Performance Signs — From a Dorm Room to the Highway

Thursday, 21 May 2015 10:30 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Founder Robbie Morris was an engineering student at Virginia Tech when he started making decals for his brother’s stock car racing team. Robbie actually ran the decal machine out of his dorm room in the fall of 1995...

Founder Robbie Morris was an engineering student at Virginia Tech when he started making decals for his brother’s stock car racing team. Robbie actually ran the decal machine out of his dorm room in the fall of 1995.

While out on an engineering co-op, Robbie realized he enjoyed the creativity of the sign work much more than the structure of his engineering internship and decided to pursue the sign business full-time.

Today, Performance Signs makes a variety of signs, banners, vehicle lettering, vehicle wraps, window lettering and real estate signs for commercial businesses, public safety vehicles and highways.

Self-awareness is an important trait for entrepreneurs, and surrounding oneself with the right people and skillsets is critical. Robbie found the perfect business partner in his wife Katherine. She came on board full-time in 2004 and made improvements with her ability to manage, schedule and handle the day-to-day business, allowing Robbie to focus on the creative side.

Robbie and Katherine focused on building relationships with their customers and that paid off. “We were doing work for a sign company that supported a police department in Southwest Virginia,” said Performance Signs Founder Robbie Morris. “Those decals were an exact match for the Albemarle police department near us. We were able to approach them and found that there was a need for somebody to serve the public safety vehicles in our area. There’s a tightknit community among the police, fire department and rescue squad, and our relationship with that core group has helped us grow.”

When the recession hit, Robbie and Katherine looked at everything they did in order to be more efficient, from the number of phone lines they needed to the amount of equipment. They also took a calculated risk when a property became available. 

“All indications were that it would be crazy to buy something right now, but it completely came together for us,” said Robbie. “We really felt like God was moving in our lives and the timing was right. We did an SBA 504 loan. It was a lot of work, but through that process it helped us see our business in a new way.”

Robbie and Katherine closed on their building in the fall of 2009, and continuing their quest for efficiency, installed a solar-paneled roof on the 8,000-square-foot facility. Depending upon the time of year, the solar panels generate anywhere from 55-100 percent of the building’s electricity. 

Robbie and Katherine’s tenacity allowed them to successfully bounce back from the recession. The company has doubled sales since 2010 and grown from four to 12 people.

Performance Signs was also just selected to participate in the inaugural class of Ones to Watch, a business mentoring initiative run by the U.S. Senate Productivity and Quality Award Program for Virginia.

As we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation Month, Performance Signs stands as another great example of the innovation and creativity of Virginia entrepreneurs. To learn why Virginia is a great place to grow a business, click here.

Performance Signs CEO Katherine Morris and Founder Robert Morris outside their company headquarters in Ruckersville, Va.

Release Reels — An Entrepreneur’s Journey from Biking to Fishing

Thursday, 14 May 2015 09:50 by Info@YesVirginia.org
After a hectic career traveling all over the U.S. and Europe as a professional cyclist, all Wes Seigler wanted to do after retiring as an athlete was to relax at his parent’s home in Reedville, Va., and fish every day like he did as a kid...

After a hectic career traveling all over the U.S. and Europe as a professional cyclist,  all Wes Seigler wanted to do after retiring as an athlete was to relax at his parent’s home in Reedville, Va., and fish every day like he did as a kid.

While fishing on the Chesapeake Bay and offshore Virginia, Seigler and his friends soon encountered problems with the performance of the reels they were using. Drawing upon his experience perfecting his own bike gearing and after encouragement from contacts in the cycling industry, Seigler decided to design his own product.

Release Reels was established in 2009. Seigler quickly found himself in the world of POs, RFQs and SKUs and learning what it all meant on the go. He initially started manufacturing in China, but found his intellectual property was leaking into competitors’ products and decided to bring back the manufacturing stateside.

