April 12, 2011
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Job fairs will be held Friday and Saturday in the Career Hub at Liberty Fair Mall to fill the first 100 of 539 new jobs announced Monday.
Gov. Bob McDonnell announced that ICF International, a Fairfax-based firm, will expand to Martinsville-Henry County, hire 539 people within three years and build a $15 million operations center on Lot 6 in the Patriot Centre industrial park.
Job fairs will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in the Career Hub and the former Walden Books storefront at the mall, according to Leigh Cockram, vice president of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC).
The first wave of employees is expected to begin work by mid-May in leased, temporary space in the Patrick Henry Mall, according to Frank Abramcheck, senior vice president of outsourcing for ICF.
The company began converting the former GSI facility at the Patrick Henry Mall to fit its needs Monday afternoon, he added.
Construction of an 84,000-square-foot service center at the Patriot Centre is expected to be completed by mid-December, Abramcheck said.
Mark Heath, president and CEO of the EDC, said $9 million is to be spent on construction and $6 million on upfitting the operation. The new facility will be built on Lot 6, to the left of RTI Metals’ plants, he added.
“There will be rapid growth in 2012” in terms of the number of employees, Abramcheck said.
Al Blankenship, who is moving here and will be the local operations center director for ICF’s Business Process Management (BPM), said the company hopes to begin hiring within the next few weeks. Its goal is to have 250 local employees by mid-December, he said.
The full-time positions pay a mean of $30,000 annually, Abramcheck said. He added the pay scale will vary, with employees in the outbound calling department earning the least.
Heath said employees will earn an average wage of $14 hourly.
The company also offers benefits such as health insurance and a matching 401k plan, and employees have access to dental insurance and other benefits, Abramcheck said.
Employees will work one of two shifts, Abramcheck said. He added that a college degree is not required for many of the positions.
The company’s clients include agencies in the federal and state governments as well as commercial businesses, Abramcheck said.
The professional services firm provides professional and technology services in the energy, environment and transportation fields; health, education and social programs; and homeland security and defense markets, according to a news release.
ICF’s outbound call centers are “not sales centers” but rather serve as data collection sites for specific companies or entities, Abramcheck said. The firm also processes rebates for utilities and other companies and processes applications for a number of different companies and sectors, he said.
Blankenship elaborated on ICF’s work. He said it assesses applications for energy rebates, such as for consumer appliance purchases, and mails the rebate checks to consumers. It also does market research for the federal Centers for Disease Control and NOAH weather service, gathering information used for policy decisions, he said. And recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture asked it to evaluate broadband proposals for federal stimulus funding, he added.
“It’s interesting work,” Abramcheck said.
“ICF is proud to expand its operations in Virginia and to call the commonwealth its home,” said Sudhakar Kesavan, chairman and CEO of ICF. “We are very excited to expand here.”
The expansion is “an important move because it consolidates critical operations” and will serve as a hub for the collection and dissemination of information, he said.
The company has 55 offices in this country, three in Canada, and one each in London, Brussels, Brazil, Russia, India and China, Kesavan said
His goal is to see the company continue to “grow and expand” both “in Virginia and around the world.”
The company employs 3,700 people worldwide, 1,100 of whom are in Virginia, where it has operated for 26 years, Kesavan said.
McDonnell and Heath recognized several state officials who worked to bring ICF to Henry County, especially Jim Cheng, secretary of commerce and trade; Jim Duffey, secretary of technology; and Mary Rae Carter of Penhook, deputy secretary for rural economic development, all of whom were present at the announcement.
Also having roles in sealing the deal were the EDC; the Virginia Economic Development Partnership; the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission; Mid Atlantic Broadband Cooperative; the Henry County Board of Supervisors and chairwoman Debra Buchanan; county staff; city officials and many others, they said.
“All worked together” to bring ICF to Martinsville-Henry County and away from other states that were highly competitive, McDonnell said of Georgia, Maryland and West Virginia for the project. Tennessee was the chief competitor, he added.
An incentive package, coupled with other factors including Virginia’s business rating and the area’s quality of life, prompted the company to expand in the commonwealth, McDonnell said.
The company will receive a $500,000 grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund and $2.1 million from the tobacco commission. ICF also is eligible to receive benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, which is administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. The Virginia Department of Business Assistance (VDBA) will provide funding and services to support the company’s recruitment and training activities through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program, McDonnell said.
Judy McClenny, business development manager with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), first brought the company to the attention of local economic developers on Sept. 3, Heath and McDonnell said.
McClenny, who attended Monday’s announcement, said she considered “the parameters of the project ... the company’s needs and the community’s assets” before she contacted the EDC.
“I can’t emphasize the amount of work” local officials “put into the project,” said Jay A. Langston, a senior project support manager in the research division of the VEDP. Langston said he assisted McClenny.
"The locality is where the deal happens, and this is a good fit for Martinsville and Henry County,” McClenny said.
Isabel Reiff, an ICF employee in the corporate growth group, has been with the company for 22 of its 42 years, she said.
“We say we’ve grown up together,” and the company’s local expansion “is a very big deal for us,” she said.
The project also “is a great sign the economy is bouncing back after a decade-plus of job losses,” McDonnell said.
“Virginia is and has been ranked as the number 1 state” for business in the nation, McDonnell said. “Why would you want to go anywhere else?”
McDonnell also recognized 5th District U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham; state Sen. Roscoe Reynolds, D-Ridgeway; and Dels. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County, and Ward Armstrong, D-Collinsville, who attended the event.
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