Staying Focused on What Really Matters

Friday, 16 December 2016 14:39 by Info@YesVirginia.org

As 2016 comes to a close, we want to recognize the economic development profession throughout Virginia that works tirelessly for the common good, and in particular, to the dedicated employees of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority (VEDP).

As leaders of the Board of Directors of VEDP—which by anyone’s measure, just experienced its most difficult year of operation since its formation in 1995—we are wrestling with deep problems facing VEDP, the economy and some systemic ones woven into the very fabric of how our Commonwealth approaches economic development. We are, however, optimistic because we know that economic development partners across the state are taking actions necessary to fortify Virginia’s future.

For our part, the VEDP Board is engaged. In 2014, Don Seale, then Chairman of the VEDP Board of Directors, realized that fundamental changes were needed inside the organization.  Don called for the creation of a Chief Operating Officer position and recruited Dan Gundersen to help reset VEDP. Dan’s initial focus was on strategic direction, creative programming, engaging employees, and assuring greater management control and accountability procedures.

We began to peel back the layers of VEDP. Dan Gundersen produced for the Board a first-ever Strategic Review that serves today as the guidepost for a 3-5 year action strategy for VEDP. A new compensation plan was adopted which provided pay equity across positions. We evaluated funding models for 49 other states’ economic development entities, produced new top-line metrics, put in place a robust communications strategy for the external partners and encouraged new avenues for employee input and engagement.   

We (Chris Lumsden and Dan Clemente) succeeded Don Seale as Chairman and Vice-Chairman respectively and the first thing we decided to do was to hear from our stakeholders. We conducted a Listening Tour that involved over 150 economic development professionals, public officials, and business interests in all regions of Virginia and more than 80 counties. We learned that over several years’ time, VEDP’s approach to marketing and deals had alienated many of its stakeholders and contributed to a crisis of confidence.

In March of this year, we asked Dan Gundersen to serve as Interim President and CEO, as well as COO, to help turn around VEDP. He demonstrated great courage and collaborative leadership skills in managing VEDP during a period of serious political stress and organizational crisis. Working with the Board’s Finance and Audit Committee, the VEDP team put in place solid due diligence procedures for discretionary grants, cleaned up twenty years of Governor Opportunity Fund records, and delved into data integrity and integration issues. VEDP also moved its 55,000 square-foot headquarters to new space that saved the Commonwealth over $1.8 million. The new headquarters is designed with open spaces and glass offices and, quite literally, sends a clear message to all that VEDP is a transparent organization that is reinventing itself for the next generation of economic development.   

By mid-summer, again with direct involvement of key Board leaders, input from the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission (JLARC) team and independent management consultants, VEDP was prepared to roll out a reorganization. Dan Gundersen successfully led VEDP through the difficult reorganization process, with input from a core planning group, cross-functional work teams, and facilitated focus groups of employees throughout the organization. Three new market-facing divisions were established: Business Investment, Competitive Initiatives and Workforce Development. They operate alongside VEDP’s International Trade team to support businesses.

New management in key spots has infused new energy and determination to have VEDP become recognized as the very best economic development organization in the country. We are pleased that Stephen Moret will join us at the helm in January.

Our work is not over—far from it. But we have laid a solid foundation on which to build a bright future for economic growth in Virginia. This would not have happened without the active support of Virginia’s economic development professionals. We thank you and look forward to continuing to work closely with you as we enter into the new year with renewed confidence and enthusiasm.

Sincerely,

YesVirginia Business Blog | A place for news, opinions, and information regarding the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

Check out VEDP’s Ad for the UCI Road World Championships on NBC Sports

Tuesday, 22 September 2015 16:41 by Info@YesVirginia.org
As many of you are already aware, the 2015 UCI Road World Championship cycling event is taking place in Richmond this week. Excitement has built around the event, which is returning to the U.S. for the first time in nearly 30 years...

As many of you are already aware, the 2015 UCI Road World Championship cycling event is taking place in Richmond this week.

Excitement has built around the event, which is returning to the U.S. for the first time in nearly 30 years. It is a huge coup for Richmond to have been selected as the host city and furthers its reputation as a global destination. The championships are held annually in an international city chosen by the Union Cycliste Internationale through a competitive bidding process.

With 450,000 spectators expected to watch the race onsite and a TV audience in the hundreds of millions, this is certainly a tremendous opportunity to represent Virginia on the world stage. 

The Virginia Tourism Corp. has partnered with Richmond 2015, the organizer of the nine-day event, and will air 500 30-second commercials across U.S. domestic television broadcasts during the event. As part of Virginia's sponsorship, VEDP received a portion of these spots and produced a new commercial tailored to the UCI event that is airing on NBC Sports Network during the race this week.

VEDP worked with Richmond companies Elevation Advertising to create the ad and The Branching to produce it. Overcoast developed the original background track, incorporating the cycling sounds.

Richmond is fortunate to have a strong cycling culture and was able to draw upon local talent to film the ad. We’re grateful to Carytown Bicycle Company, who provided items for the shoot, and local cyclist John Eiler, who rides for Team Carytown Bicycle Company and appears in the commercial.

Sports commentators have already remarked on the beauty of the city and the diverse and challenging courses that Richmond offers to competitors.

To learn why Virginia is a great place to live, work and play, click here. Check out our TV ad below.

CCAM Graduates First Class of Transitioning Military and Veteran Training Students

Tuesday, 15 September 2015 14:58 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing recently celebrated the graduation of its first class from the Transitioning Military and Veteran Training Program. This initiative provides advanced manufacturing and precision machining training for active duty and veteran soldiers preparing to enter the civilian workforce...

The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing recently celebrated the graduation of its first class from the Transitioning Military and Veteran Training Program. This initiative provides advanced manufacturing and precision machining training for active duty and veteran soldiers preparing to enter the civilian workforce.

The program was developed through a collaboration among CCAM, the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, Southside Virginia Community College, the Crater Regional Workforce Investment Board, the Virginia Employment Commission, 180 Skills and the Fort Lee Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program.

Fort Lee’s Soldier for Life program identified a group of transitioning soldiers to participate in the inaugural class. This gave the soldiers the opportunity to receive training, free-of-charge, during the last few months of their enlistment to prepare them to quickly begin a civilian career.

Training took place at SVCC’s Emporia Center and included 162 modules of interactive, online learning and 300+ hours of hands-on training. Instructors were provided by SVCC and SVHEC.

The eight graduates received a Machining Skills Certificate from SVCC and five industry credentials, including OSHA 10 and 4 NIMS (National Institute of Metalworking Skills) certifications.

Employers in the region, including Enclos Inc., Jewett Machine Inc., Richmond Tooling Inc., Rolls-Royce, Coesia North America and Kosmo Machine Inc. actively supported the program by participating in the curriculum design and visiting and mentoring students along the way.

All eight graduates have received job offers. 

“The motivation of the students and employers made this first class a success,” said CCAM Director of Workforce Development Bruce Sobczak. “Driven by feedback from local employers, we’re currently looking at expanding the curriculum to include industrial maintenance technician and industrial CAD drafter certifications, as well as adding a location to serve the military workforce in the Hampton Roads region.”

To learn more about the Transitioning Military and Veteran Training Program, contact Bruce Sobczak at bruce.sobczak@ccam-va.com.

More than 18,000 people exit Virginia military bases each year and enter the civilian workplace. This initiative is another shining example of the public-private partnerships that keep Virginia’s workforce at the top of their game. To learn more, click here.

The Transitioning Military and Veteran Training Program students celebrate their graduation with CCAM’s Bruce Sobczak (center) and their Fort Lee program managers (in uniform). Photo courtesy of CCAM.

McKee Foods Celebrates 25 Years in Virginia

Wednesday, 26 August 2015 16:14 by Info@YesVirginia.org
McKee Foods recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Stuarts Draft manufacturing facility in Augusta County, Va. McKee Foods is known for its Little Debbie® line of snack cakes. The family business has grown from a five-person bakery in the 1930’s to America’s No. 1 brand of snack cakes...

McKee Foods recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Stuarts Draft manufacturing facility in Augusta County, Va.

McKee Foods is known for its Little Debbie® line of snack cakes. The family business has grown from a five-person bakery in the 1930’s to America’s No. 1 brand of snack cakes.

The Stuarts Draft plant is one of the most advanced facilities in the baking industry. The company established the bakery in 1990 to produce oatmeal crème pies, honey buns and other bakery products.

The company’s most recent announcement in October 2014 included a $34 million investment and 54 new jobs to expand the facility.

McKee Foods employs more than 1,000 people and is the largest manufacturing employer in Augusta County. The company frequently credits the high productivity of its Virginia workforce as paramount to its success.