Release Reels makes premium saltwater fishing reels, and the tolerances are very high. The product has to perform perfectly and look sharp. In order to make sure the machining was spot on, he decided to manufacture it himself. Upon being told he couldn’t compete with Asia, Seigler responded, “We can, we just gotta be willing to work.”

The company now operates nine CNC machines and has 10 full-time employees. 100% of the assembly and machining is done in Virginia and 100% of the component parts are made in the U.S. Seigler sources specialty bearings from Florida, gears and springs from Wisconsin and screws from San Diego, all to ensure the product is made in the USA.

“We have to win all categories — that’s the mentality of our company,” said Seigler. Release Reels products outperform in every class — they are smaller and more powerful, while weighing less.

The company also maintains a lifetime warranty on all its products, which no one else in the industry does. “If you purchase a product, I believe you should be able to call somebody and talk to them,” remarked Seigler. “We can fix it inexpensively, since we do all the machining in-house. Customers love the interaction and that carries into their next purchase.”

Release Reels also works with Rappahannock Community College and hires interns with an interest in machining as a career. “Giving a chance to somebody that might not be university bound has been pretty cool. Manufacturing is not what it used to be, it’s technology driven. We run a clean shop and it’s a great environment where people can learn a lot,” said Seigler.

The company’s high standards and customer service have paid off. After beginning with production of 100 reels per month, the company is now selling almost 600 reels per month and building the infrastructure to grow beyond that. They have also expanded into international markets from Europe to Southeast Asia.  

“The international market is huge for us,” noted Seigler. “People love an American-made product. Japan has a large fishing industry with some of the top shops in the world there. Being accepted by those customers is a strong statement for the quality of our products.”

As we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation Month, Release Reels is a great example of the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit alive in the Commonwealth. To learn more why Virginia is a great place to grow a business, click here.

Release Reels Founder and President Wes Seigler demonstrates the company’s premium saltwater fishing reels for a future customer. Photo courtesy of Release Reels.

NCS Technologies — A Case Study of Innovation During Sequestration

Thursday, 7 May 2015 10:33 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Founded in Northern Virginia in 1996, NCS Technologies made a name for itself as a nimble and responsive small business computer manufacturer and supplier to state and federal agencies, the military, the intelligence community and commercial markets. The company operates out of a modern campus in Gainesville...

Founded in Northern Virginia in 1996, NCS Technologies made a name for itself as a nimble and responsive small business computer manufacturer and supplier to state and federal agencies, the military, the intelligence community and commercial markets. The company operates out of a modern campus in Gainesville.

The company’s products include commercial-off-the-shelf laptops and desktops for offices and schools, high-performance servers for corporate networks, and rugged tablet computers and servers for the military. Over the years, much of the company’s business depended on government.

Like many companies that found a niche serving federal agencies, the impact of sequestration created significant challenges. However, as with all great companies, NCS was able to turn those challenges into opportunities and come out successfully on the other side.

NCS has bounced back to its full pre-sequestration workforce and used the opportunity to diversify its customer base. The company realized that its experience delivering advanced computing products and services to highly demanding government customers could be translated into innovative new products for other growing markets, including healthcare, advanced manufacturing, banking and financial services.

The company kept innovating during the economic downturn and developed the industry’s only zero client laptop. Zero client computers have no operating system or data stored locally. Everything is virtually saved in the cloud, making the data more secure in the event the computer is hacked, lost or stolen.

While global competitors have developed zero client desktops, NCS Technologies is the only company able to master the engineering challenges to fit those capabilities, including patented Wi-Fi capability, into a mobile laptop product.

“Our employees are our greatest investment in innovation,” said John Callahan, vice president of marketing. “They are truly knowledge workers, including electrical engineers, sales representatives, program managers, financial analysts, highly trained assembly-line associates, technical support and customer service employees. Prince William County and surrounding Northern Virginia offers us that range of workforce that helps us excel in a complex, ultra-competitive environment.”

As part of Virginia Business Appreciation Month, NCS Technologies represents the high-growth industry and technological innovation that is alive and well in the Commonwealth. To learn why companies have found success in Virginia for more than 400 years, click here.

