Virginia Serious Game Institute Has a Banner First Year

Wednesday, 4 February 2015 13:55 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The Virginia Serious Game Institute had a stellar first year that included launching six businesses and creating 70 new jobs in Prince William County...

The Virginia Serious Game Institute had a stellar first year that included launching six businesses and creating 70 new jobs in Prince William County.

VSGI is a business incubator that supports Virginia entrepreneurs in the modeling and simulation industry. It is the applied research arm of the Computer Game Design Program at George Mason University and is affiliated with the international Serious Game Institute. It is the only facility of its type on the East Coast and one of only a few worldwide.

VSGI provides Virginia schools, businesses and universities with hands-on training, certification, R&D assistance, incubation services, rapid prototype development and access to leading edge commercialization outputs and technologies.

Located on GMU’s Prince William Campus, VSGI operates as a public-private partnership offering entrepreneurs expertise in technology and business assistance from GMU, the Mason Enterprise Center, Prince William County and VEDP.

This location, just 26 miles south of Washington D.C., provides access to one of the top high-tech workforces in the nation. More than 60 GMU students have interned at VSGI, its resident companies or assisted in teaching.

VSGI supports Virginia’s STEM initiative by exposing younger students to careers in technology by hosting summer camps and workshops, as well as facilitating partnerships with larger IT companies that allow students to obtain hands-on learning experience.

VSGI is currently incubating five companies, and has the ability to house 10 startups at one time. To learn more, visit http://game.gmu.edu/sgi/. Be on the lookout for a call for applications in the coming weeks from the Prince William County Department of Economic Development.

Virginia has the highest concentration of high-tech workers in the nation. To learn more about the Commonwealth’s leadership in the tech sector and why innovative companies continue to choose Virginia, click here.

GMU Computer Game Design Program students provide modeling, simulation and design work for incubator companies at VSGI. Photo courtesy of Prince William County Department of Economic Development.

VEDP Launches 2015 Digital Advertising Campaign

Friday, 23 January 2015 09:34 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia has a great story and it’s imperative that it be told to the global business audience. In January, VEDP launched a new digital ad campaign, expected to deliver more than 73 million impressions through June 2015...

Virginia’s competitiveness and perception as a pro-business state remain strong. However, competition in the global economy and domestic markets continues to increase. Competing states are more aggressive in their outreach efforts, with several recently unveiling multi-million dollar advertising campaigns to promote and lure business.

Virginia has a great story and it’s imperative that it be told to the global business audience. In January, VEDP launched a new digital ad campaign, expected to deliver more than 73 million impressions through June 2015.

To maximize our limited resources, VEDP focused on digital media outlets and purchased an integrated schedule of online, mobile, tablet and pay-per-click search placements. The campaign targets VEDP’s geographic markets in the U.S, U.K., Germany and China.

The ads, promoting Virginia’s prime business location advantages, appear in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Entrepreneur and Reuters, as well as two advertising networks — Bizo and Rocketfuel.

Search engine marketing remains a key component of our strategy. VEDP implemented pay-per-click ads on Google, Bing and Baidu. This is our first venture with Baidu, the leading search engine in China.

“VEDP’s advertising strategy continues to prove effective at generating leads and building awareness of the strengths that make the Commonwealth such a great place to work and live,” said Vince Barnett, VEDP vice president of communications & promotions. “The digital program provides unique targeting capabilities to reach key corporate decision makers, while making the most efficient use of limited advertising dollars.”

An example of a 15 second video pre-roll used as part of the campaign is below, and landing pages for the U.S., U.K., Germany and China can be found by clicking on the highlighted links.

To learn more about the opportunities for success that are waiting for you in Virginia, visit www.YesVirginia.org.

A view of the video pre-roll touting Virginia’s pro-business resources.

Amazon Fulfillment Center in Chesterfield Still Buzzing After the Holidays

Thursday, 8 January 2015 14:50 by Info@YesVirginia.org
VEDP toured the Amazon fulfillment center in Chesterfield, Va., this week, and we were pleased to see the facility was still buzzing with activity even after the holiday rush...

VEDP toured the Amazon fulfillment center in Chesterfield, Va., this week, and we were pleased to see the facility was still buzzing with activity even after the holiday rush.

The Chesterfield fulfillment center began operations in the fall of 2012, after the company’s December 2011 announcement that it would invest $85 million to establish the location and create 1,000 jobs.

