Prince George County Recognized as One of Eight Innovative U.S. Counties by NACo

Tuesday, 17 December 2013 16:46 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Prince George County, Va., gained recognition as one of eight innovative counties highlighted in the recently-released report Strategies to Bolster Economic Resilience — County Leadership in Action by the National Association of Counties...

Prince George County, Va., gained recognition as one of eight innovative counties highlighted in the recently-released report Strategies to Bolster Economic Resilience — County Leadership in Action by the National Association of Counties.

In the report, NACo highlighted the strategies, partnerships and initiatives these eight counties pursued in their unique approach towards economic development. Founded in 1935, NACo is the only national organization that represents county governments in the U.S.

Prince George County received recognition for its focus on targeted industries, particularly advanced manufacturing, as the county’s partnership with Rolls-Royce was noted. Rolls-Royce’s 1,000-acre Crosspointe Campus in Prince George County is the company’s largest and most advanced campus in North America. It includes a Rotatives operation and Advanced Airfoil Machining Facility, with room for expansion. 

Prince George County and Rolls-Royce were also instrumental in establishing the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing adjacent to the Crosspointe Campus. CCAM celebrated its grand opening in March 2013 and functions as an applied research center, bringing together leading manufacturers and Virginia’s top educational institutions to collaborate and quickly turn ideas into real-world technologies. 

Homegrown company Service Center Metals was also mentioned in the study. The company recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary in Prince George County and announced plans to add a compact remelt plant. The company expects to add a total of 35 new jobs and invest $35 million through a two-phase expansion.

Through partnerships in the public, private and educational sectors, Prince George County has become a hub of advanced manufacturing innovation, drawing additional corporate partners and investment to the area.

To learn why Virginia has provided an innovative environment, allowing businesses to prosper here for more than 400 years, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charlottesville Startup GigDog Launches from UVA’s i.Lab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STIHL Inc. Wins AME 2013 Manufacturing Excellence Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Williamsburg-James City County School System Celebrates National Manufacturing Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Virginia Economic Development Partnership is the Best State for Business

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

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Carded Graphics Continues Growth Trajectory in Staunton, Va.

Friday, 14 September 2012 14:00 by Info@YesVirginia.org
On Wednesday, Carded Graphics announced plans to expand its production capacity in Staunton, Va., bringing a $7 million investment and 34 new jobs to the Shenandoah Valley region...

On Wednesday, Carded Graphics announced plans to expand its production capacity in Staunton, Va., bringing a $7 million investment and 34 new jobs to the Shenandoah Valley region.

A leading producer of custom folding cartons and paperboard packaging, the additional capacity will allow Carded Graphics to meet growing customer demand for its award-winning graphics, packaging design, printing, die-cutting, and state-of-the-art converting technology.

Originally founded in Virginia, the company has morphed and relocated through a number of acquisitions. Since returning to the Commonwealth in 2006, the company has doubled in size.

The City of Staunton offers a prime location for the company’s 120,000-square-foot facility, which houses Carded Graphics’ corporate offices and production plant. Located near the interchange of I-81 and I-64, the company can easily access Virginia’s premier transportation network with convenient reach to customers across the U.S.

In addition, Carded Graphics plays a key role in the Shenandoah Valley supply chain, providing packaging to nearby companies, including Hershey’s, Hollister, and ASR.

With its low-cost operating environment, highly-skilled workforce and robust transportation infrastructure, Virginia continues to be a prime location for advanced manufacturers, attracting more than $13.8 billion in capital investment over the last decade.

To find out what more than 6,000 Virginia manufacturing establishments already know, click here.

Montgomery County Gains another 50 Jobs—Social Media Company Heyo Expands

Wednesday, 12 September 2012 08:55 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Heyo, formerly known as Lujure Media Inc., just announced plans to invest $100,000 and create 50 new jobs in Blacksburg, Va., located in Montgomery County...

Heyo, formerly known as Lujure Media Inc., just announced plans to invest $100,000 and create 50 new jobs in Blacksburg, Va., located in Montgomery County.

Founded by students at Virginia Tech and Radford University in 2010, Heyo is a shining example of the innovation and creativity of Virginia’s entrepreneurs. The company provides an easy-to-use platform that allows users to drag and drop Facebook fan pages, mobile apps and websites.

Virginia’s universities thrive when it comes to cultivating the entrepreneurial spirit necessary to create next generation technologies. Heyo’s student entrepreneurs received guidance along the way through entrepreneurial programs at their respective universities.

CTO Brian Putt was a member of Radford University’s Collegiate Entrepreneurs club. CEO Nathan Latka and CFO Josh Gunter both attended Virginia Tech and the trio entered Heyo into the Virginia Tech Student Business Competition in 2011, winning the $5,000 grand prize. The competition was sponsored by the Virginia Tech KnowledgeWorks Third Annual Entrepreneurship Summit. 

With easy access to tech-savvy grads, Heyo’s decision to remain in Blacksburg is certainly a positive reflection on the local talent pool. According to CEO Nathan Latka, “The close knit community makes it easy to build culture and hire top tier talent from top ranked local universities like Virginia Tech and Radford University.”

No stranger to top IT talent, Virginia boasts the highest concentration of high-tech workers according to Cyberstates 2011.

Governor McDonnell designated 2012 as “The Year of the Entrepreneur,” and Heyo’s rapid success is a great example of why Virginia is the best place for entrepreneurs.

To learn more about Virginia’s robust technology industry, click here.