"We have found our Virginia workforce to be some of the most loyal and highly-skilled employees in the industry — and about 85 members of our Virginia workforce have been at the plant since it opened," said McKee Foods President and CEO Mike McKee.

In addition to a strong manufacturing workforce, Virginia provides McKee Foods with a strategic location, offering easy access to the company’s Northeastern and Canadian customers. Located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, the Stuarts Draft location offers McKee employees a high quality of life with close proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail and numerous national parks.

To learn why more than 580 leading food and beverage companies, like McKee Foods, have chosen to locate in Virginia, click here.

Representatives from McKee Foods, Augusta County and VEDP celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary in Stuarts Draft, Va. Photo courtesy of McKee Foods Corp.

Virginia Receives an “A” for Small Business Friendliness

Tuesday, 18 August 2015 14:39 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia received an A for overall friendliness on Thumbtack.com’s fourth annual Small Business Friendliness Survey. Virginia was the highest ranked state in the Mid-Atlantic and top 10 nationwide. Nearby competitors Maryland received a D+ and North Carolina a B-...

Virginia received an A for overall friendliness on Thumbtack.com’s fourth annual Small Business Friendliness Survey. Virginia was the highest ranked state in the Mid-Atlantic and top 10 nationwide. Nearby competitors Maryland received a D+ and North Carolina a B-.

Thumbtack.com surveyed 17,633 small businesses across the U.S. with 36 questions to evaluate the friendliness of state and local policies toward small businesses on more than a dozen metrics.

Highlights for the Commonwealth include an A+ for ease of starting a business, licensing regulations and environmental factors.   

“Small business owners on Thumbtack have consistently told us that they welcome support from their governments but are frequently frustrated by unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles,” said Jon Lieber, chief economist of Thumbtack.com. “Virginia's policies that support entrepreneurs could provide a helpful guide as we fight a general decline in business startups nationwide.”

“There is an excellent climate for small business in Virginia,” commented a translator and professor in Roanoke. “It is a great place to start and run a business because the state offers support, networking, referral and community enthusiasm.”

Richmond was ranked the No. 3 friendliest city in the U.S. and received an A+.

The survey results once again illustrate that Virginia is a great place for entrepreneurs to start and grow a business. To learn more about the Commonwealth’s pro-business policies, strategic location, competitive operating costs, leading research institutions and highly educated workforce, click here.

Image courtesy of Thumbtack.com

Classes Commence at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s IT Academy

Thursday, 13 August 2015 13:32 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Classes start this Monday, August 17, at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s IT Academy. The IT Academy offers a fast track for students to gain the knowledge and credentials to quickly obtain employment in the technology sector...

Classes start this Monday, August 17, at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s IT Academy.

The IT Academy offers a fast track for students to gain the knowledge and credentials to quickly obtain employment in the technology sector.

Seventeen students are enrolled in the first cohort, with classes scheduled Monday – Thursday evenings over a four month period. Afterwards, students can test for the Computing Technology Industry Association A+, Network+ and Server+ certifications. SVHEC is a member of the CompTIA Authorized Partner Program. 

Classes will take place in the newly renovated, 5,013-square-foot lab at SVHEC in South Boston, Va. The lab includes a data center, hardware repair center, computer-based classroom and conference area to closely approximate a real-world environment.

“We are seeing what I call a market correction in education with an increasing emphasis on students earning third-party credentials. The hands-on, intensive nature of the program allows students to quickly learn the skills they need to be successful in the workplace. Initiatives like the IT Academy are critical to closing the skills gap and preparing the region with skilled workers needed for jobs available right here, right now,” said Dr. Betty Adams, executive director of the SVHEC.

SVHEC and its partners initially designed the academy’s core curriculum around the three certifications and will develop advanced training based on needs and recommendations from major employers in the region. SVHEC worked closely with the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative, ATOS/Microsoft and HP to launch the academy.

The academy was announced in September 2014 after the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification & Community Revitalization Commission approved grant funding. Governor McAuliffe gave the keynote address at the ribbon-cutting ceremony this June.

To learn more about the program or sign up for the next cohort in June, visit http://www.svhec.org/ita.

The SVHEC IT Academy is another example of the cutting-edge training programs available across the Commonwealth. To learn how Virginia’s workforce can be the advantage for your business, click here.

Governor McAuliffe, Secretary Maurice Jones and SVHEC Executive Director Dr. Betty Adams join members of SVHEC and local officials at the IT Academy ribbon-cutting ceremony in June. Photo courtesy of SVHEC/Drew Morris.

VEDP’s Dan Gundersen to Speak at White House Forum on Economic Development

Wednesday, 29 July 2015 16:00 by Info@YesVirginia.org
VEDP’s COO Dan Gundersen was selected to speak at the fourth annual White House Forum on Economic Development hosted by the International Economic Development Council and SelectUSA...

VEDP’s COO Dan Gundersen was selected to speak at the fourth annual White House Forum on Economic Development hosted by the International Economic Development Council and SelectUSA.

This one-day summit allows a select group of economic development leaders from around the country to directly engage with senior members of the Obama Administration on topics with the greatest potential to impact job creation, such as infrastructure development, international trade and attraction, and manufacturing.

Gundersen will participate on a four-person panel entitled “Targeting and Landing Prospects:  Best Practices in International Attraction,” moderated by Peggy Philbin, Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of SelectUSA. He is the only state representative and will be joined by regional economic developers from Phoenix, Minneapolis/St. Paul and southeastern Michigan.

Gundersen will highlight Virginia’s presence around the globe, the Governor’s missions and recent successes of the VEDP team. 

“The White House Forum is a tremendous opportunity to meet with senior officials and discuss ways in which federal, state and local groups can work together to advance economic development and job creation. It’s an honor to be included with such a distinguished group to discuss the challenges facing our nation and the opportunity to broaden our message globally that the U.S. is a great location for business and investment,” said Gundersen.

Virginia will be well-represented as Barry Matherly, President and CEO of the Greater Richmond Partnership, was selected to moderate a panel on the next generation of manufacturing. Matherly also serves as the Vice Chair of the IEDC.

To learn more about Virginia’s unique combination of resources and why more than 700 international companies have chosen to call the Commonwealth home, click here.

RaesWear — Pouch Pants that Solve the Storage Problem

Thursday, 23 July 2015 16:49 by Info@YesVirginia.org
When entrepreneur Leigh Cockram was traveling on business in the summer of 2012, she struggled to find a way to store her hotel key, money and phone while going for a run. She thought, “There’s gotta be a better way,” so she created one...

When entrepreneur Leigh Cockram was traveling on business in the summer of 2012, she struggled to find a way to store her hotel key, money and phone while going for a run. She thought, “There’s gotta be a better way,” so she created one.

The RaesWear concept includes a patented design with a front and back pocket along the entire length of the waistband. The runner uses one of two access points on the front and back to stow a variety of gear, without the fear that it will slip out or pull on their shorts or tights.

The company was named after Leigh’s grandfather, Ray, who was a gunner in the Army Air Corp. during World War II. Rae became a family name passed down to future generations and was a nice pun on race wear, while honoring the legacy of service established by her grandfather.

Leigh began making prototypes herself in 2012, and was directed by The Launch Place to a designer in North Carolina to make additional samples. Realizing she wanted to work closer to home and manufacture the products in Virginia, Leigh connected with Mollie’s Originals in Martinsville in 2014, and they have been manufacturing the products ever since.

RaesWear began with one pair of running tights and has grown to 13 products, including shorts, skorts, capris, tights and pants. While initially designed for athletes, customers are using the clothes for both exercise and throughout the day.

The company’s website at www.RaesWear.com was launched in December 2014, and products are sold online and at Mollie’s Originals. Leigh and her husband have used grass roots efforts, from social media YouTube videos, to appearances at marathon expos, to get the word out. They plan to start a paid advertising campaign shortly. 

They have also received requests to develop a product for men, and are currently working on a menswear line.

In true entrepreneurial fashion, Leigh has kept her day job and works on RaesWear at night and on the weekends from her home. Her husband has transitioned to support RaesWear full-time. 

“The best analogy I can give for running a business is being pregnant. You’re excited and nervous and you stay up at night wondering if things will be okay. And then you have your baby and it’s wonderful, but you’re always stressed and going through peaks and valleys, wondering if you’re doing the right things to make your child a success. It’s a true roller coaster, but very rewarding to take an idea from concept to reality all on our own,” said Leigh Cockram.

RaesWear is another strong example of the innovation and creativity of Virginia entrepreneurs. To learn why the Commonwealth is a great location to grow a business, click here.

Leigh Cockram, RaesWear owner, stands next to a display of her company’s pocketed athletic products at Mollie’s Originals in Martinsville, Va. Photo courtesy of Leigh Cockram.

Wise, Virginia is Home to First FAA Approved Drone Delivery of Medical Supplies in the U.S.

