Lego plans to invest at least $1 billion to build its only US manufacturing facility in Chesterfield County, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced Wednesday.
The Virginia factory — a 1.7-million-square-foot behemoth that will be Lego’s seventh manufacturing facility globally and supply America — is expected to create more than 1,700 jobs over 10 years and is expected to open for production in mid-2025. Construction will begin, along with hiring, later this year, but an exact month has yet to be determined.
“This world-class facility is being built brick by brick,” Youngkin told a crowd of business and political leaders, senior Lego officials and the US Ambassador to Denmark at the Science Museum of Virginia. “This is the future of manufacturing, and it’s right here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
The 90-year-old global toymaker hasn’t had a factory in North America since it closed its first in Enfield, Connecticut, and shifted production to Mexico almost 15 years ago. With the US being a key market, the goal of the expansion is to shorten supply chain issues and reduce the company’s carbon footprint – a lofty goal that, according to Lego Group CEO Niels B. Christiansen, translates into a reduction of emissions by 37% by 2032.
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Talks of moving the Lego factory to Virginia date back at least to October, when Governor Ralph Northam was in office.
Christiansen said his commitment to ensuring the toy company’s facilities are environmentally responsible is featured in public reports. He said the Chesterfield factory will be carbon neutral, meaning carbon emissions will be offset through projects such as renewable energy efforts.
Two of the company’s key ambitions for the site are to make it “highly energy efficient,” with 100% supplemented by on-site renewable sources to minimize energy use. The factory will also be coupled with a solar farm, which will be built by 2025 and will generate the energy needed to run the facility.
“Sustainability is super important to us. When you serve children, it can be nothing but…important. The world and planet they inherit must be a place for them to live,” said Christiansen. “I can tell you that every week I get many letters from children who write to me with their concerns, their wishes and their ideas of what to do.”
In 2020, Lego announced the elimination of single-use plastics and proposed a mission to make all of its core products from sustainable materials by 2030.
The move comes years after nearly 5 million Legos were lost at sea when a 28-foot wave hit a cargo ship in 1997. Scientists have estimated that a single Lego block could take anywhere from 100 to 1,300 years to decompose.
The facility will be located in Chesterfield’s Meadowville Technology Park, which has been in existence for more than 20 years and is adjacent to I-295 and the James River. In 2020, the county provided $3 million of a total of $21 million used to purchase 353 acres to expand the park.
Online Chesterfield Records valued the country at about $3.5 million.
Garrett Hart, director of Chesterfield Economic Development, said the partnership with Lego shows why having project-ready sites is critical for the county. The only viable option was Meadowville.
“It took us several months to get here, but the first day when they saw the site and met us at the site, they chose the site,” Hart said. “They only told us that about a month ago.”
Chesterfield residents have voiced criticism of another technology park called Upper Magnolia Green, which will include some plastics manufacturing.
Lego manufactures more than 100 billion plastic building blocks every year.
A written question and answer the company provided to the media read, “Is it environmentally sustainable to spend $1 billion to build a factory that will produce millions of tons of plastic?” Lego said the bricks were “Sustainable by nature” because they are passed from one generation to the next.
The Q&A also appeared to distance the company from the governor’s push to ban “critical race theory” in K-12 schools — declaring, “We stand against racism and inequality.”
Another question in the Q&A was: “How can/does the LEGO Group as a brand support the current governor’s political agenda?”
It replied: “This is a long-term, multi-generational investment that goes beyond the politics of today, global or local.”
It also highlighted how Lego has helped children develop creativity and problem-solving skills.
Lego executives didn’t share whether potential tax breaks made Virginia a more attractive option for housing its only US facility, instead citing the county’s transportation networks, how the state was adapting to the company’s mission and the opportunity to be in communities to invest while expanding its production network.
However, in a press release, Youngkin’s office, which the LEGO Group shares, will be eligible to receive $56 million in performance grants for large employment and capital projects, subject to General Assembly approval.
The MEI Project Approval Commission was established under Virginia law to “review the funding of individual economic development incentive packages, including but not limited to packages providing tax incentives.”
“These incentives are fueled by the economic growth that Lego will bring and this is a framework that we are using to make these kinds of great deals with companies that are actually bringing economic growth, more jobs and consequently more tax revenue to the county and the Commonwealth,” Youngkin said.
The announcement follows two other recent economic development wins for Virginia, when Boeing and Raytheon Technologies announced they would be relocating their headquarters to Northern Virginia.
Christiansen couldn’t say Wednesday if there are plans to open a Lego store in Chesterfield to accompany the site.
Governor Youngkin announces that Lego will invest $1 billion to build its first US manufacturing facility in Chesterfield County, which will include a solar farm.
“This is the future of manufacturing,” said Youngkin
— Sabrina Moreno (@sabrinaamorenoo) June 15, 2022