Multiple Virginia Locations Ranked Top Ten by CNN Money’s Best Places to Live

Friday, 7 September 2012 14:08 by Info@YesVirginia.org
CNN Money magazine named Reston, Va., No. 7 in the overall ranking in its Best Places to Live: America’s Best Small Cities report. Reston earned a top ten placement due to its unique combination of exceptional access to growing job markets and high quality of life.

CNN Money magazine named Reston, Va., No. 7 in the overall ranking in its Best Places to Live: America’s Best Small Cities report. Reston earned a top ten placement due to its unique combination of exceptional access to growing job markets and high quality of life.

Reston’s strategic location between Washington, D.C., and Dulles International Airport continues to attract a growing number of national and international firms in the government, defense, and technology sectors. The community also offers residents access to a thriving downtown and some of the nation’s most highly-rated schools.

In one important subcategory, Fastest Job Growth, three Virginia counties also won high honors.

Loudoun County earned the No. 1 spot for Fastest Job Growth and experienced the highest percentage of job growth in the nation. A leader in the technology sector, more than 50 percent of all internet traffic flows through the county daily. Now home to more than 4.3 million square feet of data centers, it is easy to see why Loudoun has earned the nickname “Data Center Ally.”

Another Northern Virginia location, Prince William County, received the No. 8 ranking for Fastest Job Growth. Prince William benefits from major military employers including Quantico Marine Corps Base. Excellent quality of life in Prince William County keeps these highly-skilled workers in the region even after they exit military service.

Suffolk County, ranked No. 9 for Fastest Job Growth, offers many distribution and logistical advantages. Located in southeast Virginia, the county offers close proximity to the Port of Virginia and is serviced by two railroads and multiple interstates.

With so many unique and diverse locations Virginia continues to be recognized as a top state for business.  To learn more about these and other locations fostering growth in Virginia click here.

Aeroprobe Corporation Expands into Montgomery County, Va.

Thursday, 6 September 2012 09:01 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Homegrown Virginia company Aeroprobe Corporation just announced plans to relocate its headquarters and add a manufacturing operation in the Town of Christiansburg in Montgomery County’s Falling Branch Corporate Park. The project is expected to bring a $3 million investment and 40 new jobs to the area...

Homegrown Virginia company Aeroprobe Corporation just announced plans to relocate its headquarters and add a manufacturing operation in the Town of Christiansburg in Montgomery County’s Falling Branch Corporate Park. The project is expected to bring a $3 million investment and 40 new jobs to the area.

Aeroprobe will remain in the New River Valley region, relocating its headquarters from Blacksburg to Christiansburg and establishing a manufacturing operation in order to accommodate increased demand for its products. The company grew by 76 percent in 2011 and expects to increase by 103 percent in 2012.

The new facility at Falling Branch Corporate Park will include 20,000 square feet of space with room to expand to 40,000 square feet.

Aeroprobe Corporation also operates a satellite facility in Blacksburg Industrial Park which houses the company's high-speed wind tunnel.

The company elected to remain in Virginia due to the Commonwealth’s strong manufacturing workforce and the high quality of life Montgomery County offers. With its close proximity to Virginia Tech, ranked one of the best universities for aerospace employee recruitment by Aviation Week & Space Technology, the company has easy access to a steady supply of engineers and high-tech employees. 

According to Aeroprobe CEO Nanci Hardwick, “We are delighted to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world. The availability of highly technical talent in a business friendly community made Montgomery County our first choice to house our international operations.”

A leading manufacturer of air data measurement equipment, Aeroprobe illustrates the diversity of Virginia’s aerospace industry. The company’s products have been used by Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Air Bus and NASA.

To learn more about Virginia’s aerospace industry and why aerospace companies have invested more than $1.5 billion in the Commonwealth over the last 10 years, click here.

The Vitamin Shoppe Brings First Distribution Center to Virginia

Tuesday, 4 September 2012 16:41 by Info@YesVirginia.org
On Friday, The Vitamin Shoppe announced plans to establish its first Virginia distribution facility in Hanover County. The operation will be located at the Virginia Transportation Park in Ashland, Va., and will bring a $39.4 million investment and 174 new jobs to the Central Virginia region...

On Friday, The Vitamin Shoppe announced plans to establish its first Virginia distribution facility in Hanover County. The operation will be located at the Virginia Transportation Park in Ashland, Va., and will bring a $39.4 million investment and 174 new jobs to the Central Virginia region.

The Vitamin Shoppe’s accelerated growth and desire to be closer to its mid-Atlantic customer base were primary reasons for building the warehouse and fulfillment center in Virginia. The company has grown from one store in 1977 to more than 550 company-owned retail stores today.

Virginia successfully competed against North Carolina due to the Commonwealth’s strategic location, competitive business costs, and premier workforce.

The Hanover County location offers visibility to I-95, allowing the company to easily access Virginia’s premier transportation network, which includes six major interstate highways, 14 railroads, nine commercial airports and the international Port of Virginia.

Virginia’s competitive operating environment includes a six percent corporate tax rate that remains unchanged since 1972, construction costs 16 percent below the national average, and a low unemployment tax rate 32 percent below the national average.

According to Ashland Mayor Faye Prichard, “The Town of Ashland and The Vitamin Shoppe share core values of community involvement and healthy living…. Their decision to locate in Ashland and Hanover builds upon the reputation of this region serving as a strategic location for supply chain centers in the mid-Atlantic.”

