CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — A business based in Chesapeake debuted the first phase of its multi-million dollar expansion this week.
In March, Plasser American broke ground on a new 45,000-square-foot office. At the groundbreaking, officials also announced the addition of 98 new jobs.
On Thursday, those with the Austrian-based rail track maintenance company, elected officials, and the Austrian ambassador to the United States came together for a ribbon-cutting of the new building.
“This is a big step forward,” said Joseph Stark, who is the vice president of operations and production for the company. “Being able to grow here and bring more talent in here, hopefully in the new building and expansion will allow people to see the commitment we have to the area and help lure potential employees to us.”
The first phase will be completed in early 2022 after employees officially move into the building and will end in December 2023 after the construction of an 82,000-square foot manufacturing space.
While many other businesses struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, Stark says the family-owned company actually grew.
“It shows the resiliency we have as an organization,” Stark said about the expansion project during the pandemic. “During the pandemic, we did not have any downturns in the labor force. We didn’t have any downturns in business. Matter of fact, our business grew. We’re continuing to hire. We handled the pandemic as well as anyone could. We took it seriously. We kept our employees in the forefront and made sure they understood they were the most critical component for us. We took the precautions necessary that we had to. We’re lucky enough to maintain operations. We kept our doors open during the entire period and kept our workforce engaged and active and most importantly kept everyone employed.”
Gov. Ralph Northam, who spoke at the ceremony, says many industries struggled during the pandemic but Virginia’s economy is coming out of it strong.
He’s proud that businesses, which grew during the pandemic, are here in the commonwealth.
“I’m especially proud of what they’ve done with working with community colleges. They have an apprenticeship program where individuals at the community college level can come here and learn this trade, learn about railroad maintenance. If they like that particular pathway, they can take a job here. So, it’s a great relationship. It’s a great company to work with our local economy, our local education systems. It’s a big deal for Virginia.”
Northam says Virginia’s strong economy can help attract more businesses like Plasser American to the commonwealth because of the diversity of businesses, talented workforce, and assets like affordable and quality healthcare.
The investments for capital projects are also another benefit, according to Northam, who says the state will have a $2.7 billion surplus to its budget when he leaves office.
More than $3 billion was also invested to expand rail across the state earlier this year according to Northam.
“It’s a large investment but we have to look at transportation as a multimodal system. We know we can’t pave our way out of congestion. We have to use rail and transit. This investment will open up Virginia and help our economy at the end of the day,” he said.
That investment plus help for rail from the president’s Build Back Better infrastructure bill excites Stark about what the future holds for Plasser American and how it will impact Chesapeake.
“We’re very excited about that. That hits right to our core,” he said. “We focus on the infrastructure. We focus on the track and the condition of the track, the stability of the track. In making sure the track is safe for commerce and personal train travel. That infrastructure bill — we’re hoping we can land a large part of that. We’re very excited about that and anxious to see where it leads us.”