RICHMOND, VA (STL.News) Governor Ralph Northam announced that Lawrence Brothers, Inc., an industry leader in battery tray fabrication and manufacturing of motive power trays, ground support systems, and transformer components, will invest $3.2 million to expand its operation in Tazewell County. The company will upgrade and modernize machinery and equipment to increase capacity and double production at its facility at 203 Lawrence Road, creating 40 new jobs.
“We are dedicated to providing a skilled manufacturing workforce so Virginia companies like Lawrence Brothers can continue contributing to the growth of this important sector,” said Governor Northam. “Supporting existing businesses as they adapt and modernize is key to maintaining a strong and resilient economy as we rebound from the pandemic, and we appreciate the company’s commitment to Tazewell County and our Commonwealth.”
Founded in 1974 by Jim and Dale Lawrence in Bluefield, Virginia, Lawrence Brothers, Inc. began building mine battery trays for Exide Battery, today known as EnerSys. Forty-five years later, under the direction of husband-and-wife team Mark and Amalia Lawrence, the company has expanded to more than 80,000 square feet with over 40 employees. Lawrence Brothers initially focused on manufacturing heavy machinery and equipment for the mining industry and has diversified its products to include motive power trays, ground support systems, and transformer components such as core frames and electrical control panels. These battery systems are found worldwide in equipment manufactured by JOY/Komatsu, General Electric, and others in many applications from mining operations to motive power and material handling. Lawrence Brothers is currently owned by husband-and-wife team Fernando Protti and Melanie Protti-Lawrence and continues to be a family owned-and-operated manufacturer dedicated to self-sustainability, growth, and diversification.
“Lawrence Brothers is an important employer and corporate partner in Tazewell County, and this new investment shows that Southwest Virginia’s business climate and workforce can support business growth over many decades,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “We are gratified Lawrence Brothers is investing in new machinery and equipment that will secure its continued success.”
“When my grandfather started this business, he did so to meet a need within the coal mining industry,” said Melanie Protti-Lawrence, President of Lawrence Brothers. “The Appalachian roots to coal run deep in my family, and Virginia has allowed us the opportunity to continue to pursue the dream of a family legacy. We pride ourselves in providing meaningful career opportunities with a comprehensive benefits package that draws from the best and brightest of the regional workforce, and allows us to retain that talent through equitable, inclusive, and empowering management. We hope to continue collaborating with regional partners to further enhance career development and job skills training. As a partner with other manufacturers regionally and statewide, Lawrence Brothers is resolute in our expectation to work with other visionaries and business leaders to help propel our region toward independence and prosperity.”
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Tazewell County, the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA), the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority (VSBFA), and the Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission to secure the project for Virginia. Lawrence Brothers, Inc. is eligible to receive state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Job Creation Grant, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Funding and services to support the company’s employee recruitment and training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.
“The Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority works to not only bring new business into the county, but also to help existing businesses with expansion,” said Kyle Hurt, Chairman of the Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority. “Studies have shown that the majority of new jobs come from existing businesses. Lawrence Brothers has been a Tazewell County business for many years, and we grateful that they chose Tazewell County for its continued growth.”
“The VCEDA was pleased to provide a $400,000 loan to Lawrence Brothers, Inc. to assist with the purchase of equipment for this project,” said VCEDA Executive Director and General Counsel Jonathan S. Belcher. “This is the second time that we have assisted the company with expansions in the last two years, and Lawrence Brothers’ ability to diversify and grow its business is a true testament to the strength of its owners, employees, and the favorable business environment found in our region.”
“Part of the VSBFA’s mission is to support rural localities like Bluefield,” said VSBFA Regional Lending Manager Linda Kay Tackett. “Our team was proud to assist Lawrence Brothers with equipment financing that not only allows them to diversify its product line and grow its customer base, but also create critical new jobs in Southwest Virginia.”
“The Cumberland Plateau Board was glad to be able to approve a $250,000 loan to Lawrence Brothers to help the company diversify its business, thus creating 40 new jobs,” said James A. Baldwin, Executive Director of the Cumberland Plateau Board. “Because of relaxed Revolving Loan Fund options approved by the U.S. Economic Development Administration due to the pandemic, we were able to provide more favorable terms to this local business to strengthen the company’s long-term commitment to the region.”
“Today’s announcement is encouraging news confirming that Southwest Virginia is making significant progress in efforts to diversify the economy,” said Delegate James Morefield. “I commend Lawrence Brothers for making the commitment to expand, and all of the economic development organizations for making this possible. The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership are without question some of Virginia’s most effective and proven economic development organizations.”