s an all-too-familiar story for Virginia. Since 2016, it has lost out on more than 47,000 direct jobs and $115 billion in capital investment, as well as an estimated $300 million in annual state tax revenue, mainly due to the lack of large, project-ready industrial sites.

Seeking to address the deficiency, state leaders have endorsed a more aggressive approach to pursuing major economic development projects. 

For that reason, Jason El Koubi, interim president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, sees the 1,700-acre Upper Magnolia Green West property as potentially “transformative” for Chesterfield, the greater Richmond region and Virginia.

“Big picture, I think Chesterfield has an opportunity to develop one of the most attractive site-related assets in the commonwealth of Virginia,” said El Koubi in a Jan. 26 presentation to the Board of Supervisors. “Upper Magnolia is attracting very serious interest … however, it is getting eliminated [during the site selection process] because it is not project-ready. We’re very committed to helping you with this.”

How committed? Outgoing Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam included $150 million for industrial site development in his proposed fiscal year 2023 state budget. His successor, Gov. Glenn Youngkin, has requested the General Assembly allocate an additional $29 million to the Virginia Business Ready Sites program during the fiscal year that begins July 1.

For context, Virginia has spent about $5 million on site development over the past year. 

“That [$5 million] actually was a big number for Virginia, so we’re moving in the right direction,” El Koubi said. “We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

VEDP project chart

North Carolina has invested $417 million in site development over the past 12 months. Among other nearby states, Georgia ($66 million), Ohio ($50 million) and South Carolina ($43 million) also outpaced Virginia by a significant margin.  

Since 2015, 81 industrial projects have been developed on sites larger than 250 acres in the southeastern U.S., creating over $22 billion in capital investment and more than 38,000 direct jobs.

North Carolina won seven such projects, generating a combined $1.4 billion in capital investment and 5,600 direct jobs.

Virginia failed to secure even one of them.

“Across the entire commonwealth, we have fewer than 10 project-ready sites 250 acres or larger, with the majority of them located outside of major metropolitan areas,” El Koubi said. “How many of them are capable of attracting a large project today? The answer is zero. This is a big deal and one of the reasons you have an opportunity to develop a distinctive asset.”

According to El Koubi, Intel cited Chesterfield’s high-quality school system and proximity to a large population center in the Richmond region as competitive strengths for the Upper Magnolia Green West property.

Being located in a major metropolitan area is “a very big deal,” he said, because the availability and quality of workforce is typically the No. 1 factor for companies during site selection.

Chesterfield also offers a safe community with high overall quality of life, access to numerous recreational and cultural amenities and utility infrastructure capable of accommodating a large advanced manufacturing operation.

“If you had a site that was project-ready, coupled with the other assets and capability of Chesterfield County and Richmond, you’d have a distinctive real estate option that would be very competitive,” El Koubi added. “It can take many years to get a site like this ready for a large, transformational project, but the rewards for that investment are enormous.”

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