By IAN MUNRO
Daily News-Record 9/20/19
MOUNT CRAWFORD — Years of planning, 18 months of construction and more than $41.6 million later, the new Inter-Change cold storage facility in Mount Crawford is operational.
Gov. Ralph Northam and Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring joined state Sens. Emmett Hanger, R- Mount Solon, and Mark Obenshain, R- Rockingham, InterChange leaders and Rockingham County Supervisor Bill Kyger for speeches before the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday.
“It will do so much to support our food and beverage industry — and we know that that in turn supports our farmers,” said Ring.
The 250,000 square foot warehouse has room for 30,000 pallets and will nearly quadruple the company’s cold storage capabilities, according to previous Daily News-Record reports.
Agriculture is the largest industry in Rockingham County and the Commonwealth, providing work for 334,000 Virginians.
“To be able to see what has happened because of hard work and dedication of this company and this community — it’s truly huge,” Ring said.
The site will also employ 88 people, bringing the company’s total payroll
to about 200 local workers.
Northam reiterated his administration’s commitment to job creation and being a business-friendly state during his remarks.
“To be able to come here and announce the opening of a new business that will provide close to 100 new jobs — that’s an exciting day anywhere in Virginia,” Northam said.
Creating and promoting jobs helps to build a better business environment in the Commonwealth, he said.
“It’s all about identifying what the jobs of the 21st century are and then training our youth for those jobs,” Northam said.
The project received money from a number of groups, including $300,000 from both Rockingham County and an Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development grant, $650,000 from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Economic Development Access Fund and $450,000 from the Rail Industrial Access Program.
The cold storage operation is the fi rst purpose built cold storage facility built in the area in the past 20 years and the first purpose built cold storage facility Inter-Change has built, said Devon Anders, president of InterChange.
The company operates other cold storage facilities, but they were retrofitted for purpose.
Rockingham County and the Virginia Department of Transportation worked on the 1- mile road extension up to the site, and Anders thanked the groups for their support.
The section of Crowe Drive to the facility is 48 feet wide to accommodate for trucks entering and leaving.
Already, about 100 trucks access the site every day, Anders said.
Even as operations are underway at the facility, there are plans to keep improving the site.
Slated additions include a blast freezer, solar panels and a rail spur to connect to the nearby railway line.
A blast freezer can freeze food products faster than traditional methods, and in turn, reduces chances of contamination by microbes, Anders said.
The blast freezer will be a value add for InterChange, he said, as many local poultry producers have a need for blast freezing.
The facility is also the first site of its kind on the planet to use Jungheinrich semi-automated forklifts.
The lifts use radio frequency identification, known as RFID, to drive along the narrow aisles of stacked goods and can grab pallets with minimal work from the operator.
The machines receive orders from the warehouse management system to retrieve pallets from temporary storage.
Similar models used in the company’s native Germany operate completely autonomously, Anders said.
The lifts could eventually be upgraded to be fully autonomous, but as of now, InterChange employees drive the Jungheinrichs.
InterChange is again investing in solar, as it has throughout the Valley. In April, the company unveiled a $3 million project for four of its buildings in Mount Crawford.
The infrastructure of the building is prepared for solar, and Anders said they anticipate to buy the panels later this year, with installation completed by mid-2020.
“This is truly a milestone for InterChange,” Anders said. “This project has been a dream for us for many years.”