Today, the 1.2 million square foot facility has 1,500 employees that help distribute more than 14 million items in the building.

The facility is an impressive maze of shelves, work stations and conveyor belts whizzing yellow bins, called “totes,” containing any type of smaller consumer good throughout the building in a blur of efficiency. Amazon’s other facility in nearby Dinwiddie County ships larger consumer goods, like kayaks and TVs.

Our tour guide took us through the massive layout and explained how departments such as receiving, stowing, packing and shipping all work together. Like any massive organization, Amazon has its own nomenclature. “Stowers” scan goods in and store them in the “library” where they are later retrieved by “pickers” who put items for a customer’s order into the “totes.”

The Chesterfield facility has more than 2,500 scanners, 1,300 carts and 40,000 yellow totes. 

Extreme efficiency is a requirement for success at Amazon. On 2013’s Cyber Monday, Amazon customers ordered more than 36.8 million items, which is a record-breaking 426 items per second.

The company operates under a continuous improvement mandate, and many suggestions come from employees themselves. Last year, 4,700 employees participated in 1,100 kaizens across North America to develop new processes and solutions to solve specific problems.

One reason Amazon has found success in Virginia is because its Chesterfield fulfillment center seamlessly blends Virginia’s skilled workforce with advanced technology and sophisticated algorithms to keep the operation humming at peak efficiency.

A second reason is Virginia’s premier logistics network. Amazon’s recognition as a powerhouse distributor was furthered when Coca Cola decided to bring back its Surge soda and sell it exclusively online through Amazon. Surge is the top-selling item at the Chesterfield facility.

Due to the strength of Virginia’s logistics network, more than 380 global logistics projects have been announced over the last 10 years with capital investment of more than $1.8 billion. The Commonwealth allows companies to transport products worldwide through its six interstate highways, nine commercial airports, 11 railroads, including two Class I lines, and the International Port of Virginia, one of the only East Coast locations in the U.S. able to handle post-Panamax vessels as first and last port of call.

To learn more, click here.

A view of Amazon’s fulfillment center at Meadowville Technology Park in Chesterfield, Va. Photo Courtesy of Chesterfield Economic Development.

Southern Virginia Product Advancement Center Incubates Companies From the Lab to the Marketplace

Thursday, 18 December 2014 14:39 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Formerly known as the Riverstone Energy Center, the recently rebranded Southern Virginia Product Advancement Center in South Boston, Va., functions as an incubator helping the Commonwealth’s advanced manufacturing companies develop their technology from the lab to the marketplace...

Formerly known as the Riverstone Energy Center, the recently rebranded Southern Virginia Product Advancement Center in South Boston, Va., functions as an incubator helping the Commonwealth’s advanced manufacturing companies develop their technology from the lab to the marketplace.

SVPAC replicates major components of the manufacturing process by offering companies assistance with modeling and simulation, prototyping, advanced manufacturing processes and applied coating development.

The center’s modeling and simulation program includes a virtual reality theater with high performance computing resources, simulation software and a fully immersive 3-D cave display that can render a one-to-one ratio in real-life scaling. This allows manufacturers to design new products and predict and test performance using virtual technology. Any mistakes are made and fixed in a virtual environment, allowing for a cost-friendly R&D approach.

SVPAC’s Carbon Fiber Composite Manufacturing Lab will allow companies to produce component parts using specialized molds. The lab is expected to be completed in the spring 2015 and augment the hub of automotive and aerospace technology companies in the area.

Through a partnership with C-CARE (Center for Coatings Application Research and Education), companies have access to a coatings technology lab that houses 12,000 square feet of environmentally-controlled space. The comprehensive range of manufactured coatings applications equipment includes advanced robotics, reciprocating spray equipment and virtual reality training systems that can test new coatings technologies and design solutions under a variety of conditions.

SVPAC also offers traditional incubation services that include business plan development, access to R&D grants, office and manufacturing space, networking opportunities and mentoring.

SVPAC already has a number of success stories, which include helping a large automobile manufacturer develop new spray coating technology, developing a virtual reality tool for robot path programming with Kawasaki, and helping TMI Autotech with modeling and simulation to develop its high performance vehicles. TMI has also worked with other automotive resources in the region, including the Global Center for Automotive Performance Simulation located nearby at the Virginia Motorsports Technology Park.

VEDP and VEDA hosted SVPAC on their most recently Third Wednesday Webinar series, available here.