The Vitamin Shoppe joins the company of Ace Hardware, Amazon.com, Backcountry.com, Home Depot, McKesson Corp, QVC, Target and Wal-Mart, all of which have established fulfillment and distribution operations in the Commonwealth.

To learn why Virginia continues to be a leading location for distribution centers, attracting more than $1.6 billion in capital investment from global logistics companies over the last 10 years, click here.

Virginia’s Metro Areas Win Four Top Ten Rankings from Business Facilities Magazine

Friday, 31 August 2012 10:49 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Four Virginia locations received top ten rankings from Business Facilities Magazine’s 2012 Metro Rankings Report. Now in its eighth year, the report recognizes future economic leaders by ranking more than 350 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in 13 categories.

Four Virginia locations received top ten rankings from Business Facilities Magazine’s 2012 Metro Rankings Report. Now in its eighth year, the report recognizes future economic leaders by ranking more than 350 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in 13 categories.

Arlington and Richmond, Va., both earned top ten placements for Best Quality of Life. Virginia’s 57 state and national parks, top-ranked schools, low unemployment and abundant cultural resources routinely garner national attention.

Arlington, ranked No. 3, boasts the highest per capita income and the highest home values in the region, while Richmond, ranked No. 9, offers the state’s top ranked hospital and largest four-year college.

The Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, Va., area received a top five win in the Jobs Growth Leaders category with a No. 4 ranking.  Home to Virginia Tech, Radford University and New River Community College, the region’s rapid growth is supported by a highly educated workforce.

Norfolk, Va., gained the No. 7 spot in the Logistics Leaders - Ports category. The Port of Virginia is the deepest port on the U.S. East Coast, linking Virginia to nearly 400 ports in more than 100 countries worldwide.
 
To learn more about Virginia’s winning combination of outstanding quality of life, strong workforce and excellent infrastructure click here.

GE Celebrates One-Year Anniversary and 100 Hires in Henrico County

Thursday, 30 August 2012 16:46 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Exactly one year after opening its Henrico County Information Security Technology Center, GE has already hired 100 people. Following the company’s announcement in April 2011, GE is ahead of schedule for the 200 new jobs it expects to create over the next few years...

Exactly one year after opening its Henrico County Information Security Technology Center, GE has already hired 100 people.

Following the company’s announcement in April 2011, GE is ahead of schedule for the 200 new jobs it expects to create over the next few years.

With more than 300,000 employees operating in 100 countries, safeguarding GE and customer data is an enormous task. Utilizing the center’s state-of-the-art cyber forensics lab and cyber intelligence monitoring center, teams are focused on developing innovative solutions to keep company information secure.

Locating near a skilled, high-tech workforce was critical for GE. With the highest concentration of high-tech workers according to Cyberstates 2011, Virginia proved to be the right location.

Virginia also offers companies the ability to partner with leading universities at the forefront of research and development in the field of cyber security.

George Mason University’s International Cyber Center, The Hume Center for National Security and Technology at Virginia Tech, and James Madison University’s Institute for Infrastructure and Information Assurance are just a few of the leading programs preparing a solid pipeline of high-tech workers in Virginia.

To learn why companies consider Virginia a world-class center for technology, investing more than $7.9 billion in Virginia IT projects over the last ten years, click here.

Backcountry.com Opens East Coast Fulfillment Center in Montgomery County, Va.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012 13:29 by Info@YesVirginia.org
On Friday, Backcountry.com celebrated the opening of its East Coast fulfillment center in Montgomery County, less than a year after the company announced it would invest $20 million and create 200 new jobs...

On Friday, Backcountry.com celebrated the opening of its East Coast fulfillment center in Montgomery County, less than a year after the company announced it would invest $20 million and create 200 new jobs. 

Secretary Cheng attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, congratulating the company on its swift progress preparing the facility at Falling Branch Corporate Park.

As the largest online specialty retailer of premium outdoor gear, Backcountry.com is known for its fast delivery times and selected the Commonwealth for its strategic East Coast location and world-class logistics network. With 14 railroads, six major interstate highways, 9 commercial airports and the international Port of Virginia, the Commonwealth offers easy access to customers on the East Coast and beyond. 

To maintain its reputation for excellent customer service, locating near a skilled workforce was critical to Backcountry.com. With its close proximity to the Appalachian Trail and Washington-Jefferson National Forest, Montgomery County caters to outdoor enthusiasts, drawing a talented and passionate labor pool closely aligned with the company’s mission.

Virginia continues to be a leading location for fulfillment and distribution centers—Ace Hardware, Amazon.com, Home Depot, McKesson Corp, QVC, Target and Wal-Mart have all established operations in the Commonwealth.

Over the last ten years global logistics companies have announced more than 360 projects, totaling more than $1.6 billion in capital investment. To learn more about Virginia’s premier location and logistics infrastructure, click here.

Secretary Cheng (left) joins company and local officials as Co-Founder and Executive Chairman Jim Holland cuts the ribbon with one of Backcountry.com’s products.

Global Tech Leader iGATE Expands U.S. Presence in Loudoun County

Wednesday, 22 August 2012 16:16 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Technology leader iGATE recently announced plans to invest more than $1 million to establish a new facility in Loudoun County, bringing 250 new jobs to the area over the next few years...

Technology leader iGATE recently announced plans to invest more than $1 million to establish a new facility in Loudoun County, bringing 250 new jobs to the area over the next few years.

The location in Loudoun County will allow iGATE to further the expansion of its technology consulting services into the U.S. market, particularly with nearby Washington D.C. government agencies and businesses.

