Highground Services — A Successful Graduate of the Franklin Business Incubator

Friday, 1 May 2015 09:34 by Info@YesVirginia.org
John Warren and James Strozier, two former International Paper employees, put their experience together and became entrepreneurs when they created Highground Services in 2006. They co-founded the company with their wives, allowing it to qualify as a veteran-owned, SWAM (small, women-owned and minority) business...

John Warren and James Strozier, two former International Paper employees, put their experience together and became entrepreneurs when they created Highground Services in 2006. They co-founded the company with their wives, allowing it to qualify as a veteran-owned, SWAM (small, women-owned and minority) business.

The company provides high quality engineering services for process control, system automation and instrumentation projects.

The company was off to a fast start — they landed their first contract with International Paper in May 2007 and became a part of the Franklin Business Incubator that December.

When International Paper announced the closing of its Franklin Mill in 2009, this represented a substantial part of Highground Services’ sales.

Rather than be discouraged by the economic downturn and loss of their largest customer, Warren and Strozier seized the opportunity to hire displaced International Paper workers and expand their customer base. They also diversified their business by providing new services, including electrical construction and plant maintenance.

“We made a conscious decision to locate in a historically underutilized business zone and we really value being a part of this community,” said CEO James Strozier. “Our employees are tremendous and they worked tirelessly to help us not only survive, but thrive in what could have been a very challenging time.”

The company’s efforts have paid off in multiple ways. They received the Virginia Business Incubation Association's Donna Noble Incubator Client Award in 2009, UVA’s Darden School of Business Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards in 2011 and the Franklin/Southampton Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award in 2010.

Highground Services has surpassed the $5 million revenue mark for the third straight year, and grown from four founders to 65 employees. The company is also poised to graduate from the Franklin Business Incubator and is in the process of purchasing a building across the street in downtown Franklin.

The entrepreneurial spirit and resiliency of Highground Services is a great reminder of the innovation that exists here in the Commonwealth as we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation Month. To learn why Virginia offers the resources for entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses, click here.

Co-founders Jim and Lisa Strozier (center) are joined by local officials in front of their new property in downtown Franklin, Va.

International Paper’s Franklin Mill Gains Another Tenant—Franklin Lumber

Tuesday, 25 June 2013 16:04 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Former International Paper (IP) Franklin Mill employees have come up with a clever solution to make use of the dormant sawmill at IP’s Franklin, Va., site—establish a new company and purchase the mill...

Former International Paper (IP) Franklin Mill employees have come up with a clever solution to make use of the dormant sawmill at IP’s Franklin, Va., site—establish a new company and purchase the mill.

The newly-formed company will operate under the name Franklin Lumber, and the $14.8 million investment is expected to create 72 new jobs.

The Franklin Mill facility, located in Isle of Wight County, has seen its fair share of activity over the last year. After initially closing the paper mill in 2009, International Paper returned in the summer of 2012 and repurposed part of the facility to manufacture fluff pulp.

Also in 2012, Tak Investments announced plans to invest $60 million and create 85 new jobs to establish ST Tissue, a recycled tissue plant, by repurposing a vacant portion of the Franklin Mill site.

Franklin Lumber expects to produce 60 million board feet of southern yellow pine lumber each year for retail, treating and truss manufacturers. This project will benefit Virginia’s logging supply chain as 40 percent of the company’s materials will be sourced from the Commonwealth.

Virginia was selected for this project due to the founders’ knowledge of the Franklin Mill site and familiarity with the assets of the region, which include a strong wood basket supply chain, a skilled manufacturing workforce and a premier logistics infrastructure.

This investment also represents the first Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) grant to a forestry project.

Franklin Lumber joins more than 6,000 manufacturing companies located in the Commonwealth and illustrates that Virginia is not only a great place for manufacturers, but a great place to start a business. Virginia recently earned an A for its small business friendliness—to learn more, click here.

International Paper’s Franklin Mill Finds a New Tenant in Tak Investments

Thursday, 2 August 2012 10:10 by Info@YesVirginia.org
This week, Tak Investments Inc. announced it will invest $60 million and create 85 new jobs to establish a recycled tissue plant for its subsidiary, ST Tissue, in Isle of Wight County...

This week, Tak Investments Inc. announced it will invest $60 million and create 85 new jobs to establish a recycled tissue plant for its subsidiary, ST Tissue, in Isle of Wight County.

A win-win for the company and county, this project will repurpose a vacant portion of the International Paper mill in Franklin, Va., making use of machinery already in place.

This news comes within a month of International Paper’s announcement that it recommenced operations at its formerly-closed Franklin Mill. After closing the mill in 2009, International Paper upfit a portion of the mill to manufacture fluff pulp, bringing more than 200 new jobs to the region.

Location and existing infrastructure were key factors in Virginia’s favor, allowing the Commonwealth to successfully compete against Wisconsin. The Franklin Mill location allows the company to take advantage of an existing facility with paper-making machinery and a trained workforce already in place.

In addition, the location not only aligns with the company’s supply chain, but Virginia’s strategic East Coast location and premier transportation infrastructure will allow the company to capture additional market share. 

This project builds on the success Isle of Wight County has experienced on its way towards economic recovery. Recent announcements from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and International Paper are expected to bring more than 1,000 jobs to the area.

To learn why leading manufacturers continue to select the Commonwealth, investing more than $13.8 billion from 2002 to 2010, click here.

International Paper Commences Manufacturing Operations at Franklin Mill

Wednesday, 18 July 2012 13:49 by Info@YesVirginia.org
International Paper recently announced it began manufacturing operations at its Franklin Mill in Isle of Wight County. In May 2011, Governor McDonnell announced the company’s plans to invest $83 million to repurpose a portion of its closed mill and create more than 200 new jobs in the region.

International Paper recently announced it began manufacturing operations at its Franklin Mill in Isle of Wight County. In May 2011, Governor McDonnell announced the company’s plans to invest $83 million to repurpose a portion of its closed mill and create more than 200 new jobs in the region.

After closing the paper mill in 2009, International Paper has upfit a portion of the plant to manufacture fluff pulp, a key component in absorbency products such as diapers and hygiene products. The company expects to produce 840 tons per day of high-quality fluff pulp once it ramps up to full production.

“This is a wonderful turnaround story for Isle of Wight County—to have some recovery of the jobs lost in 2009 and repurpose a facility is great news for the region,” said VEDP Managing Director Brent Sheffler.

The company’s familiarity with the assets of the region—including a strong wood basket supply chain and a skilled and dedicated advanced manufacturing workforce—helped Virginia win this project.

Logistics infrastructure was also a critical deciding factor, as the company expects to export a substantial amount of its product. Access to existing rail service and close proximity to the international Port of Virginia made the Franklin Mill the clear choice.

As the third largest global supplier of fluff pulp, this investment allows the company to expand its footprint in this growing market and continue its strong legacy in Virginia’s pro-business environment. 

With more than 6,000 manufacturing companies located in the Commonwealth, click here to learn why leading companies like International Paper continue to invest in Virginia.

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The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), a state authority created by the Virginia General Assembly to better serve those seeking a prime business location and increased trade opportunities, provides confidential site selection and international trade services. VEDP's mission: To enhance the quality of life and raise the standard of living for all Virginians, in collaboration with Virginia communities, through aggressive business recruitment, expansion assistance, and trade development, thereby expanding the tax base and creating higher-income employment opportunities.

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