Note: This story has been updated with comments from Hanover Economic Development Director Linwood Thomas and other details received after publication.
Three years after arriving on the local grocery scene, a New York-based supermarket chain on a steady expansion southward has picked Hanover County for a large-scale distribution facility and regional headquarters.
Wegmans Food Markets is set to build a 1.1 million-square-foot facility on about 220 acres just east of Hanover County Municipal Airport, the governor’s office announced Wednesday. The property is bordered to the north by Ashcake Road and to the east by Sliding Hill Road.
The $175 million project would create 700 full-time jobs, 140 or so of which would be executive-level positions. Hanover and Virginia won the project over North Carolina, which also was in the running.
In a statement, Wegmans President and CEO Colleen Wegman said the Hanover site was selected for its proximity to the company’s stores and workforce. The facility is planned to deliver product to Wegmans’ southernmost stores and support further growth, the statement said.
The site consists of multiple parcels owned by Air Park Associates LP, an entity registered to Phillip Dean of Midlothian. A 217-acre tract that makes up the bulk of the property was purchased in 1986 for $202,000, according to county property records. The tract most recently was assessed by the county at $4.4 million.
The property was last zoned for manufacturing use in the mid-1990s. Air Park Associates is seeking to amend the zoning’s proffers to allow the distribution facility use. Its request is slated to go before the county Planning Commission in January or February.
Wegmans will be purchasing the land as part of its overall investment in the site. The facility will include executive offices and the distribution facility that will initially serve approximately 44 stores, said Linwood Thomas, Hanover’s economic development director.
“Many of those have not been built yet,” Thomas said, acknowledging that more stores would result from the facility’s construction. He said he didn’t know if any of those additional stores would be built in the Richmond region.
Based in Rochester, Wegmans has 101 stores in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, including two in the Richmond area: a 115,000-square-foot location at the Stonehenge Village shopping center on Midlothian Turnpike, and a 123,000-square-foot store in the West Broad Marketplace retail center in Short Pump.
The company opened the Midlothian store in May 2016, followed by the Short Pump location three months later. The moves added a new player to the Richmond region’s crowded grocery market, joining other recent arrivals such as Florida-based Publix and Germany-based brands Aldi and Lidl. Last year, Aldi opened a $57 million, 562,500-square-foot distribution facility in Dinwiddie County.
Wegmans’ southward march also has included a store in Charlottesville. The company has a presence in a dozen locations across Virginia, in addition to stores in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Hanover County Economic Development and regional group Greater Richmond Partnership to land the project. Wegmans was wooed in part by $2.35 million in state incentives that Gov. Ralph Northam approved through a Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund grant, which Hanover matched, Thomas said.
He said the county is allocating $1.5 million for infrastructure improvements to accommodate the project, specifically utilities and transportation upgrades. The latter will focus on Sliding Hill Road, parts of which already are in the process of being widened. The company also is eligible for state job tax credit for the 700 jobs to be created.
Thomas said the project, referred to as “Project Tiger,” has been in the works for two to three years, since Wegmans started shopping for sites along the Eastern seaboard. He said Hanover competed not only with sites in North Carolina but also other localities in the Richmond region.
The announcement adds to other economic development wins for Hanover over the past couple years, including last year’s “Project Neptune,” which resulted in Cascades, a Canadian packaging and tissue products producer, selecting the county’s Bear Island paper mill for a $300 million facility conversion. That project was highlighted at a GRP gathering and site selectors tour earlier this year.
“We’ve had probably 24 of the strongest months we’ve ever seen in Hanover, and a lot of that has to do with the cost to do business and strategic location of where we’re located,” Thomas said.