Virginia Forge Company to close in Buchanan

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BOTETOURT COUNTY (WSLS 10) - Virginia Forge, the largest single employer in the Town of Buchanan, announces it will close by the end of the year.

The company has been a part of the community since the early 1990's and has a workforce of more than 70 part-time and full-time workers.

This is the same company that said last year it was planning to expand its operations in the town.

The company didn't return WSLS 10's request for comment Friday, but spending time with business owners around the small town, everyone is worried about what the future will bring.

Myra Dancausse works right down the street from Virginia Forge at Mount Joy RV and Hardware.

She's already anticipating the impact this closing will have on her small town.

"It's going to hurt us. They get supplies from us, they go to local restaurants and they're members of the community, so it's definitely going to hurt the community when they've been here for 18 years, some of the older people may not be able to find jobs," said Dancausse.

People involved in Buchanan's administration say they weren't prepared for the news.

"It was a surprise when the plant manager called and offered the information that they would be closing, so we were surprised, expecting that they would be growing," said Town Manager Mary Zirkle.

Zirkle says she was told the closing is based on finances.

"What they were producing was being done overseas, so they're consolidating, as I understand, to the one plant that they have," said Zirkle.

Now, in just a few short months, dozens of employees need to find new jobs, and potentially, new careers.

"I know specifically one person has been there 18 years and that's her whole life, that's all she's known for the last 18 years, so to be able to go out and find another job, it's going to be hard," said Dancausse.

Zirkle says after the initial shock of the news, her office is now trying to stay positive, promoting the town's existing assets.

"We've had at least three restaurants come in over the past year and a lot of them have capitalized on the growth of the river. The upper James River water trail, we have a great boat launch here, and so as that has grown, we've tried to capitalize on that," said Zirkle.

Ultimately, Dancausse says recovery will need to involve a new company moving into the Virginia Forge building.

"The faster we can get the manufacturing plant un-vacant and get other opportunities in here it will definitely help the community and maybe help jobs as well," said Dancausse.

Zirkle says, while the property is still owned by Virginia Forge, one thing the town would like to see is a grocery opening up in the spot offering fresh food, something people in Buchanan currently have to travel for.

She says the company has also told her it will be working with the Virginia Employment Commission to help get it's workers back in business elsewhere.