Friday, 17 July 2015 15:18 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Today’s event, called Let’s Fly Wisely, is the first FAA approved delivery of medical supplies by drone in the U.S...

Today’s event, called Let’s Fly Wisely, marked the first FAA approved delivery of medical supplies by drone in the U.S.

This research mission was overseen by the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, one of only six groups across the U.S. that won FAA approval to conduct Unmanned Aerial System research at sites across Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland. MAPP is headquartered at Virginia Tech’s Institute of Critical Technology and Applied Sciences.

The mission began when NASA Langley Research Center flew about twenty prescriptions from Tazewell County Airport to the Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise, Va., in an SR22 aircraft. The plane was operated remotely, but had a pilot on board for backup and safety purposes.

The prescriptions were then transferred into smaller packages, flown in 10-pound drones provided by Australian company Flirtey Inc. and delivered to the Remote Area Medical tent at the Wise County Fairgrounds. Remote Area Medical has served the people of Wise County for more than 15 years.

This project demonstrates one of the humanitarian outcomes of UAS technology could include delivery of medical supplies to underserved or remote areas.

Flirtey Inc. Founder and CEO Matt Sweeney called this a “Kitty Hawk moment” for Wise County and the UAS industry.

The success of this event and its location in the Commonwealth furthers Virginia’s leadership position in the aerospace industry. To learn why more than 260 aerospace companies have chosen to operate in Virginia, click here.

Governor McAuliffe holds one of the first medical prescriptions delivered by drone in the U.S. at the Let’s Fly Wisely event in Wise, Va. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech College of Engineering.

Virginia’s Colleges and Universities Make Another Strong Showing on MONEY’s Best Colleges List

Tuesday, 14 July 2015 17:16 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Once again, Virginia’s higher education institutions made a strong showing on MONEY Magazine’s 2015 Best Colleges List...

Once again, Virginia’s higher education institutions made a strong showing on MONEY Magazine’s 2015 Best Colleges List

10 Virginia institutions made the Top 200 overall:  University of Virginia (No. 17), Washington and Lee University (No. 24), Virginia Military Institute (No. 48), Virginia Tech (also tied at No. 48), James Madison University (No. 59), College of William and Mary (No. 75), University of Richmond (No. 105), University of Mary Washington (No. 119), George Mason University (No. 127), and Hampden-Sydney College (No. 157).

The Commonwealth had seven schools make the Top 50 Best Public Colleges list:  UVA was No. 4, Virginia Tech and VMI both tied for No. 15, JMU tied with another school for No. 19, College of William and Mary was in a three-way tie for No. 26, University of Mary Washington tied with another school for No. 42, and GMU rounded out the list in a three-way tie for No. 47.

Virginia also had strong results in the Top 50 Best Liberal Arts Colleges list with four schools:  Washington and Lee was No. 4, VMI was No. 10, University of Richmond tied with another school for No. 26, and Hampden-Sydney College was No. 38.  

Bridgewater College was counted among the Top 50 Most Affordable Private Colleges and Hampton University was included in the Top 50 Colleges That Add the Most Value list.

The editors at MONEY Magazine only included the 736 schools with an above-median graduation rate from the list of 1,500 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. The schools were then ranked on 21 factors falling into the three categories of quality of education, affordability and outcomes.

Virginia’s world-class education system is currently serving more than 575,000 students who will provide a steady pipeline to support the Commonwealth’s current industry needs. To learn why Virginia’s higher education institutions continue to be highly ranked, click here.

A view of The Rotunda at University of Virginia, ranked No. 4 on MONEY Magazine’s Top 50 Best Public Colleges list for 2015. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corp.

University of Mary Washington’s Convergence Center Joins Learning and Technology

Tuesday, 30 June 2015 16:39 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The University of Mary Washington’s energetic new learning facility, the Information and Technology Convergence Center, was completed fall 2014...

The University of Mary Washington’s energetic new learning facility, the Information and Technology Convergence Center, was completed fall 2014.

This technology-rich, four-story building offers UMW students and faculty a “commons” space that includes a digital auditorium, 10 conference rooms, four high-tech classrooms, audio/video production space, and multiple collaboration, study and meeting spaces through an open design. It also houses UMW’s speaking and writing centers, along with a café.

Visitors are greeted by a multi-story media wall in the atrium that uses laser phosphor display technology to showcase student work. The digital gallery on the third floor also features student artwork on interactive touchscreens.

The Convergence Center houses a production studio with a 180 degree green screen, high definition cameras, teleprompters, a control room and an audio recording booth. The multimedia editing lab has five iMacs loaded with a full suite of A/V editing software so students obtain real-world experience.

The center also holds a two-story digital auditorium that can seat 150 people for classes, lectures or performances. The auditorium has three screens and a full theatrical lighting system. It also opens up into a lobby and garden that can be used to host events holding up to 300 people.

Sprinkled throughout the center are collaboration spaces and conference rooms that have conferencing capabilities, projectors and flat-panel displays. There is even an incubator classroom that allows professors to experiment with the latest technology. The modular design is complemented by high definition projectors, cameras, flat screen displays and wireless microphones.

UMW’s Convergence Center has become a central gathering place for students to learn and engage with their schoolwork in an interactive, high-tech environment. It is another example of the state-of-the-art technology Virginia’s higher education institutions are using to train the 21st century workforce. To learn more about the Commonwealth’s premier educational offerings, click here.

VEDP gets a tour of the digital auditorium at UMW’s Information and Technology Convergence Center.

Virginia Western Community College Offers Cutting-Edge Mechatronics Training

Monday, 22 June 2015 15:07 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Mechatronics is a growing interdisciplinary field that incorporates mechanical and electrical engineering with computer science and looks at industrial operations from a system-wide perspective...

Mechatronics is a growing interdisciplinary field that incorporates mechanical and electrical engineering with computer science and looks at industrial operations from a system-wide perspective.

Students in this field become well-versed in electro-mechanics, computers, digital control systems, robotics and mechanical CAD, and go on to pursue careers in the automotive, aerospace, defense, consumer and manufacturing industries.

Virginia Western Community College offers three programs in mechatronics. First, students can earn a certificate that will allow them to take Level 1 of the Siemens Mechatronic Systems Certification Program. Second, students earning a two-year associate degree can sit for Level 2 of the Siemens certification. And, third, students completing the two-year program who go on to a university and earn a four-year degree can sit for Level 3 of the Siemens certification.

The Siemens Mechatronic Systems Certification is an industry standard with worldwide recognition allowing students to illustrate to employers that they are qualified and ready to work as technicians. The college began offering mechatronics courses in 2008, and now has 100 students in the program.

VWCC is one of only 35 colleges in the world that offers a certified Siemens Mechatronics program.

VWCC is actively engaged with high school students in the area. Through The Regional Academy for Advanced Technology it offers both engineering and mechatronics training for high school juniors and seniors interested in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career. Currently, about 250 students are enrolled in The Regional Academy.

VWCC maintains an active dialogue with companies in the Roanoke Valley to ensure its training closely aligns with industry requirements. They have held two annual manufacturing summits where faculty meet with employers in the area to better understand their needs. Regional employers have also made commitments to mentor students and donate lab equipment.

“The goal of the mechatronics program at Virginia Western is to prepare students with globally, in-demand skills through local engagement to be well-educated, work-ready engineering technicians,” said Professor Dan Horine, Mechatronics Program Head at VWCC.

VWCC is a great example of the cutting-edge STEM education available through Virginia’s 23-member community college system. To learn how Virginia’s higher education institutions are preparing the workforce of tomorrow, click here.

VWCC mechatronics students commission the FESTO Modular Production System at one of the labs in the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Homegrown Martinsville Company Expands — Textiles Solid as a Stone in Virginia

Wednesday, 11 December 2013 16:35 by Info@YesVirginia.org
When Virginia entrepreneur David Stone decided to start his own company, Solid Stone Fabrics, in 2003 he knew the perfect location — his hometown of Martinsville, Va...

When Virginia entrepreneur David Stone decided to start his own company, Solid Stone Fabrics, in 2003 he knew the perfect location — his hometown of Martinsville, Va. 

With a solid background in the fabrics industry, including stints at Kayser-Roth, Tultex, Reebok and Pine Crest Fabrics, Stone had the industry knowledge and contacts to hit the ground running and start a successful business out of his home. When a truckload of fabric showed up at his front door, his wife let him know it was time to expand.

Stone moved into the local business incubator at the West Piedmont Business Development Center and stayed there until 2008. He carved out a strong niche in the stretch fabric market, supplying materials for customers in the dancewear, swimwear, costume, team and other active apparel markets. The incubator provided much more than a physical location; it offered microloans to help along the way as the company grew.