SVPAC is another example of the R&D capabilities Virginia offers to advance the innovative ideas and products of the Commonwealth’s technology-driven companies. To learn more, click here.

A view of the 3-D modeling and simulation capabilities at the Southern Virginia Product Advancement Center in South Boston, Va. Photo courtesy of the Southern Virginia Product Advancement Center.

VEDP Receives No. 2 State Economic Development Organization Ranking for 2014

Wednesday, 10 December 2014 14:11 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The American Economic Development Institute and Pollina Corporate Real Estate ranked VEDP No. 2 on its Top 10 State Economic Development Organizations list for 2014...

The American Economic Development Institute and Pollina Corporate Real Estate ranked VEDP No. 2 on its Top 10 State Economic Development Organizations list for 2014.

With growing competitiveness on a global scale, AEDI and Pollina wanted to put the spotlight on state economic development organizations that are excelling at their job.

“Leaders of economic development organizations throughout the country need to do a far better job of understanding that their primary objective is to create new jobs and retain those already located in their state,” said Dr. Ronald Pollina, chairman of AEDI and president of Pollina. 

This ranking is largely based on data from Stage II of the AEDI/Pollina Corporate Top 10 Pro-Business States 2014 report released earlier this year. The Stage II data examines the state’s incentive programs and the marketing efforts of their economic development agencies.

More specifically on the marketing analysis, the authors of the study examined the resources devoted to the agencies, their ability to respond to new company inquiries and existing company needs, and the functionality of their website.

Interestingly, the study found that a majority of states had few programs for existing companies and did not devote enough resources to contacting and assisting these existing companies. In contrast, VEDP has an entire team devoted to business expansion, which accounted for 86% of announced investment and 74% of new job creation in calendar year 2013. Even more impressive, the top five project announcements for both new job creation and invested capital in 2013 were made by expanding Virginia companies.

Through our international trade division, VEDP helps existing Virginia businesses expand sales internationally. Programs such as the Global Network, VALET, Going Global Defense Initiative and trade missions provide companies with the research, introductions and export training to substantially increase sales overseas.

The importance of an agency’s website can’t be underestimated, as this is the first point of contact for many companies and site selection consultants. VEDP offers a variety of tools through our website, including VirginiaScan, Compare Virginia, Community Profiles, and the YesVA app, which allow consultants to easily search a geographic area for available properties and obtain comparative demographic, economic and real estate information to easily narrow their search.

According to VEDP President and CEO Martin Briley, “This ranking is a tremendous honor for all of us here at VEDP. It represents the hard work of our entire staff, our partners and our allies as we work together to augment the economic vitality of the Commonwealth and tell the Virginia story on the global stage.”

To learn how VEDP can help your company and why businesses have prospered in Virginia for more than 400 years, click here.

Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Charlottesville Entrepreneurs Launch Moonlighting Mobile Marketplace App

Monday, 8 December 2014 15:51 by Info@YesVirginia.org
A team of Charlottesville entrepreneurs recently launched Moonlighting, a mobile company with an app that helps job seekers and people needing work done to connect...

A team of Charlottesville entrepreneurs recently launched Moonlighting, a mobile company with an app that helps job seekers and people needing work done to connect.

The three co-founders began brainstorming in August 2013 to find a way to parlay their expertise in payment platform development and mobile technology. According to CEO Jeff Tennery, “We wanted to do something significant that would really resonate with people. The employment market made the most sense.”

According to the company, Moonlighting is the only marketplace that lets users engage as both a payer and earner in a mobile environment. With two simple categories —“make money now” and “get stuff done” — users can easily identify their needs and skills.

The app is similar in functionality to Facebook and Twitter. In addition, users can easily post Moonlighting requests to their social media accounts.

Like most entrepreneurs, the company founders kept their day jobs while moonlighting on nights and weekends to hammer out the business plan and technology. After raising an angel seed round of funding in April and testing an alpha version of the technology in August, the company officially launched its app on October 15.

In just over a month, Moonlighting has already reached thousands of users nationwide, with projections for dramatic growth.

“Charlottesville is a rich, diverse area with a solid investment community. There’s a strong constituency of experienced business people looking to finance start-up and angel companies and offer their expertise,” said Tennery.

Proximity to UVA also allowed the company to tap into a talented labor pool. “We worked with undergrads from the business school on the marketing, Darden grads helped us with the business plan, and law school students helped write our terms and conditions,” noted Tennery.  “The region is rich in both business and culture, so there’s a great labor force of UVA grads who want to remain in the area.”

