Vector Industries opens new location: ‘Real milestone’ in nonprofit’s history

Months of work, and years of planning, came to fruition Monday at the new home for Vector Industries in Waynesboro.

The unique nonprofit business, which employs and trains persons with diverse disabilities to enable them to reach their potential as productive community members, and provides services to a number of Shenandoah Valley industrial and manufacturing partners, is now housed in an 82,000-square-foot facility on Hopeman Parkway.

Vector Industries had long since outgrown the 27,000 square feet of space that had housed its operations in a complex of buildings on Fairfax Avenue since 1969.

“Today marks a real milestone in Vector Industries’ history,” Vector Industries board of directors member Bill Hausrath said. “We’ve gone from a complex of buildings that we’d been in for a number of years, that had us in different buildings and very much hampered our ability to grow, to this facility. Many of our clients had needs for extensive storage, and this building brings all of our employees together into one building, and gives us a wonderful opportunity to offer to our clients tremendous storage and handling capabilities and using our hands and our labor to supply them with something that helps their business grow.”

Vector Industries CEO Chrissy Johnston led a quick tour of the new facility and pointed to the advantages of the new location.

“This is 27,000 square feet just in this high bay area of our new facility,” Johnston said during the walk and talk. “The products that we’re handling these days take up more physical space than what we used to be able to handle. So we were prohibited from doing work for a lot of companies because we didn’t have the room for their products.

The Hopeman Parkway location was bustling on Monday, and it felt like anything other than a first day at a new location with all the work going on. Board vice chairman Robert Wade, for one, was impressed with how quickly the staff and employees were able to transition from getting acclimated to their new space to get back to work as usual.

“You can see, they’re here this morning, they’re already enthused, already in the daily process of taking care of what needs to be taking place. So it’s happening already,” Wade said.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for us. For those of us on the board, we’re just thrilled that we were able to put it all together and come together and make this work. It’s been quite a process,” Wade said.

Staff and the board of directors had identified the need for additional space as a priority in recent years. The board closed on the Hopeman Parkway facility in January, and set the staff on the path toward getting the building ready to accommodate its needs.

“It was a situation where you’ve got to try to keep the business going while undertaking such a huge opportunity. The team did a great job of continuing to operate, in fact, exceeding expectations, all the while building out such a large location, and doing it well,” board chairman Nathan Robson said.

Even before the doors were opened, the new location started to pay off, according to Johnston.

“A lot of new customers have seen this facility, and they have confidence in us, and they’ve entrusted us with their products. We’ve picked up a lot of customers in the last six months just by showing them the future of Vector,” Johnston said.

Employees streamed into the building before 8 a.m. Monday to check out the new digs, which include an expanded lunch and break room and upgraded restroom facilities.

The extra space to get work done is also key to employees.

“Before we’d have to shut down one job to do another job, and with deadlines, that would cause a time strain. We still managed to get it through, but this makes it a whole lot easier. It’s all around just a great improvement,” Vector employee Kevin Mitchell said.

David Tanner, the director of operations and engineering at Vector Industries, said the new location represents “a good opportunity for Vector to grow and to show what we’re capable of doing, and hopefully prove to ourselves that we can do greater and bigger things.”

“I’ve been here for 12 years, and to see the place grow to where it is now, to see the employees get what they deserve, it just warms my heart and thrills me to death,” Tanner said.

Johnston said employees had been looking to the big move “for many, many, many years.”

“To see the smiles on everybody’s faces when they got off the bus this morning for their first day at our new facility was phenomenal,” Johnston said.

The effort was boosted by the support of individual, business and corporate donors and Vector’s manufacturing partners, “and most significantly the employees here at Vector Industries.”

“Not just the employees that are here today, but the employees that have made a difference for the last 40-plus years of this organization, providing much-needed work to area manufacturers,” Johnston said. “As you can see, we provide great work, and all of that work has resulted in enough profit to make this building possible.

“This has been a long time in the making, and we never thought it would happen, but here we are,” Johnston said.

– Story by Chris Graham