By Bob Stuart

STUARTS DRAFT — An Augusta County manufacturer of long lasting tulips and Amaryllis flowers said Friday it would add 98 jobs, and invest $2 million to build a new Stuarts Draft greenhouse.

The announcement came from Bloomaker USA Inc., — a company that makes long lasting flowers that bloom in the home — and are sold to such major U.S. retailers as Costco and Home Depot. The flowers are grown, packed and shipped from Bloomaker and bloom in homes over a four to eight-week period.

Bloomaker said the expansion would help grow annual sales from $10 million to $25 million in five years. The growth will allow the company to further serve domestic customers and customers in Canada.

Financial support for the expansion is being provided by both Augusta County and the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Fund. The state grant is for $50,000 and that sum is being matched by Augusta County.

Augusta County Economic Development Director Amanda Glover said those funds would be used to work with Columbia Gas to expand a nearby natural gas line about a mile to the Kindig Road site of Bloomaker.

Joep Paternostre, the president of Bloomaker, Inc., said the company has been at its Stuarts Draft site since 2010 and has experienced a “1,000 percent in sales” since locating there.

Joep and Lillian Paternostre came to the United States in 2003, and looked for the ideal location to craft their vision for growing long lasting flowers. Joep Paternostre said they found it inAugusta County, which is conveniently located just off two interstate highways and within 24 hours of 70 percent of the American population.

State officials say businesses like Bloomaker are an important part of the Virginia’s agricultural economy.

The greenhouse and nursery industry is Virginia’s fifth largest agricultural sector, said Todd Haymore, Virginia secretary of agriculture and forestry.

“This is a very important part of agriculture,” said Haymore, who said greenhouse and nursery revenues generate $272 million in annual farm sales alone in Virginia.

Augusta County Board of Supervisors Chairman Larry Wills said growing companies like Bloomaker contribute to a vibrant local economy. And he said Augusta County is committed “to maintaining agriculture as our prime industry.”

Glover said the construction on the new greenhouse would start soon and should take six to seven months.

The jobs being created are a combination of full-time and seasonal full-time equivalent jobs, Glover said.