Plastics on the Rise — Insights from the Plastics News Forum 2014

Friday, 7 March 2014 14:15 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Last week, VEDP attended the Plastics News Executive Forum in Tampa, Florida. We had the opportunity to hear from Bill Wood, Founder of Mountaintop Economics & Research, and learn why he thinks the North American plastics industry is on the rise...

Last week, VEDP attended the Plastics News Executive Forum in Tampa, Florida. We had the opportunity to hear from Bill Wood, Founder of Mountaintop Economics & Research, and learn why he thinks the North American plastics industry is on the rise.

First, the Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers' Index has been growing for the past few years. The PMI is an economic indicator derived from monthly surveys of private sector companies. Since the PMI has been on the rise for several years, Bill predicts it should continue to increase for years to come, which is good news for Virginia’s already thriving plastics industry.

Second, U.S. durable goods orders are on the upward trend with five percent growth in 2014. Durable goods are items from toasters to aircraft meant to last three years or more. This increase shows hopeful signs for factory activity which have slowed in recent years.

Finally, U.S. plastic parts production has increased six percent in the past year. Low U.S. natural gas prices have helped increase domestic plastic production after a decline from the 2008 recession.

These three factors are strong indicators that the U.S. plastics industry will continue to grow in 2014. Since 2003, Virginia plastics firms have invested more than $1 billion and created more than 4,900 jobs. To learn more about Virginia’s plastics industry, click here.

Bill Wood, Founder of Mountaintop Economics & Research, presents at the Plastics News Executive Forum 2014.

Virginia’s Focus on Cybersecurity Remains Strong

Thursday, 6 March 2014 14:22 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Governor McAuliffe recently announced the launch of Cyber Virginia, a plan to establish the Virginia Cybersecurity Commission and augment Virginia’s leadership in cybersecurity...

Governor McAuliffe recently announced the launch of Cyber Virginia, a plan to establish the Virginia Cybersecurity Commission and augment Virginia’s leadership in cybersecurity.

The Commonwealth has a strong legacy in cybersecurity, and is well-positioned with the infrastructure to grow this sector. Virginia has the highest concentration of high-tech workers, according to Cyberstates 2013, and up to 70 percent of the world’s Internet traffic flows through Northern Virginia every day. Growth in the Commonwealth’s data center industry remains robust — investment topped $1 billion in 2012 — positioning Virginia as the place to be for companies moving towards cloud computing.

Virginia’s close proximity to the federal government’s cybersecurity operations also played a role in establishing its leadership position. The Commonwealth is home to the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communication Integration Center, and DARPA.

Virginia’s premier institutions of higher education are poised to maintain the Commonwealth’s leadership in technology through a healthy pipeline of skilled technology workers. Twenty-two of Virginia’s 23 community colleges offer training programs in cybersecurity.

In addition, the NSA and U.S. Department of Homeland Security named five Virginia schools as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education: George Mason University, Hampton University, James Madison University, Marymount University, and Norfolk State University. Virginia Tech was named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research.

To highlight a couple of these programs, Virginia Tech offers the Hume Center for National Security and Technology, which researches intelligence applications of cyberattacks and defense. The university also provides students with real world experience through its IT Security Lab. In partnership with the Naval Postgraduate School and L-3 Communications, Virginia Tech hosts the Cybersecurity Innovations Laboratory at its Arlington campus.

In one of our recent blogs, we mentioned George Mason University’s expertise as the author of the VEDP Cybersecurity Export Market Report. GMU is home to the International Cyber Center and founded the Center for Secure Information Systems in 1990, which was the first academic center in security in the U.S. and one of the NSA’s original Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.

To learn more about Virginia’s leadership in cybersecurity and the overall technology industry, click here.

A view of the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington, which houses the Northern Virginia location of the Hume Center for National Security and Technology.

Richmond’s Legend Brewing Co. Celebrates 20 Years

Thursday, 27 February 2014 14:23 by Info@YesVirginia.org
With the craft brewery movement quickly gaining speed over the last two years, Legend Brewing Co.’s 20-year history makes it Virginia’s oldest craft brewery still in operation. It is also the largest independently-owned craft brewing company in the Commonwealth...

