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Major project will bring nearly 2,500 jobs to Wythe County, Virginia

Christian Fernsby |
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that because the Commonwealth has committed $8.5 million to upgrade infrastructure at Progress Park in Wythe County, a major joint venture has committed to build a manufacturing operation that projects to employ 2,500 people and produce up to 60 billion medical gloves a year.

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The actions would return manufacturing of key personal protective equipment (PPE) onshore to the United States from Asia, after global supply chains were disrupted early in the COVID 19 pandemic. The investment would represent the largest job creation in Southwest Virginia in a generation.

“These investments are leading to the largest job creation commitment Southwest Virginia has seen in a generation, and it’s a game changer for the Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “This is about investing to bring jobs back to the United States from overseas, and doing it right here in rural America. We can all be proud the Commonwealth’s investment is bringing these jobs back to America at this unique manufacturing campus. This can be transformational for all of Southwest Virginia.”

The Commonwealth’s investments will include $3 million to expand the Fort Chiswell Wastewater Plant, $1.5 million to extend public sewer infrastructure, and $4 million to build a water tank serving all of Progress Park. The water tank and plant upgrades will also serve the surrounding community in Wythe County. The infrastructure upgrades will make Progress Park more competitive for attracting a variety of significant manufacturing projects in the future.

As a direct result of the Commonwealth’s investments, Blue Star NBR, LLC and Blue Star AGI, Inc., a joint venture between Blue Star Manufacturing and American Glove Innovations (AGI), have committed to invest $714.1 million to establish an advanced, one of a kind nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) manufacturing facility and nitrile glove production operation in Wythe County’s Progress Park.

These facilities are expected to occupy more than 200 acres, and they have the potential to triple in size in future phases and incorporate multiple and contiguous large scale vertically integrated production plants. This investment would increase the raw material production and manufacturing of exclusively ‘Made in USA’ personal protection nitrile gloves. These gloves are currently manufactured primarily in Asia.

Virginia successfully competed with Tennessee and Texas for the project, which is expected to result in nearly 2,500 new jobs within three to five years.

Blue Star AGI is breaking ground on the world’s most innovative, advanced, eco conscious, efficient, automated, AI driven, and vertically integrated nitrile glove manufacturing facilities. The facilities would all be located on the same campus, which would optimize cost of goods, reduce freight, improve logistics, and accelerate overall speed to market.

Blue Star NBR produces nitrile butadiene rubber, an oil resistant synthetic rubber made from a copolymer of acrylonitrile and butadiene. The first NBR facility in Wythe County is expected to have an annual capacity of approximately 90,000 metric tons, which can support the production of up to 11 billion gloves annually.

The first of Blue Star AGI’s facilities aims to have a launch quantity between 5 and 8 billion gloves per year. The company expects to quickly and efficiently bring to market its additional glove production facilities with a full scale plan to reach 60 billion gloves per year. The focus will be predominantly on the North American market.

The company will produce for distributors and large end users in the healthcare, government, retail, and hospitality sectors. This production will meet ongoing demand and help mitigate hospital and front line worker exposures and supply chain shortages and breakdowns.

Nitrile glove manufacturing is primarily consolidated to Malaysia, Thailand, and China. Demand for nitrile gloves is currently at an all time high due to disruptions in the supply chain from COVID 19 outbreaks, long delivery times, ocean transportation risks, tariffs, and other challenges.

The nitrile glove market is expected to grow 9 percent annually through 2027, creating further need for increased production. Company officials say that the combination of Blue Star NBR’s supply of raw material, Blue Star Manufacturing’s glove manufacturing and sales experience, and AGI’s glove equipment manufacturing experience will create a partnership capable of competing domestically and globally in the nitrile glove market.

Blue Star NBR and Blue Star AGI’s vertical integration in Progress Park is expected to help the two companies avoid supply chain disruptions and market fluctuations in the price of NBR latex.

Blue Star NBR and Blue Star AGI will partner with Wytheville Community College for workforce training. The companies will also collaborate with Virginia Tech and other local educational institutions to recruit school graduates to help keep employment and careers within Virginia.


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