Close proximity to the Washington Dulles International Airport was a key advantage, giving a global company like iGATE access to 80 percent of the world’s economies.

The ability to draw upon a highly-skilled, tech-savvy workforce also factored into Virginia’s favor. Due to the consultative nature of the company’s custom technology products, human capital is a critical driver of the company’s success.

Fortunately the Commonwealth has the employee pool to match companies’ workforce needs, with the highest concentration of high-tech workers according to Cyberstates 2011. Companies are taking notice of Virginia’s world-class employee base. Professional, scientific and technical services—a category dependent on a quality workforce—was the top sector for job creation in Virginia last year, announcing almost 13,000 new jobs in 2011.

iGATE Chief Delivery Officer Sean Narayanan recognized the many attributes Virginia offers companies, stating, “We have been impressed with the business and government leaders in Virginia, the high caliber of the workforce, the excellent quality of life, and we look forward to positive, long-term growth and involvement in this area.”

To learn more about Virginia’s unique combination of assets and why companies have been prospering here for more than 400 years, click here.

Commonwealth Laminating & Coating Announces Second Expansion in Nine Months

Tuesday, 21 August 2012 15:00 by Info@YesVirginia.org

Secretary Cheng visited Commonwealth Laminating & Coating’s (CLC) headquarters last week to announce the company’s second expansion in less than nine months.

The company plans to invest $5.45 million to establish a national distribution center in the same business park as its headquarters and manufacturing operation in Martinsville, Va. The project is expected to create 60 new jobs—welcome news as Henry County and Southern Virginia continue to make positive progress towards economic recovery.

This project is further testament to CLC’s success in Virginia, as just last November the company announced its plans to invest $16.5 million to expand its manufacturing facility, creating 40 new jobs. 

With eight locations across five countries, CLC certainly has its pick of locations. Choosing to invest further in Virginia is a compelling endorsement of the Commonwealth’s excellent business environment. In addition, the Henry County location is the company’ sole manufacturing facility, illustrating how Virginia’s manufacturing capabilities can compete on a global level.

Virginia has successfully competed against China, Arizona and North Carolina for CLC’s projects over the last year.

The success of CLC’s solar control window film and high-performance coatings business adds to Virginia’s reputation as a leading location for polymer and film manufacturing companies.

Home to more than 200 plastics companies, over the last decade Virginia has seen more than $1 billion invested by plastics firms in new and expanding facilities. 

Virginia offers the skilled workforce, competitive operating environment and world-class logistics network so important to plastics manufacturing companies. To learn why companies like DuPont, Honeywell, Phoenix Packaging, Rubbermaid, and O’Sullivan Films have all invested in Virginia, click here.

McKee Foods Expands Manufacturing Operation in Augusta County

Friday, 17 August 2012 17:01 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Secretary Cheng recently attended an event at McKee Foods’ Stuarts Draft facility in Augusta County, Va., to announce the company’s planned investment of $19 million to expand the plant, creating 78 new jobs...

Secretary Cheng recently attended an event at McKee Foods’ Stuarts Draft facility in Augusta County, Va., to announce the company’s planned investment of $19 million to expand the plant, creating 78 new jobs.

Best known for its Little Debbie® line of snack cakes, McKee Foods produces a wide range of food products under the Sunbelt®, Heartland® and Fieldstone™ Bakery brands. Increased demand for the company’s line of Little Debbie® donuts is a major driver for the additional production capacity.

Successfully operating in Augusta County for 22 years, the high productivity of the local workforce helped Virginia win this project. The plant’s productivity, measured in cases produced per employee, has improved by 24 percent over the last two years, with the same number of employees and no additional automation.

According to Randy Smith, Vice President, McKee Foods Stuarts Draft operations, “McKee Foods initially recognized the strategic advantage of building a manufacturing facility in August County more than two decades ago. A major point in that decision was seeing that the Shenandoah Valley gave us access to a highly-skilled workforce. Today we’re pleased to be able to expand our production capabilities here.”

In addition to a highly-skilled manufacturing workforce, Virginia allows companies to improve their bottom lines. With a corporate income tax rate of 6 percent, an unemployment tax burden 32 percent lower than the national average, construction costs 16 percent lower than the national average, and favorably priced utility rates, more than 550 food and beverage companies call Virginia home.

To learn why food and beverage manufacturers have invested more than $1.9 billion in Virginia over the last decade, click here.

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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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MAAP Unmanned Aerial Test Site at Virginia Tech Declared Fully Operational by FAA

Monday, 18 August 2014 15:57 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Last week, a group of government, academic and business leaders gathered at Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute to celebrate the FAA declaring the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems test site program fully operational...

Last week, a group of government, academic and business leaders gathered at Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute to celebrate the FAA declaring the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems test site program fully operational.

In December 2013, the FAA announced that Virginia Tech was selected as one of six test sites across the country to conduct research as part of an initiative to establish safety standards for integrating UAS, such as drones, with commercial aircrafts.

Virginia Tech led the submission of a joint proposal for Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland, along with Rutgers University and the University of Maryland, called the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership. MAAP is headquartered at Virginia Tech’s Institute of Critical Technology and Applied Sciences, with test sites located across Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland.

The ceremony included a simulation flight involving an unmanned, multi-rotor helicopter called the Smart Road Flyer. It was modified for transportation research by Dr. Kevin Kochersberger, a professor with the College of Engineering and the Virginia Center for Autonomous Systems, and engineering students from the Unmanned Systems Laboratory at Virginia Tech. The simulation gathered information from a mock accident scene on an interstate highway.