With the craft brewery movement quickly gaining speed over the last two years, Legend Brewing Co.’s 20-year history makes it Virginia’s oldest craft brewery still in operation. It is also the largest independently-owned craft brewing company in the Commonwealth.

In January 1994, founder Tom Martin opened a small tasting room and pub off West 7th Street, then a gravel road in Richmond’s historic Old Manchester district. He started with four beers — the quickly popular Brown Ale, Lager, Pilsner and Porter.

What began as a 10-barrel brewhouse with four fermenters and four finishing tanks has grown into a 30-barrel brewhouse with 37 fermenters and 10 finishing tanks. In addition, the small tasting room has blossomed into a full restaurant with seating for 180 inside and 200 on the deck. Its location right on the James River with unobstructed views of the city skyline quickly made this a Richmond hot spot.

The rise of the farm-to-table and locally-grown movements have made the experience of visiting a craft brewery increasingly popular. Legend beers are unpasteurized and made with simple, natural ingredients — barley malt, hops, water and yeast. In addition, beer-lovers can enjoy a tour of the brewery followed by a tasting and meal, all enjoyed within an historic setting.

Legend has become a mainstay in Virginia’s ever-growing food and beverage industry because of its focus on delivering high-quality, fresh products. It is also one of the few craft breweries that produce both lagers and ales, which require a different process and ingredients.

Virginia’s beer industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years. According to the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, there were 46 breweries in 2011. That number increased to 63 in 2012 and 75 in 2013, with most of the growth coming from the craft brewery niche. Part of that growth is attributable to Senate Bill 604, signed in May 2012, which allows beer manufacturers to sell and sample beer on their premises without obtaining a second restaurant license.

With the Brewer’s Association reporting 70 more breweries in the planning stages in Virginia, the Commonwealth’s craft brewery industry is poised to continue its positive momentum. Virginia has proven to be a successful location for entrepreneurs and food and beverage companies alike, making it an ideal choice for the craft brewery market. To learn more, click here.

Virginia Ranked Top 3 in LEED Green Building Certifications

Monday, 24 February 2014 17:05 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The U.S. Green Building Council recently named Virginia No. 3 for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications as part of its annual ranking...

The U.S. Green Building Council recently named Virginia No. 3 for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications as part of its annual ranking.

LEED is one of the most well-recognized and respected green building certification programs in the world, incorporating design, construction, maintenance and operational aspects into its environmentally-friendly analysis.

More than 57,000 commercial and institutional projects currently participate in LEED, comprised of 10.5 billion square feet of construction space in 147 countries. Each day more than 1.5 million square feet of space is LEED-certified.

In 2013, Virginia had 160 projects LEED-certified, which encompassed 16.8 million square feet of space and 2.11 square feet per capita. The ranking is based on per capita numbers to allow for a fair comparison among different population levels.

The office and retail space at 1776 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, Va., received recognition as a notable project. It is the first commercial building in Arlington to earn LEED Platinum certification.

“As the economy recovers, green buildings continue to provide for jobs at every professional level and skill set from carpenters to architects,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC.

Investment in green-building infrastructure creates real economic value in the form of lower energy costs up front, and the reduction in greenhouse gases ensures a sustainable future for the environment and future generations.

Virginia’s leadership in this area is yet another example of the innovative environment the Commonwealth offers to business owners. To learn more about Virginia’s unique resources that have allowed companies to prosper here for more than 400 years, click here.

VEDP Publishes Cybersecurity Export Market Report

Friday, 21 February 2014 14:17 by Info@YesVirginia.org
This week, VEDP announced the release of its Cybersecurity Export Market Report. The report was prepared by George Mason University as part of VEDP’s Going Global Defense Initiative to help Virginia defense companies mitigate the impact of sequestration by growing their sales internationally...

This week, VEDP announced the release of its Cybersecurity Export Market Report. The report was prepared by George Mason University as part of VEDP’s Going Global Defense Initiative to help Virginia defense companies mitigate the impact of sequestration by growing their sales internationally.

