Dig in

County officials were able to shake the rust off their ceremonial shovels this week and do something that they haven’t had a chance to do too often in recent years – break ground.

Ground was broken during a ceremony on Thursday that commenced construction of a $425 million insulin manufacturing center to be operated by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co. When completed, the 600,000 square-foot facility will employ 700 people.

Even better news is the fact that the plant is being built at INNOVATION@Prince William – the county’s high tech industrial park. The crash of the dot-com economy and the accompanying slump in the high tech market has stunted the growth of Innovation after a string of initial economic development announcements in the late 1990s.

Construction of the Eli Lilly plant marks a change in course at Innovation, which sits just west of Manassas along the Va. 234 Bypass. With the absence of the once sought after information technology businesses, Eli Lilly’s decision to set up shop in Prince William proves that our region can also compete with Maryland in the biotechnology sector. The grouping of American Type Culture Collection (ATCC), Eli Lilly and the Prince William campus of George Mason University will form a solid core that could act as an anchor for similar types of economic development.

With all the bad news that comes with a slumping economy and the sparse news on the economic development front, the ground breaking at the new Eli Lilly facility provides the county with a bright ray of optimism.