Something big just happened last month, as big as what happened a year ago. Last year, Danville voters went to the voting booth in November and voted Yes to bring a Caesar’s casino to Danville, Virginia. It was a simple decision that will soon bring over 1,000 jobs to the region in the construction phase of the casino and more afterwards, as we found out from an August update from the casino people that they are on track for permitting in October. This is not going to just boost the economy of Danville, but that of the whole region.
If that was the big event of last year, another big event may have just taken place in Danville two weeks ago, even though it has been completely ignored and misunderstood by most people who saw mention of it on Facebook.
For at least twelve months, rumors have circulated that something big is in the works in negotiations for the Berry Hill Industrial Park outside of Eden, North Carolina. This park is also in Virginia, being developed in a regional alliance, and has direct rail access to Norfolk, Virginia. The roads going to it have recently been upgraded to handle traffic of up to 3,000 people per work shift. If you have driven through Berry Hill Road this year you will have noticed the work done in July and August to upgrade the railroad tracks near it too.
Last year, I was watching the Mayor of Eden being interviewed on a show that was being aired on one of the Star News channels about their town’s win in getting the Purina Plant to come take over the old Miller Building. He mentioned in the interview that they were working on something bigger that was taking a lot of negotiations. He couldn’t say what it was and wouldn’t give much hint to what it could be, but he implied that it would be huge. His comments were made in passing during a discussion about the Purina deal.
Two weeks ago, the Institute of Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville, Virginia, held an event at which Senator Mark Warner spoke. This event holds implications for what could happen with the Berry Hill Industrial Park. The Chatham Star-Tribune did reporting of the event with details about the other speakers that were there and what was said. It was a well done story done by the newspaper and its news editor and you need to read it yourself in its entirety.
Some have been talking about the story, but, judging by the Facebook story post likes, dislikes, and comments made about it, few who saw it on social media even bothered to read it. They simply saw Mark Warner’s picture and reacted to it one way or the other. Social media warriors often tend to react instantly to things with little thought or even clicking to find out the details of what they are even reacting to.
But, it is the details of this story that are fascinating, and that doesn’t matter if you like Mark Warner or not, you need to read it. Actually, you should subscribe to the paper after you read it too, if you don’t already.
The event was called the Accelerated Training in Defense Manufacturing (ATDM) Summit and it’s theme was “Workforce Challenges in Defense Manufacturing.”
Also speaking at the event was Rear Admiral Scott Pappano, who is in charge of the Navy’s Columbia Submarine Program.
And another speaker was Jesse Salazar, who is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy. These two people are at the top of the apex of the military-industrial complex and the Pentagon.
They are very important people.
What were these people doing in Danville?
Senator Mark Warner said, in his remarks, “Southside Virginia literally powered Virginia’s economy for most of the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. This was a community and a region that was long tobacco, textiles and furniture, and unfortunately, the facts are that those are not growth areas.”
Warner then explained that the Institute of Advanced Learning and Research is running a three year pilot program to train people to work in industrial defense jobs. They have 33 people who completed the first run of the program and are planning to train 48 more students starting in November.
After that they plan to train over 900 people a year in this program.
That’s a lot of people.
“The idea about providing training for our defense industrial base – I’m not sure it could have come about anywhere else in the commonwealth, and in many ways, nowhere else in the country,” Warner is quoted in the Chatham Star-Tribune as saying.
The IALR, on it’s website, reported that it received a $1.78 million Department of Defense (DOD) contract for the program and that it “will focus on the naval shipbuilding sector and will train skilled workers in the DIB skill gaps of CNC machining, welding, metrology/quality assurance and additive manufacturing. A fast-track, intensive and targeted program, ATDM offers universal application across the DIB and the inherent flexibility to be customized for specific manufacturing sectors.”
After the event at which Warner spoke, the Department of Defense revealed that it had given them another $4.3 million dollars.
ATDM is a four month training program and there is full information on it, with information on how to apply, on its website here. Here is a video about the program.
Now 900 people a year to go through this program would be a lot of people. I don’t think there are that many people in the area that would apply for it. So, not surprisingly, ATDM is pitching people outside of the area to come to Danville and join the program. One of the things they are saying is that this is a good area to live in for the long-term, as you can see from this video.
“Danville is a leader in manufacturing workforce development. It is also centrally located in the Mid-Atlantic between shipbuilding ecosystems from Maine to Florida,” speaker Jesse Salazar, deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy, was quote by the Star-Tribune as saying.
Well, I wouldn’t say Danville was a leader in “manufacturing workforce development” six months ago, but I guess we can today.
That’s a significant development.
