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Medical glove makers promise big investment at Wythe's Progress Park
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Medical glove makers promise big investment at Wythe's Progress Park

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U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith speaks during a major job announcement for Progress Park. 

Wythe County’s Lot 24 paid off big Monday with economic news that strengthens the county’s future with the promise of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment.

Blue Star NBR and American Glove Innovations announced Monday afternoon a joint venture that would pump $714 million into the county and create 2,500 jobs. The plant, which is expected to be north of 200 acres, will ramp up to produce up to 60 billion medical nitrile gloves annually. Initially, Blue Star-AGI facilities will produce between 5 billion and 8 billion gloves per year. However, the company expects to scale up quickly.

Officials said that the production capacity will help meet the ongoing demand for personal protective equipment, especially that which is made in the US. Global supply chains for gloves and other protective equipment were disrupted early in the COVID-19 pandemic, creating worldwide shortages.

Nitrile glove manufacturing is primarily consolidated to Malaysia, Thailand, and China. Virginia competed with Tennessee and Texas to bring the companies here. The result, according to Gov. Ralph Northam is a “game-changer.”

The governor said the promised jobs in the most Southwest Virginia has seen in a generation. He pointed out that the companies – Blue Star NBR, LLC and Blue Star-AGI Inc. – have the potential to triple in size in future phases.

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As part of $8.5 million committed by the state, the county will benefit from a $3 million expansion of the Fort Chiswell Wastewater Plant, a $1.5 million public sewer extension and $4 million to build a water tank serving all of Progress Park.

Blue Start NBR founder Ken Mosher was part of the team that invented nitrile exam gloves in 1990 and saw the manufacturing move to Asia.

“…Things have come full-circle,” he said of the return of manufacturing to the United States.

“We felt that there was a very timely opportunity to not be dependent on the whims of Asia when we have right here in America all the skills, capabilities and intelligence to be market leading, self-sufficient and highly competitive,” Blue Star-AGI Co-Chief Executive Officer Marc Jason said.

The governor’s press release said that the nitrile glove market is expected to grow 9 percent annually through 2027.

To help meet worker demand, Wytheville Community College is being tapped to provide work force training. The companies also plan to collaborate with Virginia Tech and other local schools to recruit engineering school graduates.

“A project of this scope is why we invested so heavily in the development of Lot 24 in this park,” said Wythe County Board of Supervisors Chair Brian W. Vaught. “Today, that investment begins to pay off. Wythe County and its partners have worked extensively to make sure the project needs are met as companies establish operations here at the crossroads of I-81 and I-77. We wish Blue Star NBR and Blue Star AGI a long and prosperous future.”

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