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Gov. McAuliffe welcomes new industries

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The governor and state leaders joined Grayson County government officials for ribbon cuttings at McAllister Mills and Oak Hall Cap and Gown.

By Shaina Stockton

It was a historic day for state and local leaders and the community on Monday, when a crowd of nearly 200 individuals gathered to celebrate two large businesses that recently made their home in Grayson County.

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Local officials and business owners were joined by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones, Sen. Bill Carrico, and Del. Israel O’Quinn on Monday afternoon for a double ribbon cutting ceremony for McAllister Mills Inc. and Oak Hall Cap and Gown. Beginning at 3 p.m., after a flight delay due to bad weather, McAuliffe arrived at McAllister Mills, where he and everyone present toured the facility and spoke a few words to commemorate the occasion. The crowd then moved to Oak Hall’s new facility, where another celebration and tour was held.

McAllister Mills, the leading manufacturer of safe, heat-resistant materials for the textile industry, invested $1.05 million to expand and increase its textile manufacturing operations in Grayson County back in March. The company bought and renovated a 33,000-square-foot building to house its expansion.

The project retained 43 existing jobs, and created 16 new jobs for the community, officials said on Monday.

Alec McAllister, owner and president of McAllister Mills, said that this year marks the company’s 35th anniversary in the area, and that he was excited to see the company invest another 35 years. “We are excited about being here. Our young people who are present today are why we are here; to bring and build jobs in Grayson County. Some people like to say that our jobs have gone to China, or to other places. But I’m here to say today that jobs are here in the U.S., and manufacturing is alive in Virginia,” McAllister said.

Oak Hall Cap and Gown, a manufacturer of academic, judicial and religious apparel, invested $1.2 million to establish a manufacturing operation in Independence this year. Over the past several months, the company has been busy renovating and fitting the old Robertshaw Controls Building, an 85,000-square-foot facility.

On Monday, it was announced that the business will offer 100 new jobs at this time.

According to Joe D’Angelo, president of Oak Hall, the Independence facility is one of several located within the state. The business started in Roanoke with one small plant, and over time demand grew. Additional facilities were opened in Wytheville and Chilhowie.

“As we continued to grow, the need for our product continued to grow, as well, so we opened our distribution center, which is 133,000 square feet, in 2005,” D’Angelo said. “In 2014 we considered expanding again, and we thought we had tapped the Virginia sewing market dry, so we began looking in North Carolina. Then, when Grayson came on our radar, we realized this facility was perfect for Oak Hall.

“Through these efforts, not only is our regalia American-made, it is also Virginia-made,” he continued. “Most graduates probably don’t think about where their caps and gowns come from, but our employees think about that all the time. The student wearing our regalia could be a graduating scientist that may cure cancer… or the next president of the United States, or better than that: a teacher who inspires all of the above. With this knowledge comes care and attention to detail.”

According to D’Angelo, Oak Hall serves 1,800 colleges and universities. In 2009, the business introduced sustainable caps and gowns to higher education; the green-weave fabric used in their gowns is made from recycled plastic bottles. “You would not imagine that any fabric could feel so soft using plastic. Through this effort, we have used 56 million plastic bottles from landfills, and we have recycled 90 tons of fabric,” he said.

These businesses, officials said, are prime examples of the job growth that has been seen across the state. According to Jones, there have been 469 economic development announcements and $7.76 billion in job investments over the past 18 months. Unemployment rate has also dropped from 4.8 percent to 4.5 percent, which is the lowest unemployment has been in the area since September 2008.

“Grayson County is extremely blessed to have these two companies call this county home,” said David Sexton, chairman of the Grayson County Board of Supervisors, on Monday.

Gov. McAuliffe, whose job has taken him to places all over the world, shared his excitement in seeing the local economy diversified and expanded upon. “You can feel the energy here in Virginia. We’ve got it all: the ocean, the mountains, low taxes, businesses, friendly people and amazing educational institutions,” he said. “Our activities have diversified our economy, we have shattered all of the records before, and we are just beginning to get going.”

McAuliffe shared that job creation was a primary focus for him since before he was elected to serve as governor. “[My wife] Dorothy and I have five children, and we want our children to stay here in Virginia. For that to happen, there have to be jobs here in Virginia, which is exactly what our focus has been,” McAuliffe said.

“Today is proof positive of what can happen when and if you work together. Thinking back to 2011… when people were asking what direction would we take in Grayson County, we all knew it would be our job to create an environment where McAllister Mills, Oak Hall and places like them could invest,” O’Quinn said. “Here we are four years later, at an 80-month low in unemployment. We are in a fiscally sound position and the county is growing by leaps and bounds. If we continue to work together, we can sustain that success.”

In addition to congratulations and well wishes, Carrico presented two checks from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission: a $110,000 check for McAllister Mills and a $385,000 check for Oak Hall Cap and Gown.

“As part of the Tobacco Commission, I have been very conscientious of the manufacturing industry and expanding upon what we have,” Carrico said Monday. “[I believe] if you pray hard and work hard, God will be faithful and give you the desires of your heart. Today, with these two job announcements, shows a prime example of this.”