The Cybersecurity Export Market Report identifies the top 10 foreign markets that provide the best opportunities for exporting cybersecurity technologies. In-depth analysis of each market includes information on political and legal issues, market size and growth, market entry strategies, competition, trade agreements, and government programs and policies.

The top 10 markets for U.S. Cybersecurity exports are:

  1. Saudi Arabia
  2. United Arab Emirates
  3. Qatar
  4. Kuwait
  5. South Korea
  6. Brazil
  7. Japan
  8. United Kingdom
  9. Australia
  10. Indonesia

George Mason University is renowned for its expertise in information systems security. GMU founded the Center for Secure Information Systems in 1990, which was the first academic center in security in the U.S. and one of the NSA’s original Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. GMU is also home to the International Cyber Center.

With the highest concentration of high-tech workers in the nation, Virginia is a leader in technology and its companies are at the forefront of developments in cybersecurity, including cryptography, forensics, intrusion detection and firewall devices.

In addition to an established industry base, Virginia is home to a number of federal agencies that focus on cybersecurity, including the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communication Integration Center, and DARPA.

To download the Cybersecurity Export Market Report click here, and to learn more about Virginia’s leadership in technology, click here.

Broadband Access is Key to Economic Growth in Healthcare IT

Tuesday, 11 February 2014 15:01 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Access to broadband and faster internet speeds has increasingly become a catalyst for economic growth. This is especially important in high-tech sectors, such as Healthcare IT, as we move further into the knowledge economy...

Access to broadband and faster internet speeds has increasingly become a catalyst for economic growth. This is especially important in high-tech sectors, such as Healthcare IT, as we move further into the knowledge economy.

The Virginia Center for Innovative Technology recently released its annual 2013 Healthcare IT Assessment, which again points to Virginia’s position as a technology leader.

First, access to broadband has increased. Since 2010, the percentage of the Virginia population with access to broadband has grown from 33 percent to 97 percent.

Second, Virginia is a national leader in broadband speed. In 2013, the Commonwealth was able to increase its average download speed by 33 percent to 11.1 Mbps (megabits per second), moving Virginia up to a No. 3 national ranking. Virginia remains well ahead of the national average, which is 8.7 Mbps.

Third, Virginia also improved its average peak connection speed. In 2013, the Commonwealth increased its peak connection speed to 44 Mbps, vs. the national average of 36.3 Mbps. This puts the Commonwealth at a No. 6 ranking and reflects a year-over-year improvement of 29 percent.

These increases in broadband access and speed are helping to grow sectors, such as Healthcare IT, that require the transmission of large amounts of data. In 2013, Virginia ranked No. 3 in hospital-based adoption of Electronic Medical Records. Over the last four years, Virginia hospitals have consistently shown greater than 90 percent adoption rate of EMR. Other medical providers across the Commonwealth are also closing the gap in early adoption of EMR, with 86.5 percent of Virginia physicians participating in 2013.

To continue improving care and offer a higher quality of service to patients, the next step for healthcare providers is participation in initiatives, such as Healthcare Information Exchanges and Telehealth Services. According to the study, 50 percent of Virginia hospitals participated in HIE and 58.6 percent offered Telehealth Services in 2013.

The CIT study illustrates how Virginia’s leadership in building a robust broadband network has laid the groundwork for growth in high-tech sectors like Healthcare IT. To learn more about Virginia’s innovative, technology-driven environment and how the Commonwealth can help your business, click here.

Virginia Values Veterans — Helping Employers Reenergize their Labor Pool

Monday, 27 January 2014 14:15 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia Values Veterans, also known as V3, is an initiative to help Virginia companies better reach out to veterans as part of their talent acquisition strategy and make Virginia the most veteran-friendly state in the country...

Virginia Values Veterans, also known as V3, is an initiative to help Virginia companies better reach out to veterans as part of their talent acquisition strategy and make Virginia the most veteran-friendly state in the country.

