Richmond is the capital city of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Politically independent of the county, it is the centre of a metropolitan area including the rest of Henrico county and Chesterfield and Hanover counties. The English first explored the site in 1607, when a party led by Christopher Newportand John Smith sailed upriver shortly after the founding of Jamestown. A trading post was established (1637) by Thomas Stegg at the fall of the James, and in 1645 Fort Charles was built there. In 1733 William Byrd of Westover named the settlement for Richmond upon Thames, England, and the town was laid out four years later by surveyor Major William Mayo on a site that became known as Church Hill.
Tobacco remains important economically; printing and publishing and the manufacture of chemicals, textiles, pharmaceuticals, metals, and wood and paper products are also significant.
The Richmond area has a strong and diverse manufacturing base that has helped the community remain resilient during economic recessions and even the Great Depression. Other factors that have contributed to this economic stability include the concentration of federal and state agencies, the headquarters of major corporations and bank-holding companies, numerous health facilities, and the concentration of educational institutions in the area. Services and government together account for more than half of all jobs in Richmond.
Philip Morris, which began in tobacco production, has been a part of Richmond’s business community since 1929. Rich-mond’s $200 million Philip Morris Manufacturing Center today is the largest and most modern facility of its kind in the world. Located on a 200-acre site, the 1.6-million-square-foot facility represents the largest single capital investment in Philip Morris history. Richmond has become a major East Coast distribution center and customer service center with the arrival of firms like Capital One, Hewlett Packard, Owens & Minor, Mazda, and Time-Life.
Other major companies with substantial capital investment in plants and operations in the Richmond area are DuPont, Allied Corporation, Kraft Foods, McKesson Corp., Alcoa and Smurfit-Stone Containers. Five Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in the region, including CSX, Dominion Resources, Circuit City Stores, Performance Food Group, and Pittston Company.
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