The Commonwealth serves as a location of choice for plastics producers, plastics materials companies, composites manufacturers, and chemical companies. Virginia’s existing sector base is substantial, with global companies like Eastman, DuPont, CPFilms, Honeywell International, Klockner Pentaplast of America, Katoen Natie, O'Sullivan Films, Sartomer, and Phoenix Packaging represented in the Commonwealth.
Virginia’s location provides strategic access to end-user clusters in the food and beverage and medical device industries in the Midwest and South. The Port of Virginia, the 3rd-largest port on the East Coast, is a gateway to international markets for importing and exporting resin and exporting finished products.
Virginia maintains the 3rd-largest state-maintained transportation network, including Interstates 95, 81, 64, 85, 77, and 66. Ten railroads operate on the state’s network of nearly 3,100 miles of railway. Two of the nation’s largest railroads, CSX Corporation and Norfolk Southern Corporation, offer double-stacked service to key markets.
With an increase in natural gas production from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations and the recently announced ethane cracker plant slated for Pennsylvania, Virginia’s access to polyethylene will expand. Virginia’s intricate road and rail networks will allow quicker access to raw material for use in the production process.
Advanced Materials R&D in Virginia
Virginia’s diverse R&D facilities enable companies to develop, test, and commercialize next-generation technologies.
The Advanced Materials and Technologies Laboratory (AMTL) at Virginia Tech focuses on issues pertaining to the design and manufacturing science of advanced materials with an emphasis on understanding the complex physical phenomena of fabrication. Research sponsors include GE, Pratt & Whitney, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense.
The Center for Intelligent Material Systems and Structures (CIMSS) focuses on the use and development of smart materials and structures, starting from materials science and working through the chain of research and development, including device design and modeling. CIMSS has many active projects in structural dynamics, structural health monitoring, energy harvesting, and applications of materials science for smart materials and structures.
The Macromolecules Innovation Institute (MII) is a university-wide research and education institute dedicated to fostering an interdisciplinary understanding of the macromolecular sciences and technologies. MII houses the Center for Performance Packaging, which takes a systems and materials approach to packaging that functions as a “one-stop shop” for industry-centric packaging solutions. Virginia Tech is one of only 10 research universities in the United States to offer a degree in packaging.
University of Virginia (UVA)
The University of Virginia is one of only three universities (Virginia Tech is another) in the United States selected to join the global Rolls-Royce University Technology Centers network. UVA’s center specializes in the study of advanced materials systems, flow modeling, and other fields. UVA works closely with Rolls-Royce to investigate ceramic matrix composite materials for use in aerospace and other high-technology markets.
In 2019, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) ranked in the top 30 of MSE departments nationally by U.S. News.
Norfolk State University
The Center for Materials Research (CMR) conducts pioneering research in materials science in four categories: optics, plasmonics and meta-materials; nano-materials and nanotechnology; advanced functional materials and devices; and semiconductor materials and devices.
Virginia Commonwealth University
A cooperative research center with the University of South Carolina, industry partners, and the NSF, the Center for Rational Catalyst Synthesis (CeRCaS) is the world’s first and only research center that focuses on understanding the chemical fundamentals of catalyst synthesis, an essential element for the preparation of commodity chemicals, textiles, agricultural products, specialty chemicals, and fine chemicals, including pharmaceuticals.
Additional R&D Resources in Virginia:
- The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) is an applied research center that provides production-ready advanced manufacturing solutions to member companies across the globe. Members guide the research, leveraging talent and resources within CCAM and at Virginia universities through a collaborative model that enables them to pool R&D efforts to increase efficiencies. Strategic research areas include adaptive automation systems, surface engineering, additive manufacturing, and machining science and technology.
- The Applied Research Center (ARC) is the flagship research facility for the Applied Research Center Consortium, a collaboration of four Virginia colleges (Christopher Newport University, Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University, and the College of William & Mary) and the Jefferson Lab. Its mission is to advance the use of processes that control energy to create and modify materials, structures, and devices for high-value-added manufacturing in aerospace, automotive, marine, and semiconductor industries.
- ChemQuest Technology Institute is a state-of-the-art facility in Southern Virginia providing coatings suppliers the ability to test their products in a controlled environment that replicates a range of production conditions.
The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) has invested in two distinct laboratories focused on the characterization and processing of polymer materials.
Rubbermaid Commercial Products, Winchester
The Commonwealth’s 300 advanced materials companies employ over 22,000 Virginians, and its top-ranked educational institutions offer world-class engineering programs that are training the workforce of the future to provide a pipeline of skilled workers in the industry.
