Find funding for 58

Published 12:02 am Saturday, September 27, 2014

Well-paying manufacturing jobs are hard to find, and they’re even harder to find in America.

Soon, though, they will be getting easier to find in Suffolk.

Construction is set to begin next month at the CenterPoint Intermodal Center on a new 350,000-square-foot facility for a California-based company that designs and manufactures customizable, high-end office furniture.

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Friant and Associates hopes to have the facility operational by late 2015, Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes told City Council members at their retreat on Thursday.

The announcement of 166 jobs alone is good news. But the better good news is that the positions will be far from minimum wage — starting around $30,000 and on up to $70,000 for managers, Hughes said Thursday.

At the low end, that’s about $5 million in wages alone coming directly into the Suffolk economy, to say nothing of the tax bill on the building and machinery within, construction jobs and indirect employment.

And for one more layer of good news, the Virginia Job Investment Program will be providing funds and services to help train local people to take the jobs. A $200,000 grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund as well as benefits from the Port of Virginia Economic and Infrastructure Development Zone Grant Program helped secure the deal.

In a time where much of the news focuses on companies moving their manufacturing, or even their entire operations, overseas in the name of saving a few bucks, it is refreshing to see an American company keep and expand its manufacturing facilities in America — and expanding them to Suffolk, with all the related benefits, is just icing on the cake.

But blessings do not come without challenges, and the company’s ability to get its materials and products from and to the Port of Virginia — Suffolk’s proximity to which was cited as a major factor in the company’s decision to locate here — could be in jeopardy if something is not done soon about the Route 58 widening project.

Design of the project is nearly complete, but nearly $50 million still is needed to bring the project to fruition. City officials should continue their work to find every available source of funding to get that project done as soon as possible.