More than 18,000 people exit Virginia military bases each year and enter the civilian workforce. While most programs are geared towards helping veterans navigate this change, V3 is unique because it trains the employers on how to attract and retain these valuable workers.

V3 is managed by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services. Since the program was first announced in June 2012, 161 certified organizations have pledged 5,218 jobs to veterans and made 3,099 hires to date.

The program offers employers access to training, coaching and networks for best-practices sharing on how to build their veteran-employment pipeline. V3 is targeting companies with less than 1,000 employees because this group represents the majority of total hiring decisions.

Interested employers begin by taking a free online assessment test to determine their current level of vet friendliness and readiness for the V3 Certification Process. By completing milestones at each stage, employers earn V3 Certification from Bronze to Gold level.

The program is expected to be a win-win, reducing veteran unemployment and helping companies gain access to a skilled pipeline of workers they might otherwise miss out on.

V3 is hosting its 2014 Kick-Off Conference in Richmond on February 11. To sign up and learn more, visit http://virginiavaluesvets.com/.

The Launch Place Brings Entrepreneurs to Virginia’s Dan River Region

Tuesday, 14 January 2014 16:22 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The Launch Place is bringing businesses to Southern Virginia. As the leading entity to recruit and support entrepreneurs in the Dan River Region, the organization announced its first seed fund investment in KSI Data Sciences...

The Launch Place is bringing businesses to Southern Virginia. As the leading entity to recruit and support entrepreneurs in the Dan River Region, the organization announced its first seed fund investment in KSI Data Sciences.

KSI will receive an initial investment of $150,000, and another $100,000 after successfully testing its prototype for video and data management solutions used in remote sensing platforms on unmanned aircrafts, vehicles and mobile devices. The KSI team plans to relocate to the Dan River District later this month.

Formerly called the Southside Business Technology Center, the Launch Place has assisted start-ups and early stage companies since 2005. After receiving a $10 million grant from the Danville Region Foundation in 2012, the organization was able to add seed funding to its capabilities as a business incubator and rebranded itself as the Launch Place.

What makes the Launch Place unique is its strategy of recruiting entrepreneurs, and then providing the support to allow their businesses to organically grow in the Dan River Region. Through a partnership with VT KnowledgeWorks, entrepreneurs in the program receive free mentoring through the planning, launch and growth stages of starting a business. The Launch Place team also provides a variety of business consulting services, including business plan development, market research, financial modeling and competitor analysis.

The Launch Place helps entrepreneurs reduce start-up costs by offering residential housing and office space subsidies to entrepreneurs that commit to stay in Danville for three years. The Dan River District provides a great place to live, work and play through its historic downtown area, riverfront walking and biking trails, plentiful water sports, concerts, festivals and other recreational activities.

The Launch Place is another example of the innovative support that Virginia offers to entrepreneurs and small business owners. To learn more, click here

A view of the Launch Place headquarters in the historic downtown area of the Dan River District.

Orbital Sciences Launches First Cargo Resupply Mission to the International Space Station

Thursday, 9 January 2014 16:33 by Info@YesVirginia.org
At 1:07 p.m. today, Orbital Sciences successfully launched its first resupply mission to the International Space Station from Pad-OA of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore...

At 1:07 p.m. today, Orbital Sciences successfully launched its first resupply mission to the International Space Station from Pad-OA of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket launched the Cygnus spacecraft into Earth’s orbit, where it is currently traveling towards the ISS at approximately 17,500 mph. The spacecraft is expected to rendezvous with the ISS early Sunday morning.

Cygnus is carrying 2,780 pounds of supplies to the Expedition 38 crew, including science experiments, provisions for the crew, spare parts and experiment hardware. The payload includes 23 science experiments that will involve more than 8,600 students across the U.S. and Canada.

Known as the Orb-1 Mission, this is the first actual resupply mission to the ISS following a successful demonstration mission to the ISS in September.

As part of its $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA, the Orb-1 Mission is the first of eight resupply missions to the ISS, expected to deliver approximately 20,000 kilograms of cargo through 2016.