The Cirrus LT from NCS Technologies is the world’s first mobile zero client laptop computer. Photo courtesy of NCS Technologies.

 

 

Highground Services — A Successful Graduate of the Franklin Business Incubator

Friday, 1 May 2015 09:34 by Info@YesVirginia.org
John Warren and James Strozier, two former International Paper employees, put their experience together and became entrepreneurs when they created Highground Services in 2006. They co-founded the company with their wives, allowing it to qualify as a veteran-owned, SWAM (small, women-owned and minority) business...

John Warren and James Strozier, two former International Paper employees, put their experience together and became entrepreneurs when they created Highground Services in 2006. They co-founded the company with their wives, allowing it to qualify as a veteran-owned, SWAM (small, women-owned and minority) business.

The company provides high quality engineering services for process control, system automation and instrumentation projects.

The company was off to a fast start — they landed their first contract with International Paper in May 2007 and became a part of the Franklin Business Incubator that December.

When International Paper announced the closing of its Franklin Mill in 2009, this represented a substantial part of Highground Services’ sales.

Rather than be discouraged by the economic downturn and loss of their largest customer, Warren and Strozier seized the opportunity to hire displaced International Paper workers and expand their customer base. They also diversified their business by providing new services, including electrical construction and plant maintenance.

“We made a conscious decision to locate in a historically underutilized business zone and we really value being a part of this community,” said CEO James Strozier. “Our employees are tremendous and they worked tirelessly to help us not only survive, but thrive in what could have been a very challenging time.”

The company’s efforts have paid off in multiple ways. They received the Virginia Business Incubation Association's Donna Noble Incubator Client Award in 2009, UVA’s Darden School of Business Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards in 2011 and the Franklin/Southampton Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award in 2010.

Highground Services has surpassed the $5 million revenue mark for the third straight year, and grown from four founders to 65 employees. The company is also poised to graduate from the Franklin Business Incubator and is in the process of purchasing a building across the street in downtown Franklin.

The entrepreneurial spirit and resiliency of Highground Services is a great reminder of the innovation that exists here in the Commonwealth as we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation Month. To learn why Virginia offers the resources for entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses, click here.

Co-founders Jim and Lisa Strozier (center) are joined by local officials in front of their new property in downtown Franklin, Va.

Shenandoah Valley Partnership Launches inDEMAND Jobs Site

Tuesday, 21 April 2015 10:28 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The Shenandoah Valley Partnership is partnering with WHSV-TV3 news to launch an educational campaign called “inDEMAND Local Career Opportunities...

The Shenandoah Valley Partnership is partnering with WHSV-TV3 news to launch an educational campaign called “inDEMAND Local Career Opportunities.”

The purpose of inDemand is to increase awareness about high-paying career opportunities in high-growth industries where there is a substantial demand for a qualified workforce. With the cost of higher education a concern for many families, this campaign will highlight rewarding jobs that require some additional training, but not a full four-year degree. 

Through linkage with Dream It, Do It — Virginia, the campaign will help both students and current employees match their career aspirations with programs and certifications offered through the Virginia Community College System, Career and Technical Education Centers, and four-year colleges and universities.

WHSV-TV3 is currently filming a series of three minute videos featuring 26 different careers that will be posted on their site at http://www.whsv.com/indemand. Governor McAuliffe kicked off the campaign earlier this month and his interview is included on the site.

The first video focused on high demand in the welding industry. Training to become a welder takes about six months and companies in the Shenandoah Valley are projected to hire 180 welders over the next 10 years.

Upcoming videos will discuss local demand for employees in the software development, mechatronics, accounting and trucking industries, to name just a few.

The Shenandoah Valley’s inDemand campaign highlights the premier workforce training programs that exist across the Commonwealth. To learn how Virginia is keeping its workforce up-to-date on the latest technology through its 15 public universities, 45 private institutions and 23 community colleges, click here.

