A rendering of the LEGO Group's planned precision manufacturing facility at Chesterfield's Meadowville Technology Park.
As he prepared to present Chesterfield Economic Development’s annual report to the Board of Supervisors at its Wednesday afternoon work session, Director Garrett Hart offered a brief preview.
“It’s all good news,” he said.
Buoyed by the LEGO Group’s decision to construct a 1.7 million square-foot precision manufacturing facility in Meadowville Technology Park, the fiscal year that ended June 30 will go down as one of the most successful in Chesterfield’s history on the economic development front.
Chesterfield’s 10 projects represent a total of $1.1 billion in capital investment, approximately 2,600 jobs and 2.6 million square feet of commercial space.
Once the new LEGO plant is fully operational, it will become Chesterfield’s largest single taxpayer, at about $7.1 million annually. It also will generate more than 3,300 direct, indirect and induced jobs and nearly $227 million in annual wages.
Those are all big numbers. But there’s more.
*The number of Chesterfield-based businesses increased from 9,721 in June 2021 to 10,228 in March 2022. That’s an all-time high for the county.
*Sports tourism continues to be a major driver of economic activity. The 48 events held in Chesterfield attracted 180,000 visitors and added $32.2 million to the local economy.
*Chesterfield’s hotel occupancy rate has more than recovered from pre-pandemic levels. As of April 2022, it was 68.3% -- 0.2 percentage points higher than April 2019 and the highest of any locality in the Richmond region.
*Room rates also are up, from an average of $92.92 per night in September 2021 to $96.50 in September 2022.
*Several additional hospitality-related projects, including a 250-room Embassy Suites hotel and conference center at Stonebridge, are in various stages of development. Those properties will enable Chesterfield to retain a larger share of the revenue generated by local sports tourism events.
*And the economic data Hart presented as part of the fiscal year 2022 report doesn’t include the Plenty and Civica projects, both of which were announced after July 1. Those projects combined will bring about $330 million in additional capital investment and 350 jobs to Chesterfield.
“We see the significant impact of economic development, which this board and prior boards have recognized,” said Dale District Supervisor Jim Holland, vice chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “When you invest in economic development, the citizens have less of a burden to support critical services,” such as schools, police and fire, which largely have been funded by residential property assessments in Chesterfield.
While most of the land in Meadowville Technology Park now is either occupied or committed, Chesterfield is well-positioned to compete for future economic development projects, continue diversifying the local tax base and further reduce its reliance on residential real estate taxes.
Between Upper Magnolia Green, which Hart called “the No. 1 [undeveloped] large industrial site in Virginia,” and the Spring Rock Green and former Southside Speedway properties, as well as the ongoing Tomahawk trunk sewer project near Route 288, Chesterfield’s economic development staff has nearly 3,000 acres of commercial property to market to potential end users.
That doesn’t include the 5.1 million square feet of speculative light industrial buildings either going through the permitting process or currently under construction in Chesterfield.
The county’s greatest economic asset, however, is people.
“We are leading the state in new residents choosing to come to Chesterfield because of the quality of life here. That’s an important thing for us and our growth,” Hart said. “As the population grows, the labor force grows.”
Widespread labor shortages have created a paradigm shift for American businesses. Where at one time workers willingly relocated in pursuit of quality employment opportunities, the pool of available talent has become a primary factor in companies’ site-selection decisions.
As the largest, fastest-growing locality in the Richmond region, with a well-regarded K-12 school system and workforce development partnerships with both the state and Brightpoint Community College, Chesterfield has much to offer in that regard.
In a recent study commissioned by Chesterfield Economic Development, 71% of respondents said they decided to move to the county prior to selecting a job.
“That means we have an ample and growing number of people moving here who can take the jobs we create, which then further attracts businesses to follow those workers,” Hart said.
The massive gap between available positions and workers to fill them “is going to affect how businesses move around this country. They’re going to go where the labor is,” he added. “We want to be an area where we have the lifestyles and choices of homes where people come to live, so businesses will chase that labor.”