RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Torc Robotics, a Blacksburg-based leader in self-driving vehicle systems, will invest $8.5 million to expand its software development operations in Montgomery County. The company will establish an additional facility at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in close proximity to its current operation in the Blacksburg Industrial Park. Virginia successfully competed with North Carolina and Texas for the project, which will create 350 new jobs.
“This region’s talented workforce can help forward-looking tech companies grow, and Torc Robotics is demonstrating that by creating 350 new jobs in Montgomery County,” said Governor Northam. “Self-driving technology is a booming sector, and Torc has been at the forefront of the industry since its founding. We thank the company for this significant investment in our Commonwealth, which comes at a critical point in our economic recovery, and we look forward to their continued entrepreneurship and innovation in the New River Valley.”
Torc Robotics was established in Blacksburg—at the birth of the self-driving vehicle revolution—by a team of Virginia Tech students who, after winning multiple robotics challenges, decided to commercialize their technology. The company has 15 years of experience in pioneering safety-critical, self-driving applications. This expansion supports Torc’s effort to develop self-driving trucks with Daimler Trucks—the global market-share leader. While consumers dream of self-driving cars, industry leaders expect long-haul trucks will be the first vehicles to fully utilize the technology due to simpler driving environments and a stronger business case. Today, vehicles using Torc’s self-driving technology operate on multiple continents. In 2019, Torc joined the Daimler Trucks family and now employs about 175 people.
“As a homegrown Virginia company in Montgomery County, Torc Robotics is a tremendous example of the success startup technology businesses can achieve in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball.“The company is pioneering a niche market that has gained a lot of momentum, and the impressive talent pipeline from Virginia Tech combined with the New River Valley’s strong workforce will continue to support Torc’s growth as an industry leader.”
Torc Robotics is a 2013 graduate of VEDP’s award-winning Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET) Program. VALET is an application-based, two-year global export acceleration program that provides participating companies with assistance from a team of experienced international service providers to help meet their export goals.
“Trucking is the backbone of the U.S. economy, delivering food and products to every community,” said Torc Robotics CEO Michael Fleming.“We greatly appreciate Virginia’s support of our mission to save lives and our innovative partnership with Daimler—the inventor of the truck—to commercialize self-driving trucks and make our roads safer. We selected the Commonwealth for its workforce culture and regulatory climate. In our experience, people in the region stay with companies for the long-term. Commercializing self-driving trucks is a marathon—not a sprint, and requires a long-term commitment from companies, investors, and employees. Virginia policy enables us to test our vehicles on public roads, which is critical to bringing this technology to market. Virginia has provided the opportunity to rapidly develop and test in unique environments and weather conditions, ranging from summer heat to winter snow.”
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) worked with Montgomery County and Onward New River Valley to secure the project for Virginia. Governor Northam approved an $800,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist Montgomery County with the project. The Governor also approved $3.5 million in funds from the Virginia Economic Development Incentive Grant (VEDIG). VEDIG was established as a self-funded program of performance-based incentives that the Commonwealth awards to exceptional economic development projects with large numbers of employees and very high wages relative to average wages for that particular area.
Support for Torc Robotics’ job creation will be provided through the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, a workforce initiative created by VEDP in collaboration with the Virginia Community College System, with funding support from the Northam administration and the Virginia General Assembly. Launched in 2019, the program accelerates new facility start-ups through the direct delivery of recruitment and training services that are fully customized to a company’s unique products, processes, equipment, standards, and culture. All program services are provided at no cost to qualified new and expanding companies as an incentive for job creation.
“Torc Robotics continues to be a valued and integral part of our business community,” said Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Chair Steve Fijalkowski. “We are very excited to have Torc Robotics commit to new investments, innovations, and technology development in Montgomery County, where they can benefit from our community’s skilled and talented workforce.”
“Torc Robotics is emblematic of the exciting work being done in the New River Valley and the major contributions Virginia Tech graduates are making to the economy of our Commonwealth,” said Senator John S. Edwards. “Virginia is on the cutting edge of our nation’s transforming infrastructure thanks to companies like Torc. I look forward to many future successes from them.”
“We are thrilled that Torc continues to expand its investment in Montgomery County,” said Delegate Chris Hurst.“We take great pride in the burgeoning innovation and technology sector in New River Valley that continues to attract and retain a talented workforce. Torc’s continued growth will pave the way for future investments in Montgomery County and Southwest Virginia as a whole.”