This scenario illustrates the wide-ranging future capabilities of UAS. Potential uses of this technology include disaster response, search and rescue missions, utility and pipeline inspections, agricultural monitoring, wildlife management, cargo delivery and weather observation.

This is another win for Virginia’s burgeoning aerospace industry. With flights to the International Space Station taking off from MARS/NASA Wallops Flight Facility and UAS launched from MAAP at Virginia Tech, the Commonwealth has the assets to stake its claim as a national aerospace leader. 

To learn why more than 250 aerospace companies have chosen to call Virginia home, click here.

Dr. Kevin Kochersberger (right) describes a UAS simulation flight at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute during the MAAP First Flight Ceremony. University President Timothy Sands, Virginia Delegate Joseph Yost, Governor Terry McAuliffe, and MAAP Executive Director Rose Mooney (left to right) discuss the future of unmanned and autonomous aviation at the event. Photo Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Get to Know VEDP’s NEW COO Dan Gundersen

Wednesday, 13 August 2014 13:21 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Dan Gundersen joined VEDP as Chief Operating Officer this May, where his focus is on running the day-to-day operations of VEDP. Dan’s full profile is available in the summer issue of Commerce Quarterly. To help you get to know Dan, here’s an interview we recently did to see how his first few months are going...

Dan Gundersen joined VEDP as Chief Operating Officer this May, where his focus is on running the day-to-day operations of VEDP. Dan’s full profile is available in the summer issue of Commerce Quarterly

To help you get to know Dan, here’s an interview we recently did to see how his first few months are going.

Q:  What has your first 75 days been like?

A:  It’s been focused entirely on the internal operations of VEDP. For many years now, VEDP has operated as a flat organization with the different department heads reporting directly to the CEO. With the recent reorganization and refocusing of VEDP’s initiatives, it became clear that there was a need for a coordinating role to help bring the operations into better alignment and to provide a more targeted and strategic focus for our efforts. And that’s really what my job is all about.

Q:  What specifically have you focused on?

A:  Performance metrics for the economic development profession has been something that I’ve focused on for years now. I’ve served on the board of the International Economic Development Council for a long time and have championed this cause. Recently I co-chaired the first ever performance metric analysis for the economic development profession with the IEDC called Making It Count:  Metrics for High Performing EDOs. The goal there was to be able to identify those metrics that can help us better tell the story of what we do and why we do it. Today it’s not just about jobs created and leveraging public sector dollars. The IEDC report provides more than 200 new measures that economic development groups can use. We’re taking a couple pages out of that book to help VEDP better describe the impact of its work. At the September VEDP board meeting we will introduce several new metrics to be able to assess our progress.

Q:  What does VEDP do really well?

A: In one word — deals. Martin Briley has an incredible ability to focus on the deal pipeline and knows the nuances of every single deal inside and out. He’s living and breathing our Salesforce database, and I think that has helped drive productivity to a very high level. 

Of course, exceeding goals is possible only if you have really good talent among staff, terrific esprit de corps, effective partnerships, and an incredible devotion to what I would call a “cause.” VEDP staff represents one of the most committed organizations that I’ve ever had the privilege of working for. In a way, that makes my job so much easier.

Q:  What challenges do you see ahead?

A:  The world of economic development is changing so quickly and we’re expected to be so many things to so many people. One of our biggest challenges is going to be keeping our focus on those things that we do well, while also being a thought leader and an advocate for the business community, a catalyst for launching new ideas, and even at times a broker of resources for others so that together we can bring about greater economic gain for the state. That’s why it’s important that VEDP develop its own strategic operating plan that builds on regional assets and that aligns seamlessly with the overall economic strategy that the Administration will be producing later this year. Right now, that’s probably my top priority.

Q:  Where are you focusing your efforts for FY15?

A:  The new strategic operating plan will highlight a few areas where we believe we can focus more of our attention and resources. One of those will be with identifying and assisting high growth firms. Research shows that high growth firms in any regional economy account for upwards of 70-80 percent of the net new jobs, and yet, these firms account for less than one percent of all business establishments. You’re going to see VEDP develop a very sophisticated strategy for making sure we are meeting the needs of these businesses better than any other state.

Another area will be an intense focus targeting foreign direct investment and assisting firms that wish to conduct trade in emerging markets around the world.

Finally, VEDP is going to be aggressively positioning itself with brand development and targeted marketing to be able to identify firms that could and should be in Virginia. It’s all about sustained and profitable growth and Virginia has all of those fundamentals to make it happen.

Keep an eye out — this fall we’ll be distributing a live podcast that Dan did for the Atlanta and St. Louis Federal Reserve Banks on the future of economic development.

Virginia Schools Rank High on the Forbes and Money Top Colleges Lists

Tuesday, 12 August 2014 09:46 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia’s higher education institutions once again ranked high on the Forbes America’s Top Colleges 2014 list. Forbes partnered with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity on its seventh annual ranking.

Virginia’s higher education institutions once again ranked high on the Forbes America’s Top Colleges 2014 list. Forbes partnered with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity on its seventh annual ranking.

Three Virginia schools made the Top 25 in the Best Public Colleges category:  University of Virginia was No. 5, College of William and Mary was No. 6, and Virginia Tech was No. 23.

In the Overall category, eight Virginia colleges made the Top 200 list: Washington and Lee University (No. 33), UVA (No. 40), College of William and Mary (No. 41), University of Richmond (No. 96), Virginia Tech (No. 117), Virginia Military Institute (No. 129), Hampden-Sydney College (No. 171), and James Madison University (No. 188).

