Home Analysis: Does Northrop Grumman come to Waynesboro if Jim Wood is still podcasting?
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Analysis: Does Northrop Grumman come to Waynesboro if Jim Wood is still podcasting?

Chris Graham
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The big local economy news is that Northrop Grumman is going to be building a $200 million facility in Waynesboro that will bring more than 300 jobs paying an average of just a tick under $100,000 a year.

Wonder if Waynesboro wins the bidding for this windfall if the city’s vice mayor, Jim Wood, is still doing his weekly podcast featuring sophomoric slurs about Pete Buttigieg and Nancy Pelosi, and nonsense rants about Jan. 6, Jews owning all the banks and the rest.

We’ll probably never know.

The quotes from everybody in the Nov. 14 press release about the news – Mayor Lana Williams, Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Northrop Grumman President and CEO Kathy Warden – emphasized the positives to the story.

Warden is “pleased to expand our technology presence in the Commonwealth.” Youngkin touted how the decision by Northrop Grumman to locate in Waynesboro “will provide job opportunities that attract and retain high-quality talent and create a transformational ripple effect for the entire region.”

And what else could Williams say but this: “This investment brings economic growth and new employment opportunities to the city and region. We look forward to a long and mutually rewarding relationship.”

Waynesboro desperately needs the good-paying jobs that are coming.

The Gateway to the Valley has been struggling for the past 30-plus years to recover from the loss of manufacturing jobs from the now-shuttered DuPont and General Electric plants.

At their height, the DuPont and GE plants employed more than 8,000 people in Waynesboro at jobs paying well above the manufacturing industry average.

The reality today is Waynesboro has a median household income that sits at 58.6 percent of the state average, according to updated Census Bureau data.

Job #1 for the various Waynesboro City Councils seated since the mid-1980s has been trying to find replacements for the DuPont and GE jobs that we lost to global economic realities.

Oddly, though, what we actually had  was years of debate among city leaders over whether or not we should do some of the things that we ended up doing toward that end – buying land along Interstate 64 for an industrial park, committing the city to building out the infrastructure, most notably, roads, to make that land marketable.

More oddly, a couple of the people who stood in the way as those debates were being waged – former City Councilmen Reo Hatfield and Frank Lucente – are now trying to take credit for the development that they actively questioned and is now finally coming to fruition years after they were long gone from the local political scene.

Wood, at least, isn’t joining his political fellow travelers in trying to pat himself on the back for the Northrop Grumman news – honestly, the more he stays on the sidelines when it comes to headlines, the better it is for Waynesboro.

Wood does deserve credit for having the sense to end his incendiary podcast in favor of doing the job he was narrowly elected to do.

Too many people on that side of the ideological aisle – all the way up to and including Donald Trump – think politics is about demonizing the other side to score political points.

It’s not a game.

Just here locally, 300 jobs at roughly $100,000 a year is a $30 million annual boost to the Waynesboro economy.

The multiplier effect means a rising tide for more than just those 300 boats.

We can hope, in addition, that the people who come to town with Northrop Grumman in the next couple of years will want their tax dollars invested in better schools and better public services.

I’ll give Jim Wood credit, then, for having the sense to know to shut his mouth about Buttigieg, Pelosi, Jan. 6 and the Jews in time for Waynesboro to be able to take its first big step forward in a generation.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].