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Virginia Homes to reopen, hire back staff

South Boston News / June 26, 2019
Virginia Homes Building Systems, a business mainstay in Boydton for a half century before the modular housing plant closed last month, will reopen under its original owner, South Hill businessman R.T. “Tommy” Arnold.

The factory, located at the corner of Madison Street and U.S. 58, was shuttered in May and its operations moved to Pennsylvania by the prior ownership, Texas-based Stackit Design-Build, which acquired Virginia Homes from Arnold in 2016. In the wake of the closing, Arnold has retaken control of the Boydton plant and will restart production there on July 8 with many of the same staff that has worked for the company for decades.

Arnold said he “felt a calling to do something” after learning that the employees who were let go from the Boydton factory were having difficulty finding new jobs. “The building was here, the people were here and we started Virginia Homes of Boydton and hired everybody back.”

Arnold emphasized that “everybody almost to the man is coming back on board.”

The revitalized company will initially employ around 35 people with plans to grow from there. By spring, Arnold said he hopes to double the number of employees. “We are going to put Mecklenburg County back to work,” Arnold said.

The turnaround is welcome news for Boydton, which had relied on Virginia Homes for manufacturing employment and payroll for generations. After Stackit Design-Build announced that the plant would close in May, town leadership said they felt as if a big part of Boydton was gone.

Virginia Homes has employed countless local residents over the years, including Town Mayor Johnny Kirkland, who worked there as a teenager, and Vice Mayor Tinker Gill.

“When we heard they would be closing, we were all upset that this staple of Boydton would be leaving,” said Kirkland.

“Now they are back [and] we could not be more excited,” Kirkland said.

Despite assurances from former CEO Phil Hickman that he’d arranged alternate employment for Virginia Homes workers with another local modular building company, laid-off employees reported afterwards that they were unable to obtain work in similar positions.

Arnold’s new vision calls for the factory to produce smaller, more affordable homes instead of the larger modular units that were being manufactured by Stackit Design-Build. Arnold said the new designs are the type of home that a young married couple or older retired couple looking to downsize would want. He added that the prices for these homes would be close to if not cheaper than area rent payments.

He said he’s also working with local lenders to secure financing options for purchasers through the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and the Veterans Administration (VA).

When Hickman sold Virginia Homes to a Pennsylvania company, Arnold said he retained ownership of the factory building and everything inside, including equipment and building materials.

Still, Arnold said once he decided to reopen the Boydton factory, there were a lot of moving parts to address. Before production can begin, employees are busy working on insurance, taxes, codes, getting payroll accounts set up, and making sure everything is ready to go.

Longtime employees T.G. “Tinker” Gill, Shirley Ashworth and Bill Hamlin will be the backbone of the operation. Arnold was quick to praise the people around him as being an integral part of getting the operation off the ground: “It takes everybody working together.”

Arnold says the salesperson who was working there previously is coming back to go on the road and they also have a new purchasing agent coming in. The team is also working on dealer organization and regrouping of the production line. “Things are coming along right well,” Arnold said. He also says they already have orders backed up, so there is work ready to go when the plant restarts operations next month.

There are no upgrades or modifications needed inside the plant or to the existing equipment before Virginia Homes can begin to produce its new designs, according to Arnold.

Arnold founded Virginia Homes in March 1969 and retired in 2016 after selling the company. He says he’s excited by this new opportunity: “I am looking forward to it. I am having a good time.”

The plant has been at its current location in Boydton since day one, Arnold added, though for the first six months, the office staff worked out of the basement of the old Park Motor Company in Boydton while construction was finished at the plant. In its 50 years of existence, Arnold says Virginia Homes has produced over 17,000 housing units that were installed up and down the East Coast, “from Maine to Florida.”

Arnold believes his company is one of the oldest continuously existing modular home manufacturers in the United States.

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