Washington and Lee University was also ranked No. 15 on the Best Liberal Arts Colleges list.

Forbes is a unique ranking because instead of focusing on the metrics of how competitive an institution is to get in to, it focuses on what students get out of college in terms of ROI. The five factors that determine the ranking include student satisfaction, post-graduate success, graduation rates, academic success and student debt.

Money also gave Virginia high marks on its Best Colleges for Your Money 2014 ranking. The Commonwealth scored well in the Best Public Colleges category with UVA at No. 3, VMI at No. 4, Virginia Tech at No. 12, JMU at No. 17 and the College of William and Mary at No. 20.

In the Overall category, 10 Virginia institutions made the Top 200:  UVA (No. 16), VMI (No. 18), Washington and Lee University (No. 39), Virginia Tech (No. 42), JMU (No. 53), College of William and Mary (No. 60), George Mason University (No. 101), University of Mary Washington (No. 107), University of Richmond (No. 120), and Hampden-Sydney College (No. 156).

Money only included schools with an above-average six-year graduation rate, and then based the ranking on a number of factors in three main categories — quality of education, affordability and outcomes.

Virginia’s substantial higher education system includes more than 100 in-state institutions that are preparing 450,000 students to enter the workforce. From large universities, to small private colleges, to the 23-member Virginia Community College System, the Commonwealth’s world-class education system stands ready to support industry demand with a strong pipeline of highly skilled workers.

To learn more about Virginia’s premier education system, click here.

A view of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. UVA was ranked No. 3 on Money’s Best Public Colleges list. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corp.

Dream It, Do It – Virginia Hosts Seven Manufacturing Technology Camps This Summer

Thursday, 31 July 2014 14:33 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Dream It, Do It – Virginia hosted seven Manufacturing Technology Camps across the Commonwealth this summer. The camps are designed to reach out to high school students who are considering a career in manufacturing...

Dream It, Do It – Virginia hosted seven Manufacturing Technology Camps across the Commonwealth this summer. The camps are designed to reach out to high school students who are considering a career in manufacturing.       

The three-and-a-half-day camps allow students to experience all levels of production, from raw materials to finished goods. Students also participate in tours, lectures and manufacturing demonstrations where they get to see the latest in automation and robotics from Virginia’s leading manufacturers.

Students in the Manufacturing Technology Camps also participate in a competition where they work with a team to complete an assignment that involves designing, building and running a manufacturing system. During the competition, students receive training and mentoring from industry experts. Students on the winning team receive scholarships to pursue STEM education tracks.

This summer, two camps were offered at Southside Virginia Community College in Keysville, two at Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center in South Hill, and one each at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston, at STIHL Inc. in Virginia Beach, and at ITAC in Chester. Halifax County posted a video from their Manufacturing Technology Camp here.

Dream It, Do It – Virginia is part of a national organization that provides access to on-the-job training and certifications to keep the existing manufacturing workforce up-to-date on the latest technology, as well as build awareness among youth about the many options and rewards a manufacturing career can offer.

The manufacturing jobs of today are very different from what manufacturing jobs in the past may have entailed. Virginia’s advanced manufacturing takes place in a clean, safe environment and requires high skill and high levels of education. Manual labor has largely been replaced with automation. An advanced manufacturing career today often involves managing the technical process to improve efficiencies and product throughput. The work is interesting and employees are rewarded with a competitive salary.

The Dream It, Do It – Virginia website provides a number of valuable tools for investigating a career in the Commonwealth’s advanced manufacturing industry. It allows students to assess their interests and skills to determine an area of focus, as well as view the educational requirements and career track for that specialty. You can also watch the recent Dream It, Do It – Virginia Third Wednesday Webinar by clicking here.

Businesses in the Commonwealth praise the experience and dedication of their Virginia workforce as one of their prime factors for success. Dream It, Do It – Virginia is one example of the many educational groups across the Commonwealth ensuring that Virginia’s workforce has the skills and training to match industry demand. To learn more, click here.

Students get hands on experience at one of the Manufacturing Technology Camps at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in Halifax County, Va. Photo courtesy of Halifax County Industrial Development Authority.

VSU Small Farm Outreach Program Helps Sabra Grow First Crop of Chickpeas in Virginia

Wednesday, 30 July 2014 09:05 by Info@YesVirginia.org
It’s harvest time and good news for Sabra Dipping Co. Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture is about to gather one of Virginia’s first ever crop of chickpeas...

It’s harvest time and good news for Sabra Dipping Co. Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture is about to gather one of Virginia’s first crop of chickpeas.

Sabra has partnered with VSU to research the possibility of sourcing chickpeas, the main ingredient in its top-selling hummus, closer to the company’s 49-acre campus in Chesterfield County. Sabra is the No. 1 brand of hummus in the U.S. and has established both a manufacturing operation and R&D Center of Excellence on its campus at Ruffin Mill Industrial Park in Chesterfield County.

Sabra first announced plans to establish a facility in Virginia in November 2008. Part of the company’s decision to locate in Chesterfield County was the proximity to VSU’s College of Agriculture. “During the company’s decision-making process, we arranged several meetings with the College of Agriculture to explore opportunities to grow chickpeas in Virginia and enhance the profitability of the company,” said Renee Chapline, president and CEO at Virginia Gateway Region.

Over the last two years, Sabra and VSU have implemented Dr. Harbans Bhardwaj’s chickpea research through the university’s Small Farms Outreach Program. Cliff Somerville, a VSU Small Farm Outreach agent, has worked with a number of farms across Virginia to test the growth of different varieties of chickpeas.