Solid Stone Fabrics moved into its current location, a 24,000-squre-foot building in downtown Martinsville, in 2008. And, according to Stone, “That’s when things really took off,” which included adding sales offices in New Jersey and California.

“We were primed to do most of our manufacturing in Asia, but we found it difficult to do smaller runs and get a quick response for our customers,” said Stone. “That frustration led us to do more of our own manufacturing here at home in Virginia.”

At any one time, Solid Stone Fabrics has 250,000 yards of material at its facility in Martinsville, ready to respond quickly to both business and individual customers. Martinsville serves as the company’s headquarters and center of operations, which includes adding embellishments for its active apparel markets, printing flags and banners for high schools, and assisting global customers in sourcing and supplying their fabric needs.

To date, the company has 24 employees, and just this week announced plans to create 16 more jobs over the next three years and invest $1.0 million in a second facility in Martinsville. Located just a few blocks away, the second building will add 23,000 square feet of manufacturing space and is expected to be operational by December 15.

“It’s exciting to be back in your hometown and putting people back to work — 40 jobs means a lot,” said Stone.  “In addition, occupying these older buildings in Martinsville is really breathing new life into the heart of our city.”

As to why Stone chose to expand in Martinsville, the answer is simple, “The majority of our employees are from here and educated here. I have relied heavily on Patrick Henry Community College and I can’t say enough about the talent here in Southern Virginia,” said Stone. “We’ve received a lot of support from the City of Martinsville, Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development and the Tobacco Commission — we’re so grateful to have all of that assistance by our side when we need it.”

Solid Stone Fabrics illustrates the success entrepreneurs find when they start a business in the Commonwealth, as well as how competitive Virginia manufacturing is on a global scale. To learn why Virginia is the best state for business, click here.

Members of the Solid Stone Fabrics team discuss their latest innovations from company headquarters in Martinsville, Va.

Charlottesville Startup GigDog Launches from UVA’s i.Lab

Monday, 9 December 2013 16:38 by Info@YesVirginia.org

While working as a geo-political analyst for the Department of Defense, Anslem “J.R.” Gentle came up with an idea for an entertainment and promotion company.

J.R. saw how lesser-known musicians would advertise their upcoming performances on posters and realized even people who saw the posters were not likely to attend the concerts because they weren’t familiar with the music. Thus was born the idea for GigDog — a streaming interactive internet radio station that only plays the music of bands scheduled to perform in the local area within the following six weeks.

What helped turn GigDog from an idea into a real company was access to the UVA i.Lab, an incubator for start-ups in Charlottesville, Va. The i.Lab is the revamped version of the Darden School incubator and includes a newly-renovated space and expanded program. It is unique because it is open to both UVA students and members of the Charlottesville community.

UVA’s i.Lab includes office space with access to a 3-D printer for prototyping, a “pitch” room, workshop, large meeting area, media rooms with Skyping abilities, and a full coffee shop and collaboration area. Applications are due in early January and the year-long program begins in the spring. i.Lab can accommodate 25 companies per year and offers entrepreneurial workshops, a speaker series on topics of interest, and access to professors and the 11 schools within UVA.

GigDog was incorporated in the summer of 2012 and joined the i.Lab pilot program. GigDog’s benefit to both musicians and consumers has allowed it to grow quickly —  it became operational in January 2013 and has grown from 14 bands and 16 venues in Charlottesville to more than 500 bands and 445 venues in five cities.

“As an entrepreneur, being in an environment of like-minded people is paramount,” said GigDog founder J.R. Gentle. “I had the whole of UVA and Darden as a resource. If I needed help with marketing or finance questions I could talk to those professors. I also learned just as much talking to the fellow entrepreneurs in the program.”

GigDog has just launched a RocketHub crowdfunding campaign to expand into additional cities. To experience GigDog visit http://www.gigdog.fm/ and to learn more about the UVA i.Lab visit http://www.ilabatuva.org/

GigDog founder J.R. Gentle chats with another entrepreneur and i.Lab director Philippe Sommer (left to right).

Lumi Juice — From Start-up to Store Shelves in Six Months

Monday, 25 November 2013 09:43 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Graduating MBA student Hillary Lewis could hardly imagine what the next few months would hold when two of her professors at UVA’s Darden School of Business approached her about creating a consumer products company. The timeline below illustrates how quickly a company can start up in Virginia’s supportive entrepreneurial environment...

Graduating MBA student Hillary Lewis could hardly imagine what the next few months would hold when two of her professors at UVA’s Darden School of Business approached her about creating a consumer products company. The timeline below illustrates how quickly a company can start up in Virginia’s supportive entrepreneurial environment.

April — Walking through a natural foods store, Hillary learned about High Pressure Processing, a unique technology that inactivates bacteria while at the same time preserving vital nutrients in food and beverages. Inspiration struck and Hillary came back to her professors with the idea for a healthy juice company. 

She chose the name Lumi, which is an acronym for LoveUMeanIt, a slogan Hillary shared with her undergrad sorority sisters. The company was incorporated on April 18 and the brand message is one of both loving the company’s juices, as well as loving yourself by consuming healthy products.

May — Hillary and her professors visited the High Pressure Processing Laboratory, part of Virginia Tech’s renowned Food Science and Technology program. The team learned that HPP is an innovative technology in food safety that kills microorganisms and extends shelf life through extreme water pressure. It avoids using chemicals and heat that can alter the taste and nutritional content of foods and beverages.

June — Hillary headed to Miami to visit Hiperbaric, the world’s leading manufacturer of HPP equipment for the food industry. She came away with additional knowledge and an agreement to lease one of the company’s machines for arrival in September.

July — The next step involved looking for a space to set up manufacturing. Hillary worked with economic developers in Albemarle County to find a suitable building. She found the perfect location at 1822 Broadway Street in Charlottesville, an industrial district that is within walking distance of the downtown mall area. The 12,000-square-foot facility is approximately 50 percent manufacturing, with the remainder allocated for office and warehouse space.

August — Lumi began setting up shop in an empty warehouse, which included adding everything from plumbing to electricity. Dominion Virginia Power was particularly helpful in upgrading the facility to the necessary 480 volts in an expedited time frame.

September — The Hiperbaric machine was delivered and the team configured production, warehousing and office space.

October — On October 11, Lumi produced the first HPP juice off the production line. VDACS came out to inspect the facility, and according to Hillary, “On October 25 we got the okay to sell and it was game on!”

November — The company has been selling its fresh vegetable and fruit juices for almost four weeks. Lumi has already branched out from Charlottesville to retailers such as Whole Foods Market and Relay Foods in Richmond, D.C., and Rockville, Md. From weeks three to four the company has more than doubled sales.

According to Hillary, “One reason I went to business school was to start my own company. I believe in the viability of manufacturing in the U.S. and in creating jobs and industry at home. I feel really fortunate there have been so many wonderful people that have been a part of this. We wouldn’t be here today without the support of partners at the university, state and county level. I feel extremely thankful and regardless of the obstacles, every day is more wonderful than the one before.”

Use the highlighted links to learn more about Lumi Juice and why Virginia is a great place to start a business.

Hillary Lewis, co-founder of Lumi Juice, expands sales through a product display in Richmond’s Ellwood Thompson’s Natural Foods Market.

Virginia Entrepreneurs — Dr. Lucy’s Takes Gluten-Free Global with VALET Program

Thursday, 21 November 2013 16:44 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Ten years ago, Dr. Lucy Gibney’s experience with food allergies was fairly typical for a board-certified emergency medicine physician. That all changed when her four month old son had a life-threatening allergic reaction to infant formula...

Ten years ago, Dr. Lucy Gibney’s experience with food allergies was fairly typical for a board-certified emergency medicine physician. That all changed when her four month old son had a life-threatening allergic reaction to infant formula.

Food safety quickly became a priority; however, at the time Dr. Lucy had trouble finding allergy-free products that were both safe and tasted good. Having developed a love of baking and experimenting with recipes since childhood, she combined this with her medical training in nutrition to develop delicious, allergy-free baked goods the whole family could enjoy.

Dr. Lucy and her husband wanted to share their cookies, brownies and snacks with other families, and thus was born Dr. Lucy’s line of baked goods, free from gluten, milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts.

In 2007, Dr. Lucy’s opened a 2,500-square-foot bakery in Norfolk, Va. The company outgrew this space three years ago and moved into a facility that has now grown to 22,000 square feet, including a dedicated bakery, warehouse, office space and laboratory to ensure sourced ingredients have not been cross-contaminated with any allergens. 

The company has expanded to more than 100 employees and managed to double sales every year since inception. Dr. Lucy’s began selling to natural food and grocery stores in the Hampton Roads area, and expanded throughout the mid-Atlantic region on its own momentum. Within the first six months, the company established a Midwest presence through an industry trade show in Chicago and gained an introduction to a buyer at Whole Foods Market by attending the Virginia Food and Beverage Expo. Dr. Lucy’s products are now in more than 6,000 retail locations across the U.S.

