Specialty’s Our Name — Expanding a Family Business Through the Generations

Friday, 29 May 2015 09:19 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Butch Harrison founded Specialty’s Our Name in 1990, a precision sheet metal fabrication and machine shop based in Ashland, Va. His three sons, Brandon, Utley and Kevin, worked in the shop since high school and each found their niche, whether it was handling the finances, managing customer relationships or processing orders...

Butch Harrison founded Specialty’s Our Name in 1990, a precision sheet metal fabrication and machine shop based in Ashland, Va.

His three sons, Brandon, Utley and Kevin, worked in the shop since high school and each found their niche, whether it was handling the finances, managing customer relationships or processing orders. When their dad passed away in 2009, the brothers took ownership and proudly carried on the family name and reputation for a superior product and customer service at S.O.N. Inc.

“We do the work other people don’t want to do,” said Brandon Harrison. “Our high-end, custom sheet metal work is in the White House Visitor Center, the American Civil War Museum at Tredegar and the Virginia Historical Society, and our customers include Homeland Security, Architectural Graphics Inc., Dometic Corporation and Showbest Fixtures.”

The company has successfully grown from two people in a 2,500 square foot building to more than 30 people in a 32,000 square foot facility. The company delivers custom products and can offer consulting, drafting, welding, deburring, powder coating and precision parts, all from one location.

The Harrison brothers not only weathered the recent economic downturn, but were able to continue growing their company. “We did feel some of the effects, but we manage our finances well and purchase equipment as we need it, so we don’t carry a lot of debt.” said Harrison. “We also have a broad customer range, from the marine industry to railroads to store fixtures. Being diverse helped us stay strong and grow our company through the tough times.”

The brothers also took a calculated risk and started a sister company in 2008, Pro Powder & Paint Inc. “About 90 percent of our customers want a finish on their steel or aluminum products. We provide that and do our own powder coating and wet paint at a facility just down the street,” said Harrison.

The company just had one of its best years and has a solid plan to grow both businesses and eventually combine them into one larger building.

“We are lucky,” said Harrison. “The three of us are all equally responsible and we get to expand on what our father built. We really try to keep the family atmosphere throughout the company as we grow. We have several cousins and family members working in the shop, and we treat all of our employees like we are one big family. Without every piece of the puzzle coming together, this wouldn’t be possible.”

As we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation Month, Specialty’s Our Name serves as another great example of the ingenuity and dedication of Virginia entrepreneurs. To learn why the Commonwealth is a great location to grow a business, click here.

Specialty’s Our Name owners Brandon, Utley and Kevin Harrison at their company headquarters in Ashland, Va.

Marstel-Day — Growing a Green Business in Virginia

Thursday, 28 May 2015 09:33 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Rebecca Rubin started Marstel-Day in 2002 with a passion to help large institutions conduct business in a way that is both effective and preserves the natural resource base...

Rebecca Rubin started Marstel-Day in 2002 with a passion to help large institutions conduct business in a way that is both effective and preserves the natural resource base.

Based out of Fredericksburg, Va., the company has grown from a one-woman desk to 160 employees nationwide. With clients ranging from government agencies to academic institutions, Marstel-Day helps organizations develop an overall strategy to be more eco-friendly.

“Our customers may have the interest and funding, but we help them with their strategies and policies,” said President and CEO Rebecca Rubin. “Whether they want to be carbon neutral or make better use of their ecosystem services or reduce water consumption or be ready for climate change, we help them get there. We look at such things as their vulnerability to drought, temperature change, responsiveness and resilience of the IT structure to climate events — and help them answer the big picture questions.”

The company’s success speaks for itself. Marstel-Day experienced 8-10 percent growth every year, including during the economic downturn. Its impressive client roster includes the Department of Defense, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration and National Laboratories. 

Marstel-Day has also received numerous accolades, including being named to both the Inc. 5000 list and Zweigwhite’s Hot Firm list for six consecutive years, the Alliance for Workplace Excellence Eco-Leadership Award three years in a row, the Virginia Fantastic 50 list for the third time, and the UVA Darden School’s Tayloe Murphy Award for Resilience.

Rubin chose to headquarter the business in Fredericksburg for two reasons:  proximity to a rail line and access to a great park system. “We were deliberately trying to get our employees off the roads and onto public transportation,” said Rubin. “Our other Virginia offices in Richmond and Alexandria are also within a quarter of a mile of a main train line. If you translate that into hours saved, it has an enormous impact on employee morale and health.”