Highlighting the growing peer-to-peer economy and its financial impact, Moonlighting has published its first comprehensive report on how the nation is “moonlighting” through multiple financial opportunities. The monthly M.O.O.N. Report (Mobile Optimized On-Demand Network) tells the story of the American moonlighter and reveals the economic trends taking place in the new 1099 society. To download the app and report, visit the company’s website http://moonlightingapp.com/.

The fast growth of a technology-driven company like Moonlighting is another example of how Virginia provides the right resources and environment for entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. To learn more, click here.

The Moonlighting team at the company’s October launch party.

VEDP Host Virginia Tour for Chinese Journalists

Friday, 21 November 2014 12:57 by Info@YesVirginia.org
VEDP hosted a delegation of 10 influential journalists from the People’s Republic of China on a visit to Richmond this week as part of a larger tour organized by the Global Times...

VEDP hosted a delegation of 10 influential journalists from the People’s Republic of China on a visit to Richmond this week as part of a larger tour organized by the Global Times.

The journalists previously visited South Korea, Israel and Vietnam. While in the U.S., the group will visit Washington D.C., St. Louis and New York City to cover themes such as the U.S. representational government, freedom of the press, the future of U.S.-China relations, and Chinese foreign direct investment in the U.S.

The visit to Richmond is an extension of the D.C. portion of the tour. While here, the journalists met with Governor McAuliffe, and heard from Tranlin Inc. CEO Jerry Peng about Shandong Tranlin Paper Co.’s decision to locate its first U.S. manufacturing operation in Chesterfield County, Va.

The journalists experienced the strong cultural relationship that exists between China and Virginia. The group visited the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and toured the Forbidden City: Imperial Treasures from the Palace Museum, Beijing and Beyond the Walls exhibitions.

The group’s final stop was at the Richmond Ballet for an overview of its Road to China cultural exchange scheduled for May 2015. The Richmond Ballet will travel to China to dance their mixed repertory program, Made in the USA: Traditions & Innovations, at the Meet in Beijing Arts Festival. This past July, the Richmond Ballet performed in China as part of the U.S. Department of State’s 2014 Cultural Pillar Delegation for the U.S.-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange.

China-Virginia relations remain solid, and Governor McAuliffe led two marketing missions to China in July and October to tell the Virginia story and build relationships with companies seeking to expand into the U.S.

Virginia is a great location for international companies seeking to enter the U.S. due to the Commonwealth’s strategic East Coast location, pro-business regulatory and cost environment, excellent logistics network, premier workforce and enjoyable quality of life. To learn more, click here.

A group of leading online journalists from China visit the Virginia State Capitol during their tour of Richmond.

Forbes.com Names Virginia A Best State for Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corp.

Global Center for Automotive Performance Simulation Established in Halifax County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VEDP Releases Two New Marketing Tools for Mobile Devices

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

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

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

New features for the YesVA App version 2.0 include:

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

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

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

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

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

A view of the VEDP iBook homepage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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nia’s growing offshore wind industry.

Using an economic impact analysis that assumed 2,000 MW of offshore wind capacity were built over a 10-year period and only half of the supply chain located in the Commonwealth, Kroll concluded that 2,125 direct jobs and 2,710 indirect jobs could be created in Virginia over the first five years, and an additional 1,635 direct jobs and 1,960 indirect jobs could be created over the last five years, for a grand total of 8,430 new jobs in Virginia.

These jobs would primarily come from sectors such as operations and maintenance, construction, and the manufacturing of nacelles, turbine blades and generators.

In addition, Kroll concluded these jobs would benefit Virginia through an additional $9 billion in GDP and $119 million in state-level tax revenue over the 10-year period.

With yesterday’s announcement that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is on track to issue the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy a wind energy research lease on the Outer Continental Shelf, Virginia’s wind industry continues to build momentum. 

In December, we blogged about the positive announcements from the BOEM, advertising the first-ever wind energy lease sale on the Outer Continental Shelf, and from the Department of Energy, reporting that a Virginia team was one of seven projects awarded a grant for the engineering, design and installation of an offshore wind turbine demonstration facility.

Virginia is primed to be a leader in the offshore wind industry, providing the ideal combination of strong Class 6 winds, shallow waters off the coast, an experienced maritime workforce, a robust transportation network, and access to a fully operational high voltage transmission grid close to shore.