Dr. Lucy’s became a member of VEDP’s Virginia Leaders in Export Trade program in July 2012 after some early growth in Canada and the U.K. VALET helped the company research which new markets to focus on, and provided introductions to international consumer products experts, banking relationships and legal consults.

According to Dr. Lucy, “VALET put everything we needed right there in front of us. We really benefitted from the research component to check our facts and feel comfortable investing resources in a particular direction. Especially as a small company, having a jump start with core competencies in the international arena makes a big difference — it could have taken us years to develop this on our own.”

Through the VALET program, Dr. Lucy’s is expanding deeper into Europe and is now shipping to Mexico. To learn more about VALET and what VEDP’s international trade program can do for you, click here.

Dr. Lucy’s develops Spanish-language packaging as it prepares to enter the Mexican market.

Virginia Makes History Again — Orbital Sciences Launches First Satellite Built by High School Students

Wednesday, 20 November 2013 13:56 by Info@YesVirginia.org
At approximately 8:15 p.m. last night, Orbital Sciences launched the first satellite built by high school students, a team from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va...

At approximately 8:15 p.m. last night, Orbital Sciences launched the first satellite built by high school students, a team from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va. 

The satellite, known as TJ3SAT, is a CubeSat that has been designed, built and tested by more than 50 students at Thomas Jefferson and represents nearly seven years of work. Orbital Sciences mentored the students and provided financial support, as well as space testing facilities.

TJ3SAT measures 10 x 10 x 11 cm and weighs approximately two pounds. Its payload consists of a voice synthesizer that converts text to voice. Once it enters Earth orbit, students from around the world will be able to freely access the satellite by sending strings of text to the TJ3SAT website. Approved messages will be transmitted to the satellite, where they will be converted to voice signals and transmitted back to Earth using amateur radio frequency.

TJ3SAT launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-OB at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. MARS is one of only four commercial sites approved by the FAA for orbital space launches, and offers an ideal trajectory for Earth orbit insertion.

Orbital Sciences launched TJ3SAT with 27 other CubeSats aboard a Minotaur I rocket as part of its ORS-3 mission for the U.S. Air Force.

The collaborative partnership between Orbital Sciences and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology illustrates Virginia’s position at the forefront of STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math), preparing students for careers in advanced fields, such as aerospace.

Use the highlighted links to learn more about the TJ3SAT program and Virginia’s leadership in the aerospace industry.

The Minotaur I rocket, carrying the first satellite built by high school students, launches from MARS at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Photo courtesy of NASA Wallops/Chris Perry.

Virginia Conference on World Trade Celebrates 65 Years of Global Business Success

Wednesday, 13 November 2013 09:48 by Info@YesVirginia.org

VEDP’s international trade division recently hosted more than 200 professionals at the 65th annual Virginia Conference on World Trade in Williamsburg, Va.

The two-day event provided attendees with the opportunity to develop their international network with in-country experts, as well as attend sessions where panelists offered practical advice on how to expand sales in the global marketplace.

The event kicked off with an evening networking reception featuring Ignite Speed Networking, a Virginia company that has the world’s only platform for group-based speed networking.

Prior to the conference, attendees were encouraged to take the Global Mindset Survey offered by the renowned Thunderbird School of Global Management. The next morning, Dr. Mansour Javidan, Director of the Najafi Global Mindset Institute and Garvin Distinguished Professor at Thunderbird, went over the results of the survey and helped attendees pinpoint areas to improve their cross-cultural interactions.

Participants then chose between two tracks for the main portion of the day. Track A included a session each on how to gain traction in the South American, Asian and European markets. Track B was geared towards defense companies and offered sessions on the Foreign Military Sales process, the Australia/U.S. Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty, and how to manage and motivate foreign distributors.

The keynote address was provided by Michael Eyestone, Minister-Counsellor (Commercial Policy) and Senior Trade Commissioner at the Embassy of Canada in Washington, D.C. Eyestone discussed the plentiful opportunities that Canada offers as the U.S.’ No. 1 export destination. It provides a strong entry point for companies new to exporting due to the ease of restrictions and common language.

The conference concluded with an evening banquet where three awards were given, recognizing excellence in international trade. The Commonwealth of Virginia Governor’s Award for Excellence in International Trade was given to Moog Components Group out of Blacksburg, Va. The Virginia International Business Council Global Excellence Award recognized Joseph Ruddy, chief operating officer at Virginia International Terminals. The Virginia TradePort Innovator of the Year Award was given to Shawn Utt of Pulaski County.

Save the date for next year’s conference, October 29-30, at The Richmond Marriott in Richmond, Va. Visit www.vacwt.org for conference details and www.exportvirginia.org to learn how VEDP can help your company sell overseas.

Paul Grossman, VEDP vice president of international trade, congratulates Greg Boyer, vice president of sales at Moog Components Group, for winning The Commonwealth of Virginia Governor’s Award for Excellence in International Trade.

UMW Hosts Transformation 20/20 — A Regional Economic Development Summit

Monday, 4 November 2013 10:34 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Last week, University of Mary Washington hosted Transformation 20/20, a summit focused on economic development in the greater Fredericksburg region...

Last week, University of Mary Washington hosted Transformation 20/20, a summit focused on economic development in the greater Fredericksburg region.

The goal of Transformation 20/20 is to develop a clear vision as the region moves toward the year 2020. The summit brought together more than 150 public and private sector attendees to discuss opportunities for collaboration across the Fredericksburg region.

Preparation for the summit began a year earlier when UMW President Rick Hurley, the UMW Center for Economic Development, and Fredericksburg Regional Alliance met with local economic development professionals and business leaders in the community. FRA is the first Virginia economic development organization to be formally affiliated with a higher education institution and is housed on UMW’s campus.

Part of the year-long planning process involved commissioning a study from Chmura Economics & Analytics, and those results were presented at the summit.

The Chmura report identified six industry clusters economic developers should include as part of their strategy to encourage job creation and capital investment in the Fredericksburg region. They include business services, finance/insurance/real estate, health and life sciences, information/communications, manufacturing, and public administration.

The Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce also presented the results of a survey of young professionals, ages 21-40, in the region. The survey found that these young adults were pleased with the job market and planned to stay in the Fredericksburg area. The group suggested improvements to traffic congestion and more recreational and networking opportunities would increase their likelihood to remain in the region.

Transformation 20/20 served as a catalyst for identifying areas of opportunity to encourage economic prosperity in the Fredericksburg community. Continued conversations about how to improve traffic, increase broadband infrastructure, and encourage entrepreneurs are expected to take place — UMW plans to make Transformation 20/20 an annual event.

To learn more about FRA and the UMW Center for Economic Development, click on the highlighted links.

UMW President Rick Hurley and Fredericksburg City Council Member Matt Kelly (right to left) discuss economic development strategy at the Transformation 20/20 summit. Photo courtesy of Fredericksburg Patch.com/Susan Larson.

STIHL Inc. Wins AME 2013 Manufacturing Excellence Award

Friday, 25 October 2013 16:19 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The Association for Manufacturing Excellence recently recognized STIHL Inc. with a 2013 Manufacturing Excellence Award at its recent AME International Excellence Inside Conference in Toronto, Canada...

The Association for Manufacturing Excellence recently recognized STIHL Inc. with a 2013 Manufacturing Excellence Award at its recent AME International Excellence Inside Conference in Toronto, Canada.

The AME Manufacturing Excellence Award is given to North American manufacturing plants that have demonstrated excellence in their manufacturing and business operations. AME seeks to acknowledge manufacturers that have implemented continuous improvement, lean principles, creativity and innovation.

STIHL’s award-winning Virginia Beach facility serves as both its U.S. headquarters and base of operations to manufacture more than 280 models of chains saws and other power equipment. The company manufactures the No. 1 brand of chain saws in the world.

According to the company, “The AME assessment team noted the facility’s strides toward the establishment of a continuous improvement system, focusing on the implementation of advanced technology, integration of automation, data systems, work instructions, signaling devices and steps toward the establishment of flow.”

Since opening its Virginia Beach plant in 1974, STIHL has grown from 20,000 square feet under one roof to more than two million square feet on a 150-acre campus. With a talented workforce of 1,900 Virginians, the company exports products to more than 90 countries around the world.

Over the last 20 years, STIHL has announced more than $335 million of investment in the Commonwealth. What keeps an innovative global leader like STIHL coming back? Virginia has successfully competed against China, Brazil and Germany due to its highly-skilled workforce, premier logistics system and pro-business environment.

To learn more about the innovative environment Virginia offers global leaders like STIHL, click here.