“Because of its battlefield history, Fredericksburg has preserved green spaces and they have a new trail system. Having a park system where our employees can jog or bike during their lunch hour or after work is tremendously important to us.”

“There’s a reason why we’re here. Historically, Virginia has done a good job of understanding and appreciating the significance of nature and ecotourism. We find Virginia’s and the Governor’s commitment to green important to us as a company.”

As we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation Month, Marstel-Day is another great example of how entrepreneurs find a successful environment for innovation in the Commonwealth. To learn why Virginia is a great place to grow a business, click here.

Marstel-Day President and CEO Rebecca Rubin at the company’s headquarters in Fredericksburg, Va. Photo courtesy of Marstel-Day LLC.

Performance Signs — From a Dorm Room to the Highway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NCS Technologies — A Case Study of Innovation During Sequestration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Highground Services — A Successful Graduate of the Franklin Business Incubator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shenandoah Valley Partnership Launches inDEMAND Jobs Site

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magnets USA Celebrates 25 Years and a New Facility in Virginia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Forbes.com Names Virginia A Best State for Business

Wednesday, 12 November 2014 17:41 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia has done it again, receiving another top ranking on the Forbes.com annual Best States for Business study. Virginia ranked No. 4 this year and had previously held the No. 1 or 2 spot since the inception of the study in 2006. While we are accustomed to a higher billing, Virginia is honored to receive the continued recognition from Forbes as a best state for business...

Virginia has done it again, receiving another top ranking on the Forbes.com annual Best States for Business study. Virginia ranked No. 4 this year and had previously held the No. 1 or 2 spot since the inception of the study in 2006. While we are accustomed to a higher billing, Virginia is honored to receive the continued recognition from Forbes as a best state for business.

The Forbes.com ranking is based on six categories pulled from 36 points of data — costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life.

Highlights for the Commonwealth of Virginia include the No. 1 ranking for its regulatory environment. Forbes.com touted Virginia’s strong incentive offerings and business-friendly government policies.

Virginia ranked No. 2 for labor supply and was the top state on the East Coast. The Commonwealth’s skilled and well-educated workforce has long been esteemed by Virginia companies as a key component in their success. In addition, Virginia has the highest concentration of high-tech workers according to the TechAmerica Foundation’s Cyberstates 2013.

Virginia received a No. 5 ranking for quality of life. The Commonwealth’s favorable cost of living combined with access to natural resources, from the ocean to the mountains, and its historical, cultural and sports and entertainment offerings make Virginia a great place to live and work.

Concern over the effects of sequestration led to a lower score in the growth prospects category, ultimately affecting Virginia’s overall ranking this year. The growth prospects category includes a five-year forecast from Moody’s Analytics.

VEDP and the Virginia economic development community have long realized the potential impact of sequestration to our economy, and today’s No. 4 ranking further illustrates the new economic challenge facing Virginia.    

The Commonwealth is committed to attracting new jobs and capital investment, and cultivating new economic growth through a proactive and aggressive economic development program. Initiatives like VEDP’s Going Global Defense Initiative, which helps Virginia defense companies mitigate the impact of federal spending cuts by launching an international strategy and growing revenue in markets overseas, will play an important role as we build a new Virginia economy.

In the meantime, Virginia takes pride in our strong showing in the 2014 Forbes.com Best States for Business report. We continue to be ranked a best state because Virginia offers a business-friendly environment, favorable operating costs, a top workforce and premier East Coast location and transportation network. To learn why companies have prospered in the Commonwealth for more than 400 years, click here.

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corp.

Global Center for Automotive Performance Simulation Established in Halifax County

Friday, 7 November 2014 16:14 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The Global Center for Automotive Performance Simulation was recently established in Halifax County, Va., through the merging of the National Tire Research Center and SoVa Motion...

The Global Center for Automotive Performance Simulation was recently established in Halifax County, Va., through the merging of the National Tire Research Center and SoVa Motion.

The facility will remain at the Virginia Motorsports Technology Park, adjacent to the Virginia International Raceway, which is the longest motorsports road course in the U.S. with 4.2 miles of tarmac.

The National Tire Research Center was established in 2010 through a public-private partnership among the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, General Motors, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.

The tire center houses the Flat Trac LTRe, an $11.3 million, high-performance tire testing machine that allows speeds of 200 mph on car, truck and motorsports vehicles. Due to strong customer demand, the center has grown from 13 to 26 employees, and expects to expand beyond 30 employees over the next year.