Of course, there was no mention of the Berry Hill Industrial Park in the talks by Warner and the other speakers the other week, but it’s easy to imagine how it could be put to eventual use after reading this story. For one thing it has a direct rail connection with the Port of Virginia, home of Newport News Shipbuilding, which happens to be the largest industrial employer in the state of Virginia.
Newports News Shipbuilding is also going to be involved in the construction of the Columbia Navy submarine program.
This class of submarines is planned to replace the Ohio submarine fleet. From 1976-1997 there were eighteen of these submarines produced at the cost of about $3 billion a piece. They are nuclear powered and carry nuclear weapons. If you saw the movie Crimson Tide it was a depiction of what these submarines are about. That movie has two of my favorite actors in it.
It’s a good movie.
Each Ohio submarine is armed with 24 Trident intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads. These “boomer” submarines by themselves are more than enough to provide a full nuclear deterrent for the United States government.
The problem is these submarines have a limited lifespan and one by one will go out of commission over the next thirty years.
As a result, the Navy is launching the Columbia submarine program to replace them. At the same time, they are also constructing a new class of nuclear powered attack submarines.
General Dynamics Electric Boat, based in Connecticut, has a contract to build these submarines, but does not have the capacity to build both submarine fleets at once by itself.
As the Hartfort Courant reported, “General Dynamics Electric Boat is ramping up production to a staggering 39 submarines in the next two decades, but must do so with a smaller supply chain of manufacturers, the federal government’s watchdog agency said in a recent report. The number of suppliers that must keep pace with the production increase has declined to about 5,000 from 17,000, a drop of about 70% since the 1970s and 1980s when the Navy last took on two submarines at the same time, according to the Government Accountability Office.”
The submarines are not built in one place. They use modular design so that parts of the submarines are built in facilities in different parts of the country and then transported to port facilities for final construction. Newport News Shipbuilding is collaborating with General Dynamics Electric Boat to build the Columbia submarines. The bows and sterns will be built in Newport News and both shipyards will take turns on final assembly.
The US Navy is planning to build twelve of these submarines.
This is a massive undertaking. At peak production of the Ohio submarine class, Electric Boat had 29,000 people involved in it. Submarines like this are almost as expensive as aircraft carriers. In a way nuclear weapons are akin to the Ancient Pyramids as they cannot be used without destroying civilization, but their existence and construction via the military-industrial complex helps to hold society together and keep the US economy functioning.
Each Columbia submarine is expected to take seven years to build and the U.S. Congress is budgeting $109.8 billion for the program.
According to a Congressional report, “the Navy procured the first Columbia-class boat in FY2021. The Navy wants to procure the second boat in the class in FY2024, and the remaining 10 at a rate of one per year from FY2026 through FY2035. Under this schedule, the Navy projects that the lead boat (i.e., first boat) would be delivered in FY2028, the second in FY2031, and the remaining 10 at a rate of one per year from FY2033 through FY2042. After being delivered in FY2028, the lead boat would undergo substantial testing, with the aim of having it be ready for its first deterrent patrol in 2031.”
This program is the Navy’s NUMBER ONE priority.
There is an immediate need for new workers on the part of Newport News Shipbuilding. It is not the only company listed on the ATDM website as being involved in their program.
So is BWXT Technologies, whose headquarters is in Lynchburg, Virginia. It has a contract to build the nuclear reactor components and fuel for the submarines, with work being done in Tennessee.
Butler Weldments is also listed as being involved with ATDM and they are listed as part of the submarine industrial base, with welding facilities in Texas.
W International is another company listed with ATDM. It is based in South Carolina and also has a contract for submarines.
Again, when you put all of this together, it becomes easy to imagine the Berry Hill Road Industrial Park one day becoming involved in this as some sort of base for a subcontracting operation for one or both of these submarine programs once they ramp up in production.
Remember, the US submarine industrial base is 70% less than what it was in the 1980’s. So, new industrial manufacturing facilities are going to be built over the next few years for these programs.
After 9/11, the “war on terror” helped to generate a massive economic boom in the Northern Virginia area, which saw its population grow by 14.3% in just the past decade alone, thanks to increased security and intelligence spending. It appears now that Southside Virginia and Rockingham County, North Carolina are perfectly positioned to eventually benefit from the next round of defense spending on the next generation of wonder weapons.
The training program announced two weeks ago already makes Danville an important part of them.
We know the casino is going to have a big impact on the region. If defense jobs like this come to the area too in the next few years then it will grow even more than people are expecting over the course of the next ten years.
Every single morning I send out an email full of the top business and regional headlines of the day. To get access to these free alerts just subscribe by clicking here.