Glenn Marshall, chair of AME’s Manufacturing as a Desirable Career Path program; Brent Sheffler, managing director, Knowledge Transfer and Strategic Outreach at VEDP; Christian Koestler, vice president of operations at STIHL Inc.; and Dale Gehring, Chairman of AME, celebrate STIHL’s AME 2013 Manufacturing Excellence Award in Toronto, Canada.

Williamsburg-James City County School System Celebrates National Manufacturing Day

Wednesday, 23 October 2013 13:48 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The Williamsburg-James City County School system recently celebrated Manufacturing Day with tours of three local manufacturing operations...

The Williamsburg-James City County School system recently celebrated Manufacturing Day with tours of three local manufacturing operations.

Manufacturing Day is a national program that encourages companies across the U.S. to provide tours to local high school students and teachers. The goals are to illustrate the high-tech nature of the industry, encourage students to explore careers in manufacturing and STEM subjects, and build relationships between school systems and the manufacturing community.

A group of students, teachers, guidance counselors and school board members from WJCC were able to witness firsthand the advanced logistical operations of Wal-Mart Import Distribution Center and the high-tech food packaging operations of Ball Corp. and Printpack Inc.

“Our region is known for its strength in the hospitality industry. We wanted to let students know there are opportunities in other fields right here in their own community,” said Kate Sipes, one of the event organizers and business development and retention coordinator at James City County Office of Economic Development.

WJCC is also the first public school system in North America to sign up for the Association of Manufacturing Excellence “Adopt a School” initiative. This allows AME to partner with schools and local businesses to share best practices and help design curricula to improve career readiness.

“Manufacturing Day allowed students to see what modern manufacturing is — a sleek, technology-driven industry full of high-paid, fulfilling careers,” said Glenn Marshall, chair of AME’s Manufacturing as a Desirable Career Path program.

Just down the road, Newport News Shipbuilding also hosted a similar event to educate guidance counselors from the region on the advanced operations and rewarding careers available at the shipyard.

Virginia continues to be a leader in preparing students for advanced manufacturing careers with strong STEM education programs. To learn more, click here.

WJCC students, teachers and school administrators gather for a tour of Printpack Inc. as part of national Manufacturing Day.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science Bolsters the Commonwealth's Oyster Industry

Wednesday, 16 October 2013 11:08 by Info@YesVirginia.org

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) has played an important role in the recovery of the Commonwealth’s oyster industry through its research and educational offerings. 

The popular species of oyster found along the Atlantic Coast is named Crassostrea virginica, literally “Virginia oyster,” because of its predominance in Virginia waters, including the Chesapeake and its tributaries. Unfortunately, the wild oyster beds and natural reefs off Virginia’s coastline have been depleted over the last 100 years due to overfishing, pollution, disease and changing water temperature and saline levels.

These factors have caused the industry to migrate towards aquaculture techniques that involve cultivating oysters and closely monitoring their growth phases on and offshore.

VIMS partners with local oyster farms by sharing its scientific and industry research, providing education on sustainable aquaculture techniques, and guiding companies through the regulation process.

This has enabled small businesses to prosper, such as Rappahannock River Oyster Co. Recently featured in national news, the great grandsons of the founder quickly learned the ropes after taking over the 100-year-old family business in 2001.

Today, the company owns three restaurants and ships 100,000 oysters per week to restaurants all over the U.S., as well as Hong Kong. Rappahannock River Oyster Co. is helping to repopularize the Virginia oyster and offers four flavors. The “Rappahannock” is the sweetest variety and is grown in the Rappahannock River, while “Olde Salts” from the Chincoteague Bay is the saltiest.

According to Rappahannock River Oyster Co. Director of Operations, Captain Anthony Marchetti, “VIMS has laid the foundation to help develop quality seed that allows us to grow more oysters. Over the last five years, we’ve seen a 500 percent increase in the production of our Rappahannock oysters.”

That growth is occurring across the industry. According to VIMS, the number of aquaculture oysters sold by Virginia farms has increased from 0.8 million in 2005 to 28.1 million in 2012.

“Renewed interest in regional flavors and sustainable food practices has helped drive this market,” said Karen Hudson, VIMS Commercial Shellfish Aquaculture Extension Specialist. “It’s already an economically valuable industry and one that has lots of potential to grow. In 2012, there was an economic output of almost $20 million associated with single oyster aquaculture in Virginia.”

Click on the highlighted link to learn more about VIMS aquaculture programs or attend the Virginia Aquaculture Conference in November.

Captain Anthony Marchetti examines a successful crop of the company’s sweet “Rappahannock” oysters, fresh from the Rappahannock River. Photo courtesy of Rappahannock River Oyster Co. 

 

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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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YesVirginia Business Blog | A place for news, opinions, and information regarding the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

Virginia Receives an A+ for Small Business Friendliness

Tuesday, 17 June 2014 09:35 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia received an A+ on Thumbtack.com’s annual Small Business Friendliness Survey. The Commonwealth improved its rank to the fourth overall friendliest state in the U.S. and the top state on the East Coast...

Virginia received an A+ on Thumbtack.com’s annual Small Business Friendliness Survey. The Commonwealth improved its rank to the fourth overall friendliest state in the U.S. and the top state on the East Coast.

Virginia outshone its surrounding competition for the third year in a row. Maryland received a C- and North Carolina earned a C+. Virginia has never received less than an A since the inception of this ranking.

Thumbtack.com partnered with the Kauffman Foundation to survey more than 12,600 entrepreneurs across the country. This ranking is unique because its results come straight from the comments of small business owners.

“After a two-month survey of thousands of small business owners nationwide, business owners have reaffirmed that Virginia is a premier destination for starting and running a business,” said Jon Lieber, Chief Economist of Thumbtack.com. “Creating a business climate that is welcoming to small, dynamic businesses is more important than ever, and Virginia's A+ grade by its small businesses shows what a welcoming and friendly place the Commonwealth is for entrepreneurs.”

Highlights for Virginia include a No. 3 ranking for ease of licensing regulations, a No. 4 ranking for ease of overall regulations, and a No. 5 ranking for training and networking programs. According to Thumbtack.com, the strongest correlating factor for the perception of small business friendliness is the ease of licensing forms, requirements and fees.

In addition, the study examined 82 metropolitan regions. Richmond was ranked No. 10 overall and Virginia Beach was ranked No. 20 overall. Richmond and Virginia Beach were ranked No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, for ease of licensing regulations.

Entrepreneurs and start-ups are becoming increasingly important for economic growth and organic job creation. According to Thumbtack.com, “Virginia’s small businesses were the third most optimistic in the nation when it came to plans to hire more employees in the next twelve months.”

To learn why Virginia is a great place to start and grow a business, click here.

Center for Advanced Film Manufacturing Established in Window Film Capital of the World

Monday, 9 June 2014 14:50 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The founding of the Center for Advanced Film Manufacturing was recently announced in Martinsville-Henry County during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Patrick Henry Community College...

The founding of the Center for Advanced Film Manufacturing was recently announced in Martinsville-Henry County during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Patrick Henry Community College.

Through a public-private partnership, the center will offer a 28-credit Advanced Film Certification Program. Students will take classes at Patrick Henry Community College and New College Institute, while receiving access to hands-on training with machinery and equipment at nearby Eastman Chemical and Commonwealth Laminating & Coating. In March, Eastman Chemical announced plans to acquire Commonwealth Laminating & Coating.

Advanced film experts at Eastman Chemical and Commonwealth Laminating & Coating are advising on curriculum and will participate as part-time instructors. The companies will also offer internships and all graduates of the program are guaranteed an interview at Eastman Chemical.

The Martinsville-Henry County region has become “the window film capital of the world,” producing more than 30 percent of the global supply of coated and dyed film.

Performance or advanced films are terms used to describe any film applied to another material, such as a glass window. Films come in the form of tints, laminates, coating and composites, providing benefits such as tints on car windows to reduce glare, tints on office building windows for privacy, additional strength to industrial windows for security, and the addition of photovoltaic materials to solar panels to capture the sun’s energy.

Students can apply to the Advanced Film Certification Program on the PHCC website, and the first class will commence in fall 2014.

Virginia is home to more than 200 plastics companies, and the Center for Advanced Film Manufacturing will help ensure the Commonwealth has a well-trained workforce pipeline to maintain its leadership in this industry sector. To learn more, click here.

Two employees at Eastman Chemical stand proudly in Martinsville-Henry County, “the window film capital of the world." Photo courtesy of Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.

RockTenn’s West Point Mill Celebrates 100 Years in Virginia

Monday, 2 June 2014 15:08 by Info@YesVirginia.org
RockTenn recently celebrated 100 years of success at its West Point mill in King William County, Va. The mill produces white top linerboard and recycled medium used in corrugated boxes and other types of packaging...