NTRC has previously partnered with SoVa Motion (Southern Virginia Vehicle Motion Lab), which is operated by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. SoVa Motion has an eight-post shaker rig and driving simulator which can replicate various road conditions and many of the world’s racing tracks to test driver performance, shock and suspension reaction, on-vehicle sensing, as well as virtually prototype vehicle components.

While the facilities have served major U.S. customers, such as General Motors, Goodyear Racing and NASCAR, rebranding as GCAPS reflects the increasing global scope of their customer base.

GCAPS will also build upon the success of its math modeling and simulation capabilities by adding a virtual design and integration laboratory. The facility will provide full performance testing of highway and racetrack vehicles in both physical and virtual environments.

GCAPS is a key part of Virginia’s Motorsports Alley and augments the Commonwealth’s strengths in the automotive industry. To learn why more than 150 automotive companies call Virginia home, click here.

Executive Director Frank Della Pia appears next to a tire testing machine at the newly-branded Global Center for Automotive Performance Simulation in Halifax County, Va. Photo courtesy of the Global Center for Automotive Performance Simulation.

VEDP Releases Two New Marketing Tools for Mobile Devices

Friday, 31 October 2014 15:26 by Info@YesVirginia.org
VEDP recently released two new marketing tools for use on mobile devices. First, the YesVA App version 2.0 was released to the Apple App Store. For those who have already downloaded the original app to your iPad or iPhone, you can obtain the new version in the Updates section of the App Store...

VEDP recently released two new marketing tools for use on mobile devices.

First, the YesVA App version 2.0 was released to the Apple App Store. For those who have already downloaded the original app to your iPad or iPhone, you can obtain the new version in the Updates section of the App Store.

New features for the YesVA App version 2.0 include:

  • Overall redesign to iOS 7 standards for design and user interface
  • The ability to filter properties by region
  • Better property grouping and functionality in map view
  • Better search functionality which matches the search function of the VirginiaScan desktop version

There were no changes made to the Android version. For those who have never downloaded the app, links to both the Apple and Android versions are available at http://www.YesVirginia.org/aboutus/app.

Second, we have also released the VEDP iBook. This interactive sales tool allows economic development professionals to present to clients on the road using only an iPad. The VEDP iBook links directly to VirginiaScan for property searches and the Compare Virginia tool for side-by-side comparisons between Virginia and other states and MSAs on key economic metrics.

Content also includes video testimonials from C-level industry peers and interactive graphical presentations of Virginia’s premier assets, including our workforce, infrastructure and transportation network.

These interactive tools are another demonstration of the innovation that is alive and well in the Commonwealth. We hope these will assist our economic development partners in marketing Virginia as the best state for business to companies across the globe. To learn more, click here.

A view of the VEDP iBook homepage.

Williamsburg-James City County School System Hosts Second Annual Manufacturing Day

Wednesday, 29 October 2014 15:30 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Earlier this month, schools and companies partnered to host 17 events across Virginia as part of the second annual national Manufacturing Day campaign...

Earlier this month, schools and companies partnered to host 17 events across Virginia as part of the second annual national Manufacturing Day campaign.

One such event included students from Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools for the second year. Students, teachers and guidance counselors were given tours of the manufacturing plants at six local companies, including Anheuser-Busch, Ball Corp., Coresix Precision Glass, Owens-Illinois, Printpack Inc. and Walmart Distribution Center.

Students learned about the diversity of careers in manufacturing, as well the high-tech skills needed to pursue a career in advanced manufacturing.

The students also learned about the various paths available to prepare for this type of career. Representatives from Thomas Nelson Community College were on hand to discuss coursework they offer to prepare students to directly enter the manufacturing workforce or continue on to a four-year degree.

The event was sponsored by WJCC Public Schools, the Association for Manufacturing Excellence and James City County.

A WJCC guidance counselor also attended another Manufacturing Day event nearby at Newport News Shipbuilding. The program allowed 13 area high school guidance counselors to tour the Welding School and The Apprentice School to view hands-on demonstrations of trades training.

Manufacturing Day is a national program that encourages manufacturing companies across the U.S. to open their doors and provide tours for high school students in their communities. The purpose is to dispel misperceptions about the industry and inspire students to pursue careers in manufacturing after seeing the high-tech, rewarding career paths available to them.

The Manufacturing Day events in Virginia illustrate the Commonwealth’s leadership in preparing students for advanced manufacturing careers and developing a workforce with the skills to meet industry needs. To learn more, click here.

