February 05, 1997

Lila White
(804) 692-3110

Jill Lawrence
Virginia Economic Development Partnership
(804) 371-0049
Jill Lawrence
(804) 371-0049
Governor Allen Welcomes New Small Businesses
-- Three Companies Decide to Call Virginia Home --

Richmond - Governor George Allen today announced that three companies have decided to locate their operations in Virginia, creating 221 new jobs with initial investments totaling over $1.4 million. The City of Norfolk will host a new cabinet manufacturing company called Odessa Black Sea, and Affinity Group Underwriters will operate in Henrico County. Playgrounds Inc. will locate a plant in Fairfax County.

"I am pleased to welcome these three companies to Virginia. Small businesses like these fuel job creation and are the engine of Virginia's economic prosperity, " said Governor Allen. "These investments show that the Commonwealth's pro-opportunity, pro-growth business environment is attractive not only to large corporations, but also in fostering the entrepreneurial spirit of companies such as Affinity Group Underwriters, Odessa Black Sea, and Playgrounds Inc."

Odessa Black Sea has hired 25 employees at their Norfolk facility, and plans to create as many as 150 new jobs during 1997. The firm manufactures stock cabinets from Baltic birch plywood imported from Ukraine. The $900,000 investment will not only provide quality jobs, but also on-site daycare, flexible hiring for handicapped and welfare workers, and academic initiatives to 25 needy youths each year. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership and Forward Hampton Roads assisted the company with its decision."

Affinity Group Underwriters, a newly-formed managing underwriter of group insurance programs, has decided to locate its corporate headquarters at the Innsbrook Corporate Center in Henrico County. Establishing the facility will result in 16 new jobs and an undisclosed initial investment. The company develops and manages insurance portfolios nationwide for Allmerica Financial Corporation.

Stephen L. Wyss, Managing Director of Affinity Group Underwriters, cited Virginia's central East Coast location and quality of life as primary factors in the company's decision. Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. also competed for the site. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the Greater Richmond Partnership assisted with the project.

Playgrounds, Inc., will relocate its current manufacturing facility from White Plains, Maryland, to Fairfax County, Virginia, creating 20 jobs initially, and ultimately 55 jobs over the next year, with investments totaling $500,000. The company manufactures playground equipment using southern pine wood and recycled plastic and markets to the entire United States.

"Virginia's highway system surpasses all surrounding jurisdictions, and that played a major role in our decision," said Steve Bender, Chief Financial Officer of Playgrounds, Inc.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority assisted the company with its decision. The Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide work-force training services.

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