Mayor touts Birdsong $25.1m investment, others in State of the City address

Published 6:20 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2022

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Birdsong Peanuts will invest $25.1 million in its peanut shelling facility, Mayor Mike Duman announced Tuesday during his State of the City address.

Speaking before an audience of mayors from across Hampton Roads along with other city and elected officials and business leaders, Duman made several other announcements of new businesses and developments coming to Suffolk.

He announced a new development in the Harbour View area of North Suffolk, the mixed-use Blue Point at the Riverfront, that will see at least $20 million in investment on 18 acres — $9 million for a new brewery, New Realm Brewery at Blue Point, and $11 million for a business-style hotel, Stay Suites.

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And, in what he described as the worst-kept secret in the city before it became official this month, he noted the new, 48,000-square-foot Publix grocery store coming to Planters Station at Godwin Boulevard and Kings Fork Road, as well as the nearby Gallery at Godwin mixed-use development off of Godwin Boulevard.

Duman touted the Birdsong news as affirming the company’s longstanding commitment to Suffolk.

“Suffolk is honored to be the home of Birdsong’s headquarters,” Duman said, “and we are fortunate to benefit from your community spirit and generous philanthropy.”

The company’s investment will help it modernize and automate its production lines, making it one of the most modern and efficient of its five shelling plants.

“When long-term corporate partners like Birdsong Peanuts reinvest in Virginia, it underscores that Virginia is open for business,” said Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who recorded a video announcing the development to the State of the City audience. “Birdsong has positively impacted the region’s economy and Virginia’s agriculture industry for over a century. This market leader facility expansion reinforces Suffolk’s reputation as the ‘Peanut Capital of the World.’”

Birdsong officials say they are committed to additional growth opportunities for the state’s peanut producers in the coming years.

“Birdsong Peanuts chose to reinvest in Suffolk because our corporate headquarters is here, there is a thriving peanut producer base here, there is good access to domestic and export markets and also because of the region’s talented workforce,” said company President Charles Birdsong.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked with the city on the project.

Youngkin approved a $250,000 performance-based grant from the Virginia Investment Performance Grant and a $250,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund.

“Birdsong Peanuts helped make the Virginia peanut an iconic product shared around the globe, and we celebrate the company’s continued success and growth in the commonwealth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick. “This expansion is a strong testament to the city of Suffolk’s agricultural resources, access, and talent, and we look forward to the next chapter in Birdsong’s 100-plus-year history in Virginia.”

State Del. Clinton Jenkins, D-Suffolk along with others, praised the project.

“This upgrade will contribute to our economy, create economic development and provide employment opportunities,” Jenkins said. “We are thankful and excited for Birdsong Peanuts’ rich history and commitment to the commonwealth.”

Duman focused his address, which included a pair of video presentations, on robust economic development while praising the city’s leadership in aiding those efforts.

Sixty new businesses opened in the city in 2021, bringing 1,086 new jobs, Duman said, covering 2.85 million square feet and resulting in $185.6 million in capital investment. He said third quarter revenue projections for personal property, sales, business license, lodging and meals are all rising.

The address also touted investments in public safety and public schools

In the last year.

Duman also said the city has to be willing to acknowledge the challenges ahead.
“We’re a city of ample resources,” Duman said, “but not unlimited resources. We must be sure that there is an equitable distribution of those resources throughout our city.”

He said at the forefront of challenging issues to be addressed is the increase in violence in the city.

“I look forward to collaborating with the city manager, staff, council and our citizens to implement initiatives to address our safety concerns,” Duman said.

He said the city will also have to address the ability to maintain adequate staffing, saying it has positioned itself to attract and retain qualified people. The city also faces issues with accelerated growth in a large land area that has led to transportation challenges it continues to tackle.

“The state of our city is strong,” Duman said, “and positioned for continued growth and prosperity.”