Virginia students tour the Anheuser-Busch control room and learn about the high-tech nature of today’s advanced manufacturing careers. Photo courtesy of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence.

VEDP Named a “Best in Class” Economic Development Group at IEDC Conference

Monday, 20 October 2014 13:22 by Info@YesVirginia.org
VEDP was named a “Best in Class” economic development organization today at the International Economic Development Council’s Annual Conference...

VEDP was named a “Best in Class” economic development organization today at the International Economic Development Council’s Annual Conference.

The results were tabulated by Development Counsellors International as part of its 2014 “Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing” report. DCI conducts a survey among U.S. corporate executives and site selection consultants every three years.

“The leading economic development organizations identified in this year’s survey set the standard across the country for being ‘Best in Class’ on so many levels and clearly stand out to site selectors across the country,” said DCI President Andrew T. Levine. “As states look at how to build and strengthen relationships with site selectors and influence corporate executives’ decisions on where to locate, invest and create jobs, ‘Winning Strategies’ provides a glimpse into the minds of this important audience.”

VEDP tied for sixth place with 15 percent of the responding executives and location advisors identifying us as a top economic development organization.

During FY2014, VEDP assisted on 183 projects that resulted in announcements of 15,029 new jobs and $5.19 billion in invested capital. These 183 projects will generate an estimated $280 million of new state tax revenue for Virginia after five years and approximately $620 million after 10 years. These projects will also generate an estimated $276 million of local tax revenue after five years and approximately $612 million after 10 years.

VEDP’s recognition as a “Best in Class” organization from one of our key markets — executives and location advisors — makes this award all the more meaningful and illustrates that we are on track to fulfill our 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."

To learn more about how VEDP can assist your business, click here.

NASA Grant Creates New STEM Education Program at Virginia’s Community Colleges

Tuesday, 14 October 2014 16:00 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The Virginia Space Grant Consortium recently announced a new program called STEM Takes Flight at Virginia’s Community Colleges funded by a $500,000 grant from NASA...

The Virginia Space Grant Consortium recently announced a new program called STEM Takes Flight at Virginia’s Community Colleges funded by a $500,000 grant from NASA.

The purpose of the initiative is to augment STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education within the Virginia Community College System and build stronger connectivity with NASA to provide students with world-class learning and research opportunities.

STEM Takes Flight at Virginia’s Community Colleges offers a full suite of programs that includes real-world internships, research experiences, additional coursework and faculty training.

One example is the Build/Fly/Learn component which allows students to work on paid summer research projects at both NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va. This opportunity is available to 38 community college rising sophomores who work in teams under the guidance of a NASA mentor.

Additional coursework includes two multi-disciplinary classes on mission development and planning offered through Virginia’s Eastern Shore Community College, which will allow students to develop and fly a sounding rocket payload. A third course covers sea level rise and its impact on coastal communities. It’s available online and led by Virginia Western and Thomas Nelson Community Colleges.

VCCS faculty will also receive additional training through a residential professional development STEM workshop at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Twenty professors will have the opportunity to participate in a hands-on case study beginning June 2015.

The STEM Takes Flight program is another example of Virginia’s premier higher education system that provides real-world experiences to ensure Virginia’s workforce pipeline is ready to meet the industry needs of the future. To learn more about Virginia’s higher education and workforce training solutions, click here.

James Carter, a former NASA Langley Research Center intern, researches heat calibrations on model spray coatings.

JMU Extends Collaboration to the Community with the Ice House

Tuesday, 30 September 2014 16:59 by Info@YesVirginia.org
James Madison University and partners have joined together to create the Ice House, a revitalized building complex in downtown Harrisonburg that will serve as a center of collaboration and engagement for JMU students, entrepreneurs and citizens in the local community...

James Madison University and partners have joined together to create the Ice House, a revitalized building complex in downtown Harrisonburg that will serve as a center of collaboration and engagement for JMU students, entrepreneurs and citizens in the local community.

Formerly known as the Cassco Ice House complex, the building was constructed in 1934 for ice and cold storage to support the region’s distribution of agricultural products. Operations were discontinued in 2004 and the building was unused until the recent revitalization plans rechristened it the Ice House.

The name references both the building’s history as well as a JMU initiative called ICE, an acronym for Innovation-Collaboration-Entrepreneurship. JMU seeks to become a model of engagement that mobilizes resources from the university and community to launch new businesses and commercialize technology.

