McAuliffe bags Ger­man gro­cer and jobs for 700

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY LAURA VOZZELLA laura.vozzella@wash­post.com

rich­mond — Ger­man dis­count gro­cer Lidl will launch its ex­pan­sion into the U.S. mar­ket from Vir­ginia, cre­at­ing more than 700 jobs in Ar­ling­ton and Spot­syl­va­nia coun­ties as it es­tab­lishes an Amer­i­can head­quar­ters and dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter, Gov. Terry McAuliffe an­nounced Fri­day.

Lidl, one of the largest re­tail­ers in Europe, is ex­pected to in­vest $202 mil­lion to es­tab­lish its U.S. cor­po­rate head­quar­ters in Ar­ling­ton and a re­gional head­quar­ters and dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter in Spot­syl­va­nia County.

McAuliffe (D) ap­proved $7 mil­lion in in­cen­tive grants to seal the deal, which he an­nounced af­ter meet­ing with com­pany of­fi­cials at Lidl’s in­ter­na­tional head­quar­ters in Neckar­sulm, Ger­many. The gover­nor is lead­ing an 11-day, six-coun­try trade mission to Europe, part of his push to ex­pand and di­ver­sify Vir­ginia’s de­fense-heavy econ­omy.

“I was thrilled to meet with Lidl’s com­pany lead­ers in Ger­many to­day to close this tremen­dous deal,” he said in a state­ment Fri­day. “This is a sig­nif­i­cant win for Ar­ling­ton County and Spot­syl­va­nia County, and the jobs and eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity it will gen­er­ate will con­trib­ute di­rectly to my ad­min­is­tra­tion’s work build­ing a new Vir­ginia econ­omy. Lidl’s in­vest­ment demon­strates Vir­ginia’s abil­ity to at­tract com­pa­nies from all over the globe.”

McAuliffe has made eco­nomic devel­op­ment the cen­tral fo­cus of his ad­min­is­tra­tion since he lost a bit­terly par­ti­san fight over Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion in his fresh­man year as gover­nor.

Although he is en­er­getic and ex­ceed­ingly well con­nected, the for­mer Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair­man has been up against the “head winds” of fed­eral spend­ing cuts, as he of­ten puts it. Even though McAuliffe has reeled in cap­i­tal in­vest­ment at twice the rate of the past two gov­er­nors, the state had eco­nomic growth of 0 per­cent in 2014, ac­cord­ing to data re­leased this past week by the U.S. Com­merce Depart­ment.

In job cre­ation, the gover­nor has found a cause with bi­par­ti­san ap­peal, although the Repub­li­can­con­trolled Gen­eral As­sem­bly has grum­bled at times about his will­ing­ness to dole out in­cen­tive funds. In a smack at McAuliffe, the leg­is­la­ture this year re­named the Gover­nor’s Op­por­tu­nity Fund, mak­ing it the Com­mon­wealth Op­por­tu­nity Fund come July 1.

McAuliffe ap­proved $5 mil­lion in grants from that fund to as­sist Ar­ling­ton and Spot­syl­va­nia coun­ties with the Lidl project. He also ap­proved $2 mil­lion from the Vir­ginia Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment In­cen­tive Grant, a self-funded pro­gram that awards money to projects with large num­bers of em­ploy­ees and with wages that are far above the av­er­age for the area. Ad­di­tional funds and ser­vices to sup­port Lidl’s em­ployee train­ing pro­grams are to be pro­vided through the Vir­ginia Jobs In­vest­ment Pro­gram.

McAuliffe and his staff worked on the deal along with county of­fi­cials and the Vir­ginia Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Part­ner­ship.

The Lidl deal is the sec­ond coup of the trip. Ear­lier in the week, McAuliffe fi­nal­ized a deal with a Welsh com­pany, Ele­phant Auto In­sur­ance, to bring a $2 mil­lion ex­pan­sion and 1,173 jobs to sub­ur­ban Rich­mond.

Lidl plans to in­vest $77 mil­lion to cre­ate a U.S. cor­po­rate head­quar­ters that will em­ploy 500 in Ar­ling­ton. And it plans to plow $125 mil­lion into the Spot­syl­va­nia re­gional head­quar­ters and dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter, where 200 peo­ple are ex­pected to work.

Lidl op­er­ates nearly 10,000 stores in 26 coun­tries through­out Europe. It is part of the Sch­warz Group, the largest re­tailer in Europe.

“We are ex­cited to take this im­por­tant step to launch Lidl’s ex­pan­sion into the United States and look for­ward to in­tro­duc­ing Amer­i­can con­sumers to a dif­fer­ent type of shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Bren­dan Proc­tor, pres­i­dent of Lidl U.S.

The com­pany plans to open its first U.S. stores no later than 2018, said John Fro­man, public re­la­tions and mar­ket­ing manager for MGP Re­tail Con­sult­ing. He said that the com­pany is not ready to an­nounce the lo­ca­tions of those stores and that store sizes are un­der devel­op­ment.

PA­TRIK STOL­LARZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE VIA GETTY IMAGES

This Lidl dis­count su­per­mar­ket in Essen, Ger­many, is op­er­ated by one of Europe’s largest re­tail­ers, which has agreed to base the gro­cery chain’s U.S. op­er­a­tions in Vir­ginia.

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