RockTenn recently celebrated 100 years of success at its West Point mill in King William County, Va. The mill produces white top linerboard and recycled medium used in corrugated boxes and other types of packaging. 

The West Point mill began operations on May 16, 1914, a little over a year after the company was first established as the Chesapeake Pulp & Paper Company. The mill began with 140 employees and a capacity of 20 tons of paper products per day.

Chesapeake Pulp & Paper Company would later become Chesapeake Corp. and the mill would change ownership a number of times before being acquired by RockTenn in 2011. RockTenn is publicly traded (NYSE: RKT) and one of the leading packaging solutions providers in North America.

In 1930, the West Point Mill acquired the first Fourdrinier machine in the South, allowing it to manufacture continuous sheets of paper.  The machine initially created a sheet 218 inches wide, running at a top speed of 1,000 feet per minute. The machine has been updated and is still running today at 2,000 feet per minute.

The mill added paper machine No. 2 in 1964 and machine No. 3 in 1985. Today, the mill employs more than 500 Virginians and produces about 900,000 tons of paper products each year.

In October 2012, RockTenn celebrated completion of an 11-mile pipeline to supply natural gas to the West Point mill, in partnership with Virginia Natural Gas, Dominion Virginia Power, New Kent County, King William County, and the Town of West Point. The company also invested in the mill to make it more efficient, reduce emissions and lessen its carbon footprint.

According to RockTenn General Manager Chris Broome, “We are very excited about the investments RockTenn is making in our West Point mill to continue providing our customers with high-quality products and to better support their needs. We are committed to being a good business partner within the community and value the relationships we have developed throughout the years.”

The West Point mill’s 100 years of success is a notable achievement and represents the longevity and prosperity companies experience in Virginia’s pro-business environment. To learn why companies keep growing in the Best State for Business, click here.

A view of RockTenn’s West Point mill on the York River in West Point, Va. Photo courtesy of RockTenn.

U.S. Foreign Affairs Security Training Center Comes to Virginia’s Fort Pickett

Wednesday, 21 May 2014 14:29 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The U.S. Department of State recently announced plans to establish its Foreign Affairs Security Training Center, known as FASTC, on 1,500 acres at Fort Pickett in Virginia’s Nottoway County...

The U.S. Department of State recently announced plans to establish its Foreign Affairs Security Training Center, known as FASTC, on 1,500 acres at Fort Pickett in Virginia’s Nottoway County.

U.S. diplomats are currently trained at multiple sites across the nation. In May 2008, Congress identified the need to consolidate training at one facility to improve efficiencies and cost savings. 

After a multi-year search, Fort Pickett was selected as the best site over 70 other properties because it met DOS’ operational requirements and offered close proximity to D.C. agencies and the intelligence community.

FASTC will train approximately 8,000 – 10,000 U.S. ambassadors and diplomats sent to foreign countries, sometimes in dangerous locations. The center will initially focus on hard skills training, which includes detecting surveillance, providing emergency medical care, identifying explosive devices, firearms training, and performing defensive driving maneuvers. The 2012 attacks in Benghazi highlight the importance of this training for the U.S. foreign affairs community.

Fort Pickett is the perfect location because the 46,000-acre campus offers plenty of land and a secure environment to build driving tracks, mock urban environments, and firing and explosive ranges. Fort Pickett was established in 1942 and currently serves as the Maneuver Training Center for the Virginia National Guard. While the land is predominantly in Nottoway County, it covers parts of Brunswick and Dinwiddie Counties.

This project is expected to be transformative for the Nottoway County region. The DOS is currently estimating a hard-skills facility will bring $461 million in investment to the area, not to mention additional jobs both onsite and in the community through the multiplier effect.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and a group of federal, state and local officials recently visited Fort Pickett to tour the future site of FASTC. The Administration continues to work through budgetary issues and must complete an updated master plan and environmental impact study before construction can begin.

Virginia’s selection as the site for the FASTC project illustrates how the Commonwealth provides the right location, infrastructure and workforce for both public and private entities. To learn more click here.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and a group of federal, state and local officials tour the future site of FASTC at Fort Pickett in Nottoway County, Va. Photo courtesy of Virginia National Guard Public Affairs/Cotton Puryear.

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Holds Its First Commencement Ceremony

Friday, 9 May 2014 12:07 by Info@YesVirginia.org

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine will hold its first-ever commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 10 at 8:30 a.m. at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke.

The ceremony will be held for the school’s first 40 graduates, who are all continuing on to a residency. U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, who as a former governor of Virginia signed legislation to support the creation of the new school, will be the keynote speaker.

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute serves as a model of collaboration between public and private partners. The institute combines Virginia Tech’s sciences, bioinformatics, and engineering with Carilion Clinic’s highly experienced medical staff. The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute collaborates with 75 institutions around the world, and has 168 research employees.

In addition, the institute’s unique, patient-centered learning model and small class size allows students to learn through real-life situations with ample student participation. Only 15 percent of medical schools in the U.S. have a patient-centered learning curriculum.

Virginia has a number of nationally recognized medical training and research institutes around the state, including the VCU School of Medicine and the UVA Department of Biomedical Engineering and School of Medicine, and now adds another major medical school in the western part of the state.

Virginia’s nationally acclaimed universities and community colleges, ensure businesses have a knowledgeable and highly trained workforce. The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute is a great example of how Virginia is preparing for jobs of the 21st century. To learn more about Virginia’s more than 100 in-state institutions of higher education, click here.

A view of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute—located in Roanoke, Virginia.

Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre Breaks Ground in Martinsville-Henry County

Monday, 21 April 2014 15:02 by Info@YesVirginia.org

Last Thursday, a kickoff event was held marking the beginning of development at Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre.

The event at the 740-acre site attracted members of the U.S. Congress, state leaders, local officials, and citizens and neighbors from both Virginia and North Carolina. The CCBC project began in 2007 when Henry County purchased the land. Earlier this month, the grading permit was awarded by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Chairman of the Henry County Board of Supervisors H.G. Vaughn, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, U.S. Congressman Robert Hurt, U.S. Congressman Morgan Griffith, and Virginia House of Delegates member Danny Marshall delivered remarks. U.S Senator Mark Warner could not attend the event but had his remarks delivered by a member of his staff.

Henry County officials said their plan is to create about 140 to 170 acres of useable pad space for potential companies. Grading work on the site is expected to begin within two to three weeks and it could take up to 18-24 months to complete that work. The Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation will be the lead agency in marketing the property.

CCBC is a prime location for advanced manufacturing companies, including automotive and aerospace. The business park is located in an Enterprise Zone, which allows companies to apply for special zone grants and incentives. CCBC is located 33 miles from the Piedmont Triad International Airport and is adjacent to the Norfolk Southern Railway Mainline.

Funding partners for CCBC include Henry County, the City of Martinsville, the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation, the Tobacco Commission, The Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Small Business Administration and the Mid-Atlantic Broadband.

CCBC is another example of the pipeline of premier business parks that keeps manufacturing companies coming to the Commonwealth. To learn why manufacturers have invested more than $13.7 billion in Virginia over the last decade, click here.

Federal, state and local officials celebrate the groundbreaking of CCBC, a 740-acre business park in Martinsville-Henry County.

Southern Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Center Receives Additional Funding

Monday, 14 April 2014 15:16 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Halifax County Industrial Development Authority recently announced it has received a $427,500 grant to complete Phase III renovations on the Southern Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Center...

Halifax County Industrial Development Authority recently announced it has received a $427,500 grant to complete Phase III renovations on the Southern Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Center.

SVAMC is located in South Boston, Va., at the former Daystrom Furniture manufacturing plant. Halifax County purchased the facility three years ago, which includes 34 acres and three buildings totaling 430,000 square feet. 

The county has been renovating the site, originally established in the 1960s, and recently added a new, more energy-efficient roof. Phase III renovations will extend natural gas to the site through a collaboration with Columbia Gas of Virginia.

The goal of the project is to provide a manufacturing ecosystem that will draw multiple companies to the area, as well as jobs and investment. The facility will include both advanced manufacturing and hands-on workforce training space for multiple tenants. It is expected to be ready in early 2015.

VEDP helped Halifax County identify the grant from the U.S. Community Advancement and Improvement Program. Matt Leonard, executive director of the Halifax County IDA, emphasized the importance of the funding for the region, commenting, “The USCAIP grant provides benefits beyond its dollar value.”

Advanced manufacturing continues to be a mainstay of Virginia’s economy, with 5,600 manufacturers employing almost 231,000 workers. To learn why manufacturing companies have invested more than $13.7 billion in the Commonwealth over the last 10 years, click here.

A rendering of the Southern Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Center in South Boston, Va. Photo courtesy of Halifax County Industrial Development Authority.