Phase one of the project is complete and JMU has occupied 30,000 of the 80,000-square-foot building with departments such as Outreach and Engagement, the Office of Technology Innovation, Communications and Marketing, the JMU Small Business Development Center, the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Lifelong Learning Institute.

The principal developers of the Ice House project are both JMU alumni and the furniture was designed and built by JMU’s Industrial Design students.

The building currently offers space available for rent that includes offices, event space, a kitchen, and classrooms and conference rooms fit with touchscreen A/V equipment and web conferencing capabilities.

Phase two of the project includes plans to make the Ice House a center of the downtown community with restaurants, a brewery, yoga studio, retail space and loft apartments.

The project is a win-win for the university and the community. Small business owners and entrepreneurs gain better access to JMU’s resources, and JMU students benefit from working on live projects with real businesses.

JMU and its programs at the Ice House are another example of how the Commonwealth’s premier colleges and universities provide real-world experience to Virginia students and innovative ways to collaborate with the local community. To learn more, click here.

A view of the open office and collaborative space at the Ice House in downtown Harrisonburg, Va. Photo courtesy of James Madison University.

Mary Baldwin College Gives Tour of New College of Health Sciences Building

Tuesday, 23 September 2014 12:59 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Recently, a group of economic development professionals toured the new Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences building at Mary Baldwin College in Fishersvillle, Va...

Recently, a group of economic development professionals toured the new Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences building at Mary Baldwin College in Fishersvillle, Va.

Classes are well underway — the school officially opened this past June and welcomed its inaugural class of 70 occupational therapy and physical therapy students.

The state-of-the-art building is 55,000 square feet, with a central atrium that encompasses all three stories. The tech-rich environment incorporates multimedia with cameras that allow students to see a close-up demonstration during class, as well as view a recording of the session.

The nine clinical laboratories include a neurological lab room, simulation lab, multiple skills labs, a human anatomy and a virtual anatomy lab. The multimedia environment also includes four large classrooms and six seminar rooms. 

The building was designed as a place where students can congregate after class to continue learning. The open architecture allows for multiple collaboration spaces, and the building includes a café and break room with lockers. The myriad of windows lets in natural light, making it a place where students want to be.

The Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences is currently training doctoral students in both physical therapy and occupational therapy, with plans to add a master’s degree for physician assistants and a degree-completion program for nurses in 2015.

The school is located in the center of the Augusta County medical corridor. Adjacent to the Augusta Health hospital complex, it offers easy access to I-64 and is just seven miles from Mary Baldwin’s main campus.

The Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences is another example of how Virginia’s higher education institutions are using cutting edge technology to prepare a workforce ready to add value as soon as they enter the employment pipeline. To learn more about Virginia’s world-class education system, click here.

Mary Baldwin College welcomes its inaugural class of occupational and physical therapy students at the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences new building in Fishersville, Va. Photo courtesy of Mary Baldwin College.

VCU’s da Vinci Center Offers Real-World Interdisciplinary Training

Tuesday, 16 September 2014 09:10 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Where can a student work on a live project alongside classmates from the Schools of Arts, Business, Engineering, and the Humanities and Sciences? VCU’s da Vinci Center...

Where can a student work on a live project alongside classmates from the Schools of Arts, Business, Engineering, and the Humanities and Sciences? VCU’s da Vinci Center.

Companies in the greater Richmond area submit a product innovation problem to the da Vinci Center. Art, design, business and engineering students then work on cross-functional teams to develop an innovative solution, sponsored by the company.

The da Vinci Center prepares Virginia students to enter the workforce and hit the ground running, armed with the innovative and entrepreneurial thinking they will need to tackle everyday problems on the job. While students major in one area of study, the program allows them to see through the lens of multiple disciplines. It also emulates the way different departments work together to solve problems in a corporate environment.

Housed in the Pauley Pavilion, part of the School of Engineering, the center offers a multi-use space that facilitates product development from idea generation to market validation. Students have access to rapid prototyping machines and computer modeling and 3D object scanning equipment.

VEDP’s own economist, Michael Gilbert, was a da Vinci Center participant during his time at VCU. He worked on a minimally-invasive surgery trainer for physicians at MCV.

“The experience gained was invaluable,” said Gilbert. “Working on a cross-functional team with students from the School of the Arts, School of Engineering, and School of Business provided me insight and skills I still use today. Developing intellectual property on the team and through the course as an undergraduate is something I will never forget.”

