Henrico to recruit defense contractors

By Andy Jenks - bio | email | facebook

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – Henrico County is attempting to attract the defense industry in hopes of rebuilding the local job market.

Bill Osby of New Kent worked at chip maker Qimonda until the bitter end. In 2009, the technology industry abandoned its once-bustling plant in Eastern Henrico...and, for Bill, finding a new job's been tough.

"Frustrating. Very difficult," Osby said.

But the county has a new plan. Gary McLaren is the director of economic development.

"The federal government seems to be one of the few places that's spending money right now," McLaren said.

Defense contracting is a multi-billion dollar industry, and the huge money is too much for the county to ignore.

State Sen. Walter Stosch (R) carried a bill that would allow Henrico to reduce fees and certain taxes; in other words, provide incentives for defense contractors to re-locate to a future "Defense Production Zone" created by the county.

"Not only is it a good thing to do, but that's what generates the revenue to the state," said Stosch.

Even though it was Henrico that requested these zones, the way the law ended up written allows any county in Virginia to do the same thing.

McLaren, though, hopes the defense contractors would choose Henrico; just a morning drive away from the nation's Capitol.

"They can move 90 miles to the South, they can have a labor market that they currently don't have, and a quality of life that they currently don't enjoy, at about half the cost," McLaren said.

After three years of looking for a new job, Bill sees the possibilities.

"Even if it doesn't benefit me, personally, it would still benefit the area," Osby said.

Henrico leaders must now determine exactly what they would offer. The county would not say if there are any specific companies in mind.

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