LEE COUNTY, Va. (WYMT/WJHL) - People in Southwest Virginia are banking on a company to bring 200 new jobs, with starting pay at $12 an hour, to Lee County. However, the project is now delayed, leading to plenty of doubt.
"It concerns us all, we're all wanting jobs," Rose Hill resident Jeremiah Britton said. "If it don't come in here, what are we going to do? There ain't no work up here. There's just farm work. They want to pay you $5.50 an hour up here."
The father of three, who says he's struggling to get by, would jump at the chance to work at GreenUSA, if the factory locates in Rose Hill.
Lee County Industrial Development Authority Director Michael James says leaders are still working diligently to secure GreenUSA. The plant would take in municipal solid waste and recycle it.
Some don't like the idea, afraid of the environmental impacts, others don't know what they'd do without it. It would be Lee County's largest private employer and would result in a $30 to $40 million investment, James said.
According to James, the project is delayed because GreenUSA, a brand new company, is still trying to secure financing and contracts for the waste that would come in and the companies that would buy the finished project. He says leaders have already spent more than $2.5 million developing the industrial park. They've built an industrial park, a building that Green USA could locate in and a road. He says GreenUSA would locate in less than half of that space and pay $1.5 million for the land.
James argues it would be a win-win, since the company would help the environment by keeping garbage out of landfills and give the local economy a major boost.
"It would be huge," James said. "The project is active, but currently delayed. The project is dependent on some other projects in other states going through. Economic development, by its nature, for lack of a better term, you have to make an educated roll of the dice from time-to-time. It's a build it and they will come type of mentality."
According to James, 90% of the phone calls, emails and letters his office receives are in support of the project. He says he still feels good about the project becoming a reality. He is hopeful the project is now only 60 to 90 days behind schedule.
"We have a lot of people call us laid off, wanting a job and really interested in GreenUSA or whatever we can do to help them and I just ask them to be patient," James said. "We are working very diligently. The IDA, the board of supervisors, we're working very diligently to make this project happen, but there are no guarantees in life. I certainly cannot promise that it will happen."
In the meantime, James says leaders are continuing to search for potential tenants to locate in the industrial park.
"Finding a tenant or tenants for Constitutional Oaks Industrial Park is the #1 economic development priority for the county," James said. "We put a lot of time and money into this project. We're very hopeful that it will bear fruit soon, but again as I said earlier, economic development by its nature is sort of an educated role of the dice and you can't guarantee the outcome on the other end unfortunately."
As part of the process of trying to attract GreenUSA to Rose Hill, the Virginia Tobacco Commission handed over $225,000 to the company for some engineering work on the site, James said. According to James, the company has three years from May 2012 to be up and running and employ 200 employees. If not, he says GreenUSA will be required to pay the money back.