Intertape Polymer, Danville
Virginia’s universities, colleges, and community colleges continue to build a pipeline of skilled labor for the manufacturing industry of today and of the future.
The Center for Advanced Film Manufacturing offers the Advanced Film Certification Program, a 28-credit program offered through Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) and the New College Institute (NCI). Classes are taught at PHCC and NCI and provide access to equipment located at Eastman and Commonwealth Laminating & Coating. As part of the curriculum, students are offered a hands-on or paid internship at either Eastman or Commonwealth Laminating & Coating. At the end of the program, participants earn certification in a field that includes solar control films, photovoltaic frontsheets and backsheets, precision coating, laminating, and industrial dyeing.
Danville Community College offers a Certificate in Polymer Manufacturing Processing. Courses provide students interested in the polymer industry with theoretical and hands-on knowledge that prepares them for technician-level jobs in the plastics industry. The Regional Center for Advanced Technology & Training (RCATT) is a 24,000-square-foot building that features polymers, electronics, and industrial maintenance technology laboratories.
The Virginia Manufacturers Association (VMA) created the Manufacturing Skills Institute (MSI) to increase accessibility to advanced technology industry training and credentials. The MSI provides relevant education and skills training for careers in advanced manufacturing by offering world-class training programs delivered by MSI and its education partner institutions. Programs include manufacturing technician training, world-class manufacturing training, industrial energy auditor training, and industrial safety readiness training.
The Virginia Registered Apprenticeship is a training system that produces highly skilled workers through a combination of on-the-job training and theoretical classroom instruction to meet the demands of employers competing in a global economy.
The Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program (CGEP) is a distance learning graduate program of five universities; George Mason University, Old Dominion University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech. CGEP offers qualified individuals the opportunity to earn a master's degree part time through onsite and televised graduate classes.
Virginia’s large military presence provides an ongoing source of talent from exiting members entering the civilian workforce. Virginia has the 4th-largest population of working age veterans in the U.S., providing a well-trained pool of talent.
Existing programs in Virginia, including the Military2Manufacturing (M2M) from the VMA and Virginia Values Veterans (V3), help transitioning military prepare for civilian careers by translating military skills and training to the private sector. The V3 program helps employers develop and implement long-term strategies and nationally recognized best practices in recruiting, hiring, and retaining veterans.
Virginia also encourages STEM learning for developing skills applicable to manufacturing at the K-12 level. Examples include:
- World of Work in Frederick County, a program that introduces nearly 3,000 7th graders annually to career opportunities with hands-on activities.
- Dream It. Do it. Virginia-hosted Advanced Technology Academies and Camps that introduce high-school-age participants to the manufacturing design process.
- Jefferson Lab’s K-12 STEM outreach programs, which reach more than 13,000 students and 1,200 teachers annually.
Alberto Peisach President, Grupo Phoenix
Grupo Phoenix evaluated various location options to build upon its future in the United States and chose Virginia due to a variety of factors, including a central location that allows us to be within 400 miles of 80% of the U.S. East Coast population; the ability to negotiate electricity at a competitive rate; access to rail transport, which reduces our logistics; a motivated labor force; support from the local colleges and universities to assist us with training specialized technical jobs; and the accessibility and unwavering support of the government to work together within the industry to create jobs.
Virginia is consistently ranked as a top location for business, and boasts a stable pro-business climate. Virginia is a right-to-work state, with the 5th-lowest unionization rate in the U.S. at 5.5%.
Virginia offers a welcoming business climate for manufacturers and is recognized as a top state for business, coming in at No. 1 by CNBC and No. 4 by Forbes.com in their annual best states for business rankings.
- 2019 electricity rates are below the U.S. average at 6.24 cents per kilowatt hour vs. 7.01 cents nationally.
- Unemployment insurance taxes are the 5th-lowest in the nation and 43% lower than the national average
- Average workers' compensation costs are among the nation’s lowest.
- Effective tax rates for labor-intensive manufacturing rank No. 2 according to the 2015 Location Matters Study by the Tax Foundation.
- The corporate income tax rate of 6%, not increased since 1972, demonstrates the Commonwealth’s stability for business.
- Average manufacturing compensation in 2019 is 12.4% below the national average.
Grupo Phoenix Finds the Perfect Package in Virginia
Grupo Phoenix first established its North American headquarters in Pulaski County in 2010. By 2017, the company had expanded three times at the manufacturing operation, for a total of $106.2 million in capital investment and 585 new jobs.Read Case Study