Editorial – Latest economic announcement is bittersweet

Published 9:12 pm Friday, December 16, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

If warehouses, forklifts and 18-wheelers are your indicators, Suffolk’s economy is on a roll.

MS International Inc., a flooring, countertop, wall tile and hardscaping products distributor, has announced plans to build a 548,000-square-foot distribution facility on Holland Road and create 80 jobs – another in a string of logistics-sector projects coming to town.

State officials, including Gov. Glenn Youngkin, were gleeful in announcing the $61.6 million project, saying they competed with Georgia, New Jersey and South Carolina to get it. Locals, still bummed about a controversial City Council decision a few months back to allow a massive warehouse complex in the heart of the city, were far less enthusiastic.

Email newsletter signup

MS International officials shouldn’t take it personally. This is part of an ongoing “family” squabble between a citizenry worried about adding ever more truck traffic to already-inadequate road infrastructure and leadership seemingly content with logistics jobs as Suffolk’s economic identity.

All of that is beyond the control of MS International, whom we welcome to Suffolk. We certainly don’t blame its management for picking our city, which has much to offer. We hope those making the decisions will hire locally and maximize the economic impact of the Holland Road facility.

As citizens fret about the impact of more and more 18-wheelers on their quality of life, we’re reminded of the urgent need for Suffolk’s elected and appointed leadership to share their vision for the city’s economic future.

Is it to simply be “all in” on warehousing jobs and keep rolling out the red carpet anytime the Port of Virginia or state economic developers need to site another distribution facility? Is there no limit on how many will be built? Is there a concrete plan for funding the road infrastructure that will be required for a strictly warehouse economy? Or is the strategy to simply hope the state will cough up the money?

We hope our leaders have a different vision and very soon pivot away from warehousing, say “enough is enough” in that sector, and embrace a bold strategy for competing for and getting the high-tech jobs currently going to thriving suburban regions such as Northern Virginia and North Carolina’s Research Triangle.

Logistics facilities gave Suffolk a boost when little else was happening in economic development a decade ago. We appreciate the companies that have invested here. But the time is now for a new direction.