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Halifax County IDA seeks $5 million for tire research center at VIR

SoVaNow.com / August 04, 2010
Halifax County will ask for $5 million from the Virginia Tobacco Commission to establish a National Tire Research Center at Virginia International Raceway, a project that local officials believe could create up to 183 new jobs by the end of the decade.

The Industrial Development Authority gained the approval of the Board of Supervisors Monday for the application, which will be submitted to the tobacco commission for its consideration by Aug. 16.

IDA Executive Director Mike Sexton said the NTRC will draw on the resources of Virginia Tech, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, VIR and General Motors, which has pledged $5 million as prepayment for its use of the facility in the first five years.

GM also is considering a requirement that tire testing on GM vehicles be conducted at VIR, Sexton said.

If it comes together, the tire research center will give Southside Virginia another asset to show off as it courts automotive manufacturers and suppliers.

“We think we can compete effectively for one of these [auto] mega-projects,” said Sexton. “It’s an important component. When you put the tire center at VIR with GM in there, it’s like — whoa.”

Partners in the venture would include the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, the Virginia Tech Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in partnership with the General Motors Corporation. The proposed center is expected to generate more than $12 million in testing and research expenditures within five years and create up to 183 new jobs by 2020.

According to figures furnished by the IDA, equipment purchases, the cost of construction or modification of a building at VIR to house the equipment and personnel, and expenses for initial operations will cost $15 million. Virginia Tech will cover personnel and facility costs of $2.8 million as well as contribute another $2 million toward the equipment purchase of two testing machines under the proposal announced by the IDA.

General Motors will provide $5 million at the inception of the project as prepayment for facility usage in the first five years, and Halifax County is committing $200,000 to the project.

The project is summarized as “a functioning National Research Center that applies new emerging technologies to tires that will result in significant advancements in fuel efficiency and tire performance as well as educating many engineers in tire and vehicle technology. This should have a direct impact on the tire and automobile industry as well as a direct and indirect impact on the local economy.”

The application executive summary does not spell out a timeline for completion of the project.

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