According to Somerville, while last year’s crops were largely a washout due to weather conditions (excessive rain) and a problem with worms, VSU and Sabra discovered that one type of chickpea seed worked well in Virginia — the “Billy Bean” variety.

This year, VSU only planted the “Billy Bean” variety and Somerville supervised one of those test sites – three acres on a farm in Halifax County.

“The plants got up to around 30 inches and it’s a good population with about 32-34 pods per stalk,” said Somerville. “It’s a successful crop. We’ve done a test run with the combine to check moisture levels, and we’re getting ready to do a full harvest in the next week or so. This will be one of the first crops of chickpeas grown in Virginia.”

The success of Virginia’s first group of chickpea crops has the potential to be a win-win for both Sabra and Virginia farmers. It would allow Sabra to shorten its supply chain and reduce risk by sourcing one of its main ingredients closer to the company’s manufacturing facility. It also would provide diversification for Virginia farmers, particularly those in the tobacco region.

To learn about Virginia’s plentiful resources, and how the Commonwealth’s higher education institutions partner with businesses to innovate, click here.

VSU Small  Farm Outreach agents Cliff Somerville and Derrick Cladd, program director William Crutchfield and cooperating farmer Mr. James Brown (left to right) examine plants in Halifax County, part of Virginia’s first successful group of chickpea crops. Photo courtesy of Virginia State University.

Richmond, Hampton Roads and Charlottesville are Top Happiest Metro Areas in the U.S.

Friday, 25 July 2014 15:53 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Richmond/Petersburg was ranked No. 1 and Hampton Roads (Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Newport News) was ranked No. 2 on the National Bureau of Economic Research list of Top 10 Happiest Metropolitan Areas with a Population Greater Than One Million. Charlottesville was ranked No. 1 as the U.S. Metropolitan Area with the Highest Reported Happiness...

Richmond/Petersburg was ranked No. 1 and Hampton Roads (Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Newport News) was ranked No. 2 on the National Bureau of Economic Research list of Top 10 Happiest Metropolitan Areas with a Population Greater Than One Million. Charlottesville was ranked No. 1 as the U.S. Metropolitan Area with the Highest Reported Happiness.

Economists at Harvard University and the University of British Columbia published a working paper called “Unhappy Cities” through the National Bureau of Economic Research. NBER is the nation’s leading nonprofit economic research organization, with more than 1,300 economics and business professors teaching across North America.

The authors of the study, Edward Glaeser, Joshua Gottlieb and Oren Ziv, used the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a self-reported study on happiness conducted by the CDC, as their primary data source. Because the BRFSS data reports the county where a respondent lives, the authors were able to link responses with location.

They then performed a series of regression analyses to control for individual factors, such as education, income and race, to come up with an adjusted life satisfaction estimate for each MSA.

The authors discovered there is indeed a correlation between happiness and location. They also found that self-reported unhappiness is highest in declining cities, areas linked with lower levels of population and income growth.

It comes as no surprise that multiple regions in Virginia received top marks in this study. With more than 400 years of rich history, the Commonwealth offers employers and citizens an affordable cost of living, access to parks and natural resources ranging from the mountains to the ocean, and recreational opportunities from historical sites to modern sports, entertainment and cultural venues. To learn why reports like this give Virginia a top ranking on quality of life, click here.

A map of the U.S. which shows each metropolitan and rural areas' adjusted life satisfaction. Photo courtesy of the University of British Columbia.

Pollina Awards Virginia Another Top Pro-Business State Ranking

Tuesday, 15 July 2014 10:40 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Once again, Virginia received a leading ranking on Pollina Corporate Real Estate’s Top 10 Pro-Business States 2014 report. The Commonwealth was ranked fourth, taking the same slot as last year. Virginia has consistently received top marks in this report, taking one of the top two spots from 2005-2012...

Once again, Virginia received a leading ranking on Pollina Corporate Real Estate’s Top 10 Pro-Business States 2014 report.

The Commonwealth was ranked fourth, taking the same slot as last year. Virginia has consistently received top marks in this report, taking one of the top three spots from 2005-2012.

“Clearly a national leader in the 11 years of this study, no other state comes close to Virginia when it comes to being a consistent pro-business state,” said Brent Pollina, vice president of Pollina Corporate Real Estate, Inc. and co-author of the study.

Virginia was the top ranked state on the East Coast this year and has received an overall grade of “A” in each of the last five years.

“Virginia has consistently remained at the top of the list because Virginia’s state and local leaders are innovative and aggressive in attracting and retaining jobs and investment. Key to Virginia’s success is its ability to balance low taxes, a good labor force and a strong economic development program. With a Stage I rank of No. 6 and a Stage II rank of No. 3, Virginia has one of the most well-rounded business climates in the nation,” added Pollina.

The ranking is based on 32 factors controlled at the state level, including taxes, human resources, right-to-work legislation, energy costs, infrastructure spending, workers' compensation legislation, jobs gained, financial incentives and state economic development evaluations. The report was co-published with the American Economic Development Institute.

The ranking also reflected positively at the agency level of economic development. Virginia received an “A” in both incentives and marketing/website/response to new and existing employers.

As the report alluded to — consistency is key. Corporations making large investment and employment decisions want to feel confident that the location they select will maintain its positive attributes years down the line. The Commonwealth’s solid track record and stellar resources make it easy for companies to say “Yes” to Virginia. To learn more, click here.

Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Orbital Sciences Completes Second Launch to the International Space Station

Monday, 14 July 2014 15:33 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Yesterday at 12:52 p.m., Orbital Sciences completed its second launch to the International Space Station from Pad-OA of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore...

Yesterday at 12:52 p.m., Orbital Sciences completed its second launch to the International Space Station from Pad-OA of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

The Orb-2 mission is Orbital Sciences’ second of eight resupply missions to the ISS, part of Orbital Sciences’ $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Service contract with NASA. Orbital Sciences will deliver more than 40,000 pounds of cargo to the ISS through 2016.

The Antares rocket launched the Cygnus spacecraft, carrying more than 3,600 pounds of research materials, hardware, science experiments and provisions for the crew of Expedition 40 aboard the ISS. The experiments include nanosatellites to take images of earth, satellites to allow 3-D mapping and robotic navigation inside the space station, and student projects from the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program.

Cygnus is expected to reach ISS Wednesday morning. Over the next two days Cygnus will complete a series of thruster burns to bring it close to the ISS, at which point the crew will use the ISS robotic arm to grapple and rendezvous with the spacecraft.

Cygnus will remain berthed with ISS for approximately 30 days so that the Expedition 40 crew can unload the cargo and reload it with trash. Upon completion of the mission, Cygnus will be burned up during reentry to Earth’s atmosphere.

Yesterday’s successful second launch to the ISS illustrates Virginia’s continued leadership in the aerospace industry. Through MARS, Virginia is one of only a few sites across the U.S. authorized for orbital space launches. To learn why more than 250 aerospace companies call Virginia home, click here.

Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket takes off from Pad-OA of MARS at NASA Wallops Flight Facility on its second mission to the International Space Station. Photo courtesy of NASA/Bill Ingalls.

VEDP’s “Business Legacies Begin in Virginia” Video Wins Telly Award

Tuesday, 8 July 2014 14:20 by Info@YesVirginia.org
VEDP’s “Business Legacies Begin in Virginia” video recently won a Bronze Telly Award in the category of Recruitment, part of the larger Film/Video category...

VEDP’s “Business Legacies Begin in Virginia” video recently won a Bronze Telly Award in the category of Recruitment, part of the larger Film/Video category.

Since its founding in 1979, the Telly Awards has been honoring outstanding TV commercials and programs, video and film productions, and online commercials, videos and films.

This year’s 35th Annual Telly Awards has been one of the most competitive, with more than 12,000 entries received from all 50 states, as well as other countries.

The award was presented to VEDP and BES Studios, an agency that helped VEDP produce the video. VEDP also worked with 3 Creative on the project. 

Digital storytelling has become an increasingly important component of the marketing mix in economic development as companies and site selection consultants perform more upfront research online.

“The Business Legacies Begin in Virginia video is an important tool we’ve added to our digital marketing strategy,” said Vince Barnett, VEDP Vice President of Communications & Promotions. “We’re grateful to all our partners across the Commonwealth who helped us by providing video footage and access to film some great shots, and we’re honored to receive this award.”

A list of the corporate, regional and local partners who helped VEDP obtain video footage is displayed in the closing credits.

To view the video, visit VEDP’s website or YouTube channel.

VEDP Welcomes VJIP to the Team

Thursday, 3 July 2014 09:50 by Info@YesVirginia.org
It’s official — at the beginning of our fiscal year, July 1, the Virginia Jobs Investment Program became part of the VEDP team. House bill 932 passed by the Virginia General Assembly in in the spring 2014 special session moved the administration of VJIP to VEDP to further align Virginia’s job incentive programs...

It’s official — at the beginning of our fiscal year, July 1, the Virginia Jobs Investment Program became part of the VEDP team. House bill 932 passed by the Virginia General Assembly in in the spring 2014 special session moved the administration of VJIP to VEDP to further align Virginia’s job incentive programs.

In fiscal year 2014, VJIP was involved in 96 percent of the projects that VEDP completed.

VJIP is the second oldest incentive in the Commonwealth and was established in 1965. According to VJIP interim director Frank Strickler, “This is a homecoming for us. VEDP’s predecessor organization and ours were originally joined under the Department of Economic Development until 1996 when VEDP was formed and we were moved to the Department of Business Assistance. We have worked closely with VEDP’s business expansion and business attraction managers for years, so it’s great to be under one roof again.”

VJIP is charged with marketing and managing a state-funded grant that helps companies train their employees. Companies can qualify for the incentive in any of three categories: new and existing business expansions that create jobs, small businesses that create new jobs, and workforce retraining to upgrade the skills of existing employees.

Due to the flexibility of the three categories, a wide range of companies can qualify for the incentive. VJIP serves both large and small businesses in a variety of industries. VJIP project managers also provide free consulting services to client companies, helping them find solutions for their recruiting and training issues.

The VJIP grant is a performance-driven incentive distributed on a pay-as-you-go basis after each employee has been on the job for more than 90 days. VJIP managers work with the company to develop a training outline and budget, so that the client has skin in the game. Companies can receive up to 50 percent reimbursement for qualified recruiting and training costs. Due to the multiplier effect, the incentive usually nets a 100 percent ROI (return on investment) in six months.

VJIP is one of the longstanding examples of incentives that attract companies to Virginia’s pro-business environment. To learn more about VJIP, click here.

Members of the VJIP team include (back row) Frank Strickler, Tre Akins, (front row) Lea Lofty, Brenda Young and Debbie Melvin. 

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

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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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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.