Virginia Makes a Strong Showing on Kiplinger’s 2015 Best College Values List

Friday, 17 April 2015 16:00 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia universities made a strong showing on Kiplinger’s annual Best Colleges list, all the more important in the current environment where finding a quality education at an affordable price has become increasingly challenging...

Virginia universities made a strong showing on Kiplinger’s annual Best Colleges list, all the more important in the current environment where finding a quality education at an affordable price has become increasingly challenging.

In the public categories list, University of Virginia was ranked No. 2, The College of William and Mary No. 5, James Madison University No. 29, Virginia Tech No. 35, Christopher Newport University No. 83, and University of Mary Washington was No. 84.

For the liberal arts category, Washington and Lee University received a No. 2 ranking, University of Richmond No. 10, and Christendom College was No. 57.

To calculate the rankings, the editors at Kiplinger looked at a number of metrics used to determine both quality and value. The list was drawn from more than 1,200 four-year higher education institutions across the U.S.

Quality was measured through admission rates, test scores of incoming freshman, freshman retention, students per faculty and four-year graduation rates.

Value was calculated by looking at the overall cost of education, the amount of need-based and non-need-based aid, the percentage of need met and student debt at graduation.

Virginia’s strong rankings in both the public and liberal arts categories show the breadth of the Commonwealth’s premier education offerings. Virginia has more than 575,000 students enrolled in 230 campuses across the state ensuring the workforce of tomorrow is prepared to meet industry needs. To learn more click here.

A view of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. Photo courtesy of UVA and Cassidy Girvin.

VEDP and CCAM Receive Achievement in Innovation Award from Business Facilities Magazine

Tuesday, 14 April 2015 17:07 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Business Facilities magazine recently announced its 2015 Economic Development Awards and VEDP was a recipient of one of five Achievement in Innovation Awards for the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing...

Business Facilities magazine recently announced its 2015 Economic Development Awards and VEDP was a recipient of one of five Achievement in Innovation Awards for the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing.

The Business Facilities article mentioned how difficult it was to narrow down candidates this year because best practices are being implemented across the country, making CCAM’s recognition all the more meaningful.                                                          

According to the Business Facilities’ editorial staff, “The states that are ahead of the curve have developed innovation hubs for targeted growth sectors and created an environment that makes their locations fertile ground for emerging businesses. This year, we’re focusing our spotlight on five programs that have exhibited consistent excellence in the development of innovation hubs and three successful initiatives targeting entrepreneurs.”

CCAM is an applied research center that brings together Virginia’s leading manufacturing companies and educational institutions to turn research into real-world technologies and solutions. It operates out of a 62,000-square-foot facility located adjacent to the 1,000-acre Rolls-Royce Crosspointe Campus in Prince George County, Va.

CCAM is focused on advancing and commercializing manufacturing technologies in six key areas — surface engineering, manufacturing systems, machining technologies, welding, additive manufacturing and composite materials.

Operating as a public-private partnership, its roster is made up of five university members and 33 corporate and industry members, including globally recognized leaders Aerojet Rocketdyne, Airbus, Alcoa, Canon, Chromalloy, NASA, Newport News Shipbuilding, Oerlikon Metco, Rolls-Royce, Sandvik Coromant and Siemens.

This award highlights what the more than 5,600 manufacturing companies located in Virginia already know — that the Commonwealth is a hub of advanced manufacturing and offers companies the innovative environment to grow. To learn more click here.

A view of CCAM, adjacent to Rolls-Royce’s Crosspointe Campus, in Prince George County, Va.

VEDP’s Advertising Agency Wins Best in Show for Stone Brewing Kit

Monday, 13 April 2015 15:27 by Info@YesVirginia.org
We at VEDP are proud to congratulate our advertising agency, Elevation, for winning Best in Show in the Promotional Design & Advertising category at the Richmond Ad Club’s annual awards show...

We at VEDP are proud to congratulate our advertising agency, Elevation, for winning Best in Show in the Promotional Design & Advertising category at the Richmond Ad Club’s annual awards show.