To watch a webcast of Brian Kroll’s presentation, click here and to learn why more than 380 energy companies call Virginia home, click here

VEDP Senior Economist Brian Kroll testifies before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources about the economic benefits of developing Virginia’s offshore wind industry.

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Unilever Invests $96.2 Million in Suffolk, Va. Lipton Tea Plant

Tuesday, 12 March 2013 14:11 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Yesterday, Unilever announced plans to invest $96.2 million to upgrade its Lipton Tea Plant in Suffolk, part of the Hampton Roads region of Virginia...

Yesterday, Unilever announced plans to invest $96.2 million to upgrade its Lipton Tea Plant in Suffolk, part of the Hampton Roads region of Virginia.

The Lipton Tea plant has operated out of Suffolk since 1955 and is the largest tea processing facility in the U.S., producing nearly all the Lipton tea bags sold throughout North America. 

The investment will allow the company to increase production by both expanding and upgrading to more modern equipment. The Suffolk plant already has a reputation for efficiency and sustainability—in 2009 it became a “zero-landfill” facility through a combination of recycling, composting, and converting waste into usable energy.

Close proximity to the international Port of Virginia was a key deciding factor in the Commonwealth’s favor. Unilever already utilizes the port to bring in loose tea from all over the world for processing at its Suffolk plant. The Port of Virginia offers access to 250 ports in more than 100 overseas locations.

The strength of the Hampton Roads employee pool was another positive factor cited by the company. More than 300 highly-skilled workers currently support the Lipton plant.

This investment adds to Virginia’s growing food and beverage cluster. Home to household names such as Hershey Foods, Nestlé Prepared Foods, Kraft Foods, and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, more than 550 food and beverage manufacturing companies have established operations in the Commonwealth.

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

Governor McDonnell presents Bill Kelly, Suffolk Supply Chain Leader, Unilever, with a commemorative share of stock in the Virginia Company at the Lipton Tea plant announcement event in Suffolk, Va.

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

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YesVirginia Business Blog | All posts tagged 'dominion'

American Electric Power Qualifies Two Data Center Sites in Virginia

Thursday, 9 May 2013 13:24 by Info@YesVirginia.org
American Electric Power (AEP) recently qualified two business parks in the Commonwealth as prime locations ready for data center development—Roanoke County Center for Research and Technology and Wythe County Progress Park...

American Electric Power (AEP) recently qualified two business parks in the Commonwealth as prime locations ready for data center development—Roanoke County Center for Research and Technology and Wythe County Progress Park.

AEP operates in Virginia as Appalachian Power, and is one of the largest electric utilities in the U.S., serving more than 5 million customers and generating more than 38,000 MW of capacity. 

The company’s rigorous data center qualification process includes an independent review by location consulting firm Biggins Lacy Shapiro & Company and energy advisory group Sugarloaf Associates. Suitable data center sites are selected based on their competitive electric rates, reliable and redundant power supply, strong fiber optic infrastructure, low risk of natural and manmade disasters, moderate climate and business-friendly environment.

Dominion has a similar program and has pre-certified six data center sites in Virginia—Low Moor Mine Site in Alleghany County, Hillcrest Industrial Park in Mecklenburg County, Roanoke River Regional Business Park in Mecklenburg County, Watkins Centre in Chesterfield County, Meadowville Technology Park in Chesterfield County and White Oak Technology Park in Henrico County.

Most notable about these prequalified locations is their geographic diversity across the Commonwealth. In addition to “Data Center Alley” in Northern Virginia, AEP and Dominion have prequalified sites across Central, Southern and Western Virginia.

Virginia data center announcements topped $1 billion in 2012, displaying Virginia’s leadership in the technology sector. More than 50 percent of the world’s Internet traffic passes through the Commonwealth’s state-of-the-art infrastructure.

To learn why more than 700 data processing and hosting establishments have recognized the benefit YesVirginia Business Blog | A place for news, opinions, and information regarding the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RaesWear — Pouch Pants that Solve the Storage Problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia Western Community College Offers Cutting-Edge Mechatronics Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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Virginia Economic Development Partnership is the Best State for Business

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

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Virginia’s Region 2000 Wins Public-Private Partnership Award

Tuesday, 17 January 2012 15:47 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Region 2000, representing the 2,000 square miles surrounding Lynchburg, Va., received the Public-Private Partnership award for its work in