The center offers two programs — an Undergraduate Certificate in Product Innovation and a Master of Product Innovation. The center is currently accepting applications for its spring 2015 class.

The da Vinci Center is yet another example of the cutting edge programs Virginia’s colleges and universities offer to prepare the workforce of tomorrow. To learn more about the Commonwealth’s premier higher education system, click here.

A group of students at VCU’s da Vinci Center develop a surgery trainer for MCV physicians. Photo courtesy of VCU da Vinci Center project team.

VEDP Receives Six Communications Awards at the 2014 SEDC Annual Conference

Wednesday, 3 September 2014 10:06 by Info@YesVirginia.org
VEDP received six communications awards for its marketing collateral at the SEDC (Southern Economic Development Council) Communication Awards Ceremony...

VEDP received six communications awards for its marketing collateral at the SEDC (Southern Economic Development Council) Communication Awards Ceremony.

The ceremony was held this August in conjunction with the 2014 SEDC Annual Conference in Atlanta, where more than 350 economic development professionals gathered for three days to learn about current economic development trends and strategies.

The six awards presented to VEDP included:

  • Special Judges Award for Online Content and Mobile Access recognizing VEDP’s website
  • Award of SUPERIOR for VEDP’s website relaunch
  • Award of EXCELLENCE for VEDP’s pocket brochure Map Out Success for Your Business in Virginia
  • Award of MERIT for VEDP’s annual report Results 2013
  • Award of MERIT for the VEDP marketing video Business Legacies Begin in Virginia
  • Award of MERIT in Thinking Outside the Box for VEDP’s webinar Innovation in Virginia: Live from the National Innovation Summit

“VEDP hit the mark this year with their marketing campaigns,” said SEDC President Gene Stinson. “These campaigns not only show creativity, but also solid messaging and effectiveness at reaching their target audiences. We were wowed by all the entries we received this year, and were impressed with the high level of marketing work being done in economic development by SEDC members.

The judging panel consisted of economic development consultants, practitioners and design professionals from across the southern U.S. Criteria included graphic appeal, clarity of message, quality of information, positioning, differentiation and format.

VEDP markets the Commonwealth of Virginia to companies seeking new business locations, expansion and international trade opportunities. To see examples of VEDP’s award-winning marketing materials and learn why Virginia is the Best State for Business, click here.

VEDP Vice President of Business Attraction Mike Lehmkuhler accepts the Special Judges Award for Online Content and Mobile access on behalf of VEDP from SEDC Chairman Hal Johnson.

Volvo Trucks Opens New Customer Experience Track in New River Valley

Thursday, 21 August 2014 15:54 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Last week, Governor McAuliffe celebrated the opening of Volvo Trucks’ new Customer Experience Track with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Dublin, Va...

Last week, Governor McAuliffe celebrated the opening of Volvo Trucks’ new Customer Experience Track with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Dublin, Va.

The 1.1 mile track features two paved lanes, straight-a-ways and eight percent super-elevated curves to simulate highway conditions. There is also an off-road portion to replicate more challenging conditions, showcasing the range of the company’s Class 8 vehicles.

The track is located on the company’s nearly 300-acre New River Valley campus, which contains the largest Volvo Truck manufacturing facility in the world at 1.6 million square feet. The plant is certified to ISO 500001 energy, ISO 9001 quality and ISO 14001 environmental standards.

The company drew from the expertise of its advanced manufacturing workforce to design and build the track. Employees even had a role in naming it the Twin Oaks Track after deciding to keep two oak trees in the center of the course.

Market demand has made significant strides since the recession, with the plant employing more than 2,500 workers. Earlier this summer, the company invested $69 million to add state-of-the-art equipment and redesign the facility to further improve efficiency and product quality, creating 200 new jobs in the process.

The track will likely draw additional customers to the New River Valley region to visit the plant and test drive potential Volvo Truck purchases.

It also augments Virginia’s thriving automotive industry which includes assets like the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, National Tire Research Center, SoVA Motion, National Crash Analysis Center, CCAM, C-CARE and the Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center, to name a few.

To learn why more than 150 automotive companies call Virginia home and have announced $1.1 billion in capital investment over the last 10 years, click here.

Governor McAuliffe takes a test drive on Volvo Trucks’ new Customer Experience Track in Dublin, Va.

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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 | STIHL Inc. Wins AME 2013 Manufacturing Excellence Award

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.

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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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VIRGINIA ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PARTNERSHIP

© 2014 All rights reserved.