The Orb-1 Mission comes right on the heels of a positive announcement from the Obama Administration — the president approved an extension of the ISS through 2024, allowing for the possibility of more resupply missions past 2016.

The success of today’s launch is another illustration of Virginia’s leadership in the space industry. Through MARS, Virginia offers one of only four commercial sites authorized for orbital space launches.

To learn more about Virginia’s thriving aerospace industry, click here.

A view of the Antares rocket ready for launch from Pad-OA of MARS at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Photo courtesy of NASA/Bill Ingalls.

FAA Selects Virginia Tech as Test Site for Unmanned Aircrafts

Friday, 3 January 2014 16:03 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The FAA recently announced that Virginia Tech was selected as one of six test sites across the country to conduct research on unmanned aircraft systems...

The FAA recently announced that Virginia Tech was selected as one of six test sites across the country to conduct research on unmanned aircraft systems.

This initiative will help the FAA establish safety standards that will allow UAS, such as drones, to share airspace and integrate with commercial airlines. Test sites were selected for their geographic and climate diversity, as well as existing infrastructure and aviation experience.

The test site at Virginia Tech will focus on UAS failure mode testing, and identify and evaluate operational and technical risk areas.

Virginia Tech led the submission of a joint proposal for Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland called the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership. In order to enhance the region’s competitiveness, the governors of each state agreed to support the initiative, and Virginia Tech will partner with Rutgers University and the University of Maryland, College Park.

Virginia has already shown its support for UAS and securing the Commonwealth’s position as an aerospace leader. In December, Governor McDonnell announced Virginia Tech would receive more than $2.6 million in Federal Action Contingency Trust funds to operate the UAS test site.

In addition, the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership successfully completed its first flight in October with a team from the Virginia Center for Autonomous Systems, a research partnership between Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science and the College of Engineering. The team attached sensory equipment provided by American Aerospace Advisors to an unmanned 250-pound helicopter. Using ultraviolet and infrared cameras, the group was able to gather data on the health of five acres of tobacco crops.

This type of research could help farmers quickly survey their land to gain a better understanding of crop health, reduce pesticide use and improve yield. Agriculture is expected to be a prime growth market for UAS technology.

This win for Virginia Tech illustrates the Commonwealth’s premier higher education system, as well as its leadership in the aerospace industry. To learn more click here.

A team from Virginia Tech prepares to launch an unmanned 250-pound helicopter for a research mission to determine if UAS can gather meaningful data for crop management.  Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Dan River Region Launches Workforce Readiness Pilot Program for Virginia

Thursday, 19 December 2013 14:48 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Companies, employees and economic development professionals in the Dan River Region have been participating in a workforce readiness pilot program in Virginia since June...

Companies, employees and economic development professionals in the Dan River Region have been participating in a workforce readiness pilot program in Virginia since June.

This program would allow the region to be recognized by ACT as a Certified Work Ready Community by helping individuals obtain a National Career Readiness Certificate. ACT is a not-for-profit public trust dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success.

ACT’s National Career Readiness Certificate includes four levels — platinum, gold, silver and bronze — that measure cognitive and behavioral abilities critical for on-the-job success. Specific skills that are measured include math, reading comprehension, problem-solving, discipline, teamwork, customer service and managerial potential.

The individual certificate can help job-seekers distinguish themselves, as well as help companies identify training needs for their employees. The community certification assists regions in quantifying the quality of their workforce and promoting this asset to attract additional companies and investment.

The Dan River region is located in Southern Virginia and includes the cities of Danville and Martinsville and the counties of Henry, Pittsylvania, Patrick and Halifax. The region has a strong legacy in furniture and textile manufacturing, and through workforce training programs at its numerous community colleges, offers a deep advanced manufacturing labor pool that has attracted investment from plastics, automotive, and food processing companies.

“This initiative represents an opportunity to change our workforce story from focusing on census data around educational attainment to a story that focuses on the skills of our workforce and how those align with industry needs,” said Dr. Julie Brown, project director at DRRC.