Elevation helped us develop a unique presentation for the executive team at Stone Brewing Co. as part of our marketing process to win their East Coast location for Virginia.

During a meeting among Stone Brewing Co., the Governor, his administration, and other key members of the Virginia marketing team, VEDP organized a surprise visit from a character actor portraying Thomas Jefferson.

Agriculture was one of Jefferson’s greatest passions, and at Monticello he grew the ingredients to make his own ale, continuing Virginia’s more than 400-year brewing legacy.

Elevation developed a script for Jefferson to describe Virginia’s plentiful natural resources that would make an excellent home for Stone Brewing’s East Coast location. They also developed a kit filled with Virginia brewing ingredients for Jefferson to present to the Stone executive team — pure Virginia water, wheat, hops and molasses.

As everyone knows, the pitch was successful and Stone Brewing announced their plans to invest $74 million to construct a brewery, packaging hall, restaurant, gardens, retail store and offices in Richmond this past fall.

Virginia successfully competed against more than 20 states, and winning this competitive project from the country’s 10th largest craft brewing company has furthered the Commonwealth’s position as a serious player in the craft beer industry.

Food and beverage companies continue to find Virginia has the recipe for success. To learn why food processing companies have invested more than $2.1 billion in Virginia since 2004, click here.

An actor portraying Thomas Jefferson holds the Stone Brewing kit for a marketing presentation that won Best in Show at the Richmond Ad Club awards.

Magnets USA Celebrates 25 Years and a New Facility in Virginia

Friday, 27 March 2015 16:57 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Magnets USA recently celebrated 25 years in the Roanoke Valley region of Virginia. The company also hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new building in Vinton, Va...

Magnets USA recently celebrated 25 years in the Roanoke Valley region of Virginia. The company also hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new building in Vinton, Va.

Magnets USA moved from nearby Roanoke City into the former Grumman Fire Truck Corp. location, a newly-renovated, climate-controlled, 45,000-square-foot building. The grand opening event featured fire trucks previously manufactured at the Grumman building to commemorate its history.

The new facility will provide 70 percent more production space and allow the company to add 25 new jobs to its current workforce of 60. VEDP’s Virginia Jobs Investment Program is assisting the company with training funds for the new jobs.

Founded in 1990, the company began selling adhesive materials that magnetized business cards. Today, Magnets USA produces more than 20 million magnetized marketing products each year, including calendars, sports and event schedules, banners and business cards. 

Virginia’s premier business environment has allowed the company to successfully expand its customer base to include the real estate market, Chicago Bears, Salem Red Sox, Kid Rock Enterprises, Burning Man, Floyd Fest, the American Quilter’s Society and local schools.

Magnets USA has also worked with VEDP’s international trade team to increase global sales. The company currently exports to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The company’s history and success in Virginia is another example of the pro-business environment and resources the Commonwealth provides for growing companies. To learn more, click here.

The Magnets USA team prepares to cut the ribbon at the company’s grand opening ceremony for its renovated facility in Vinton, Va. Photo courtesy of Magnets USA.

Fort Lee Hosts the 40th Annual Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event

Tuesday, 10 March 2015 17:28 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Once again, the annual military culinary competition comes to Fort Lee, Va. from March 7-12. During this week, members of all the U.S. armed forces and military personnel from other countries compete in individual and team events to show their culinary expertise...

Once again, the annual military culinary competition comes to Fort Lee, Va., from March 7-12. During this week, members of all the U.S. armed forces and military personnel from other countries compete in individual and team events to show their culinary expertise.

Fort Lee is a perfect fit for the competition — it’s home to the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, which provides basic and advanced food service training for all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as some ally countries.

Members of VEDP and the Virginia Gateway Region attended the event yesterday, where the table displays were built by the U.S Army Reserve. The whimsical presentations, all made out of food, included themes based on the Wizard of Oz, notable landmarks in Paris, a lady from a masquerade ball, and a Spanish-influenced chocolate bull and matador.   

