ABC13 Special Report: Missed Opportunities Part 2: Danville's Thriving Newcomers

Danville, VA - It takes a lot to rebuild a struggling economy, and we're taking a look at just how tough that can be.

Amid the disappointments, there are several bright spots in Danville's economy that have been boosted by grant money.
For many years in Danville, tobacco was king, and Japan Tobacco International hopes to make that true again.

Plant Manager Wayne McGregor joined the company in 2010.
He's worked in tobacco all of his life, but took a job in North Carolina when Danville's industry disappeared. For him, this was an opportunity to bring his skills back home.

"There was a lot of talent in Danville concerning the tobacco industry. Now, that talent is being used, and I'm sure there are a lot of people just like me that are thankful for the opportunity, " McGregor said.
The company employs 300 people - 50 full-time and 250 seasonal. That's well beyond the 189 jobs they had hoped to create after receiving $350,000 in state funding in 2009.
"We've been in a growth mode literally from day one. We've enjoyed a lot of success and been very fortunate, " said JTI Leaf Services President Steve Daniels.
President Steve Daniels says part of that success has been giving back to the community.
"We said in the early days that we wanted to be good corporate citizens here in Danville, " he said.
JTI recently gave the a city a half a million dollar grant to build a scenic fountain in the River District, which leads right into Danville's historic tobacco warehouse district.
"It's the gateway into the old historic tobacco district downtown, so for us that takes on a special purpose," Daniels said.
City officials say that is just the kind of civic engagement they hope for when bringing new companies into the area.
"A lot of them are very thankful for the help that we've given them, and they want to figure out ways that they can help the community by paying back, " said Economic Development Director Jeremy Stratton, and JTI is in good company with their recent growth in our area.
EBI, a supplier for IKEA, came in 2009 and has become one of Danville's largest employers with more than 500 employees.
Just this year, CBN Secure Technologies out of Canada announced their second expansion since 2009 to meet increased demand for their identification systems.
For people like McGregor, who have patiently waited for good jobs to come back to the area, these companies are a sign of hope for the future of our economy.
"I can see a young person coming into this company and not even realizing the opportunity that could be here for them. I think it will continue to grow," McGregor said.