According to the Dan River Region Collaborative, if 2,300 residents earn certificates during the next two years, the region will be recognized as a Certified Work Ready Community. The region is well on its way with more than 1,200 certificates earned to date. The region is also actively recruiting corporate partners to join the program — almost 50 companies have signed up to date.

To learn how to participate in the ACT program as an individual or corporation, visit http://www.danriverrc.org/work-ready-community.

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YesVirginia Business Blog | All posts tagged 'entrepreneurs'

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

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.

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.

Virginia a Top State for Private Equity Investment

Monday, 30 June 2014 15:44 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia was ranked No. 7 for private equity investment in 2013, according to the Private Equity Growth Capital Council’s fourth annual investment report...

Virginia was ranked No. 7 for private equity investment in 2013, according to the Private Equity Growth Capital Council’s fourth annual investment report.

Last year, 66 companies across the Commonwealth received $14.7 billion in private equity investment. Virginia moved up in the rankings from 16th place last year.

This signals that investors see value in Virginia’s entrepreneurs and growing companies. Private equity is typically used as growth capital to fuel expansion, as well as to assist companies in strategic turnaround situations.

“Private equity investment is long-term capital at work,” said Steve Judge, president and CEO of the Private Equity Growth Capital Council. “The companies in states across the country that receive private equity investment are able to expand their businesses, develop new innovations and hire workers, and this report highlights the important contributions of private equity in the U.S. economy.”

Virginia also saw two congressional districts break the top 20 in private equity investment. Virginia’s 4th Congressional District received $4.7 billion and Virginia’s 11th Congressional District received $4.5 billion. China-based W.H. Group’s acquisition of Smithfield Foods Inc. represents a majority of District 4's investment.

According to the PEGCC report, private equity firms have invested $129.1 billion in Virginia-based companies from 2004-2013. The report further states that there are 568 private equity-backed companies headquartered in the Commonwealth, which support more than 309,570 jobs at facilities both in and out of state.

The ability of Virginia companies to attract this amount of private equity investment is another testament to the level of innovation and success that entrepreneurs find when they locate their businesses in the Commonwealth. To learn why Virginia is a top state for business and investment, click here.

Photo courtesy of Private Equity Growth Capital Council

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.

The Launch Place Brings Entrepreneurs to Virginia’s Dan River Region

Tuesday, 14 January 2014 16:22 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The Launch Place is bringing businesses to Southern Virginia. As the leading entity to recruit and support entrepreneurs in the Dan River Region, the organization announced its first seed fund investment in KSI Data Sciences...

The Launch Place is bringing businesses to Southern Virginia. As the leading entity to recruit and support entrepreneurs in the Dan River Region, the organization announced its first seed fund investment in KSI Data Sciences.

KSI will receive an initial investment of $150,000, and another $100,000 after successfully testing its prototype for video and data management solutions used in remote sensing platforms on unmanned aircrafts, vehicles and mobile devices. The KSI team plans to relocate to the Dan River District later this month.

Formerly called the Southside Business Technology Center, the Launch Place has assisted start-ups and early stage companies since 2005. After receiving a $10 million grant from the Danville Region Foundation in 2012, the organization was able to add seed funding to its capabilities as a business incubator and rebranded itself as the Launch Place.

What makes the Launch Place unique is its strategy of recruiting entrepreneurs, and then providing the support to allow their businesses to organically grow in the Dan River Region. Through a partnership with VT KnowledgeWorks, entrepreneurs in the program receive free mentoring through the planning, launch and growth stages of starting a business. The Launch Place team also provides a variety of business consulting services, including business plan development, market research, financial modeling and competitor analysis.

The Launch Place helps entrepreneurs reduce start-up costs by offering residential housing and office space subsidies to entrepreneurs that commit to stay in Danville for three years. The Dan River District provides a great place to live, work and play through its historic downtown area, riverfront walking and biking trails, plentiful water sports, concerts, festivals and other recreational activities.

The Launch Place is another example of the innovative support that Virginia offers to entrepreneurs and small business owners. To learn more, click here

A view of the Launch Place headquarters in the historic downtown area of the Dan River District.

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.

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.

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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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