Bioplastics — How One Virginia Company is Making Plastic out of Feathers

Friday, 28 March 2014 11:45 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Eastern BioPlastics has successfully commercialized a process to make plastic out of chicken feathers. By using what was formerly a waste product, the company is making plastic components in a sustainable way...

Eastern BioPlastics has successfully commercialized a process to make plastic out of chicken feathers. By using what was formerly a waste product, the company is making plastic components in a sustainable way.

Co-founders Sonny Meyerhoeffer and Dr. Justin Barone established the company in Mount Crawford, Va., in 2008. They combined Meyerhoeffer’s background as an entrepreneur in the poultry industry with Barone’s engineering expertise as a professor at Virginia Tech to accomplish a difficult task — commercializing R&D into an effective process.

The company replaces up to 50 percent of the petroleum component of plastics with fiber made from chicken feathers. This chicken feather fiber, called feather fiber intermediate, has a number of advantages over petroleum. It is a renewable resource and makes use of something that was previously viewed as a waste product. In addition, the chicken feather fibers are very strong yet lightweight, making them ideal for plastic products.

Eastern BioPlastics has developed a proprietary technique that cleans and processes the chicken feathers in a cost-competitive way. The feather fiber intermediate is blended with polyolefins in a resin, and then extruded into pellet form. These pellets are then sold to original equipment manufacturers that use injection molding to form any number of end products for use in the automotive, furniture and sports equipment industries. The company is currently beta testing this product with customers.

Eastern BioPlastics has also developed a second product called Environmental BioProtector. Feathers are extremely oil absorbent; news coverage of massive oil spills illustrates how birds suffer because the oil becomes trapped in their feathers. The company has developed a product using chicken feathers to help clean up oil spills, from large-scale disasters to consumer use for car oil leaks. Environmental BioProtector is USDA certified and made of 99 percent bio-based material, making it one of the most eco-friendly and low cost oil absorbing solutions on the market today. The company has been selling this product since May 2013.

Creating an entirely new product in 2008 was no easy feat, especially during the economic downturn of 2009-2010. According to co-founder Meyerhoeffer, “Back then nobody wanted to take a chance on anything new. We had to figure out how to break in and create a market with a brand new product.”

When asked why he kept going during these early days, Meyerhoeffer responded, “I was never led to quit and we stayed at it because we knew there was something there that was better. You have to persevere through the tough times. I think a lot of entrepreneurs are that way. You know you’ve got something viable and it’s just about continuing through to the end.”

The founders of Eastern BioPlastics exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation that’s alive and well in the Commonwealth. To learn what Virginia offers and why it’s a great place to start a business, click here.

Eastern BioPlastics co-founder Sonny Meyerhoeffer displays his Bioplastic Composite Resins made from chicken feathers. 

VEDP Releases Maritime Opportunities Export Report

Thursday, 20 March 2014 14:44 by Info@YesVirginia.org
VEDP just released its Maritime Opportunities Export Report for Virginia. The report was prepared by Old Dominion University as part of VEDP’s Going Global Defense Initiative aimed at helping Virginia defense companies mitigate the impact of sequestration by increasing international sales...

VEDP just released its Maritime Opportunities Export Report for Virginia. The report was prepared by Old Dominion University as part of VEDP’s Going Global Defense Initiative aimed at helping Virginia defense companies mitigate the impact of sequestration by increasing international sales.

This report, geared towards small and medium defense contractors, is timely given current expectations for another BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) process and the possibility of the U.S. military shifting some assets to the Pacific Rim.

The Maritime Opportunities Export Report gives a high level overview of the process a company would need to follow in order to export defense products or services. For example, one of the first steps a company should take is determining if its product or service is on the U.S. Munitions List or the Commerce Control List so it can obtain the appropriate registration and license to export. The report also provides helpful links to federal resources that govern these procedures.

Recognizing that the most reliable indicator of future trade activity is current trade activity, the report utilized a mixture of historical data on defense import purchases combined with expected growth rates and political and financial stability to determine the export opportunity ranking by country.

The Top 10 markets for U.S. Maritime Exports are:

  1. Japan
  2. Australia
  3. United Kingdom
  4. South Korea
  5. Israel
  6. India
  7. Turkey
  8. United Arab Emirates
  9. Mexico
  10. South Africa

The report also outlines a number of emerging growth markets in the global maritime industry. These include anti-piracy products, services and technology; ship conversions and deactivations; privatized naval security; unmanned underwater vehicles for mining, mapping, environmental testing, route surveying and port surveillance; and C4ISTAR which stands for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, targeting acquisitions and reconnaissance.

To download the report and learn more about VEDP’s Going Global Defense Initiative, click here.

Capital One Celebrates Opening of Chesterfield County Data Center

Wednesday, 19 March 2014 09:09 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Capital One recently celebrated the opening of its newest data center in Chesterfield County. The $150 million project was first announced in June 2012...

Capital One recently celebrated the opening of its newest data center in Chesterfield County. The $150 million project was first announced in June 2012.

This investment represents part of Capital One’s efforts to streamline and automate its IT infrastructure, adding new technologies to continue its reputation for leadership and exceptional customer service.

The 242,000-square-foot facility is scalable for future growth and includes redundant power supply and substantial backup systems to ensure uninterrupted service. It is also LEED Gold certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“This new data center is a bold example of the value we place on having the best technology to deliver on our customer mission, and we are proud to continue our strong relationship with Virginia and expand our workforce here,” said Rob Alexander, Chief Information Officer at Capital One.

The company employs more than 15,000 associates in Virginia, drawing on the Commonwealth’s strong IT and professional services labor pool. While the company initially expected to create 50 new jobs related to this investment, Capital One now expects to double that over the next year in Central Virginia.

Capital One was founded in Virginia more than 20 years ago. The company has thrived in the Commonwealth and grown to become a Fortune 500 company (NYSE: COF) and one of the most recognized brand names in the U.S. It is the country’s largest direct bank and 7th largest bank based on deposits.

Chesterfield County was selected for this project due to its proximity to Capital One’s existing operations in the Greater Richmond area. Central Virginia has been part of Virginia’s booming data center industry because it offers abundant power, an advanced fiber-optic network, low risk of natural disaster, and a strong IT workforce.

To learn why approximately 700 data processing, hosting and related establishments have selected Virginia as their home, click here.

The Port of Virginia – the Only Port on the U.S. East Coast Ready Now for Post-Panamax Vessels

Tuesday, 11 March 2014 15:58 by Info@YesVirginia.org
While other ports along the East Coast scramble to deepen their channels in preparation for the Panama Canal expansion, the Port of Virginia stands ready as the only port on the U.S. East Coast currently capable of handling post-Panamax ships as first and last port of call...

While other ports along the East Coast scramble to deepen their channels in preparation for the Panama Canal expansion, the Port of Virginia stands ready as the only port on the U.S. East Coast currently capable of handling post-Panamax ships as first and last port of call.

With 50-foot channels and authorization up to 55 feet, the Port of Virginia offers the deepest shipping channels on the U.S. East Coast, able to accommodate ships greater than 10,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). Even just a few feet of channel depth can have a significant impact. 45-foot channels can only accommodate up to 8,500-TEU vessels and 42-foot channels can only accommodate 4,500-TEU vessels.

The Port of Virginia offers prime, unobstructed access to the Atlantic Ocean. This saves valuable transit time and costs, and ships traveling to the Port of Virginia can avoid the hassle of traveling inland, navigating rivers and overhead obstructions like low bridges.

Served by every major shipping line, the Port of Virginia offers direct connection to more than 100 foreign ports and reach to any country in the world. Norfolk Southern and CSX offer on-dock, double-stack intermodal service to markets throughout the Northeast, Midwest and Southeast. Customers also have access to 12 short-line railroads for a total of 3,500 miles of track throughout Virginia. 

The Port of Virginia is one of the largest intermodal networks on the East Coast, handling 2.2 million TEUs in 2013. The Virginia Port Authority operates four owned terminals:  three marine terminals, Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal, and an inland facility, the Virginia Inland Port. VPA also operates two leased marine facilities: APM Terminals and the Port of Richmond.

Norfolk International Terminals is the Port of Virginia’s largest terminal. It houses 14 Suez Class ZPMC cranes, the largest, most efficient cranes in the world. Capable of handling current and future ships, these cranes have a 245-foot reach that can offload vessels loaded 27 containers wide.

APM Terminals is known as the most technologically advanced terminal in the Americas. It automates and optimizes the flow of crane and container movements, and its advanced tracking systems can pinpoint the exact location of every container. Cargo movements are handled by eight Super Post-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes, 30 semi-automated rail-mounted gantry cranes and two rubber-tire gantry cranes with electric spreader bars.

Use the highlighted links to learn more about the capabilities of the world-class Port of Virginia and Virginia’s global logistics network.

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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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