JTI - first U.S. tobacco processing plant in Danville, Virginia..

October 8, 2009 - Japan Tobacco International (JTI) will open its facility in Danville, Virginia at the the former Dan River Distribution Center.

Tobacco jobs have been on a steady decline in the region, but there's news of a comeback. An international company has picked Danville as the site for its first tobacco processing plant in the U.S. Drive through Danville's warehouse district and you'll see relics of what was the world's biggest tobacco market.

"Tobacco bought food for my family and many families. It bought clothes. It sent me to school," said Sherman Saunders, Danville's mayor. Saunders remembers when southside's economy depended on tobacco. That's unlikely to happen again, but for the first time in years, tobacco jobs are coming back to the region.

"This is the kind of industry that Danville has been wanting to attract," said Steve Daniels, president of JTI Leaf Services.

Japan Tobacco International will hire 39 full-time, and 150 seasonal workers to run a processing plant at the Riverview Industrial Park. "Our intention is to be operational next August," said Daniels.

When up and running, the plant will work with local farmers and others nearby to buy and process tobacco leaves. "We'll receive it, blend it, process it, and store it until it ships out to the international markets," said Daniels.

"We already have people trained that can step in those jobs right away," said Del. Danny Marshall, 14th District. Those workers lost their jobs when tobacco left southside the first time. JTI can't promise that won't happen again.

"The tobacco industry is almost always in somewhat of a state of flux," said Daniels.
For now, it's on an upswing, giving southside tobacco another day in the sun.

JTI is the third largest tobacco company in the world, operating in more than 120 countries.

Reference: Japan Tobacco International to open facility in Danville, WDBJ7.com, 10/8/2009.