The Hot Kitchen Competition included the use of Mobile Kitchen Trailers to make a gourmet, three-course meal. The meal was all the more impressive considering the trailers are meant to be used out in the field in forward movement scenarios, and usually involve heating a pre-made meal for 50-100 soldiers.

There were numerous live cooking competitions, all judged by members of the American Culinary Federation. This allows awards to be easily translated into certificates and recognized outside of the military environment, which is important for members who later pursue a culinary career in the private sector.

One of the live cooking demos included renowned chef Robert Irvine, from the Food Network show “Restaurant: Impossible.”  Robert entertained with cooking tips and joked with the many military personnel in attendance. Robert is very familiar with the impact of providing a well-cooked meal in military environments. Not only is he a former soldier, but he visits military bases around to world to cook and entertain the troops.

The importance of the event was captured by Chief Foreign Officer 3, Charles Talley Jr., “It’s great to have the opportunity to see the crop of young chefs and see their culinary evolution from day one at Fort Lee. Food involves passion, innovation, creativity and sustainment. Our food service impacts the morale of military teams during peace and wartime.”

Fort Lee’s Joint Culinary Center of Excellence and its Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event illustrate Virginia’s position at the center of the food industry. Food processing is one of Virginia’s largest manufacturing areas. To learn why more than 580 companies have located in the Commonwealth, click here.

Virginia BioTechnology Research Park Expands Its Reach Across Virginia

Wednesday, 25 February 2015 14:28 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The Virginia BioTechnology Research Park is at full capacity, but is still expanding its reach in the Richmond community and across the Commonwealth...

The Virginia BioTechnology Research Park is at full capacity, but is still expanding its reach in the Richmond community and across the Commonwealth.

Since its founding in 1992, the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park has grown to include seven buildings on 34 acres in the heart of Richmond. This represents 1.3 million square feet of space next to the VCU Medical Center, a Top 100 life sciences research center.

The park is currently home to nearly 60 life science companies, employing more than 2,300 scientists, engineers and researchers in the Central Virginia region.

The company’s most recent physical expansion occurred last spring on its Biotech 8 building, occupied by HDL Inc., which started up in the Biotech Center. Future expansion opportunities are available on two sites in the park.

According to Executive Director Carrie Roth, “Building on the urban renewal component of the research park, to be successful we need to focus on the process not the place through infrastructure for entrepreneurial, innovation and commercialization success. We’re repositioning the park and removing our borders to define it as a part of the larger, integrated knowledge-based life sciences community.”

To that end, the park is inviting outsiders in and opening up its shared lab. The lab has equipment donated by Altria in addition to purchased equipment, including a biosafety cabinet, CO2 incubator, inverted microscope and centrifuges. This allows early stage companies access to the equipment by renting benches on a monthly basis or purchasing a daily pass to the lab. In addition, access to the shared lab equipment helps those seeking grants by being able to include this on their application.

The management team is also engaging with partners across the region. For example, the Dominion Resources Innovation Center in Ashland provides mentoring and business support services to technology-based start-ups. The team at the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park has re-engaged its partnership with the innovation center and plans are in motion to move it closer into the town of Ashland. The new facility will also have dedicated lab space.

The Virginia BioTechnology Research Park is a shining example of the burgeoning life sciences clusters across the Commonwealth. To learn why more than 800 biotech establishments have selected Virginia, click here.

Members of the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission along with Carrie Roth of the Research Park listen to L. Franklin Bost, executive associate dean at the VCU School of Engineering, discuss activities of the VCU TRIP Center located in Biotech One. Photo courtesy of Virginia BioTechnology Research Park.

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Virginia Economic Development Partnership is the Best State for Business

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), a state authority created by the Virginia General Assembly to better serve those seeking a prime business location and increased trade opportunities, provides confidential site selection and international trade services. VEDP's mission: To enhance the quality of life and raise the standard of living for all Virginians, in collaboration with Virginia communities, through aggressive business recruitment, expansion assistance, and trade development, thereby expanding the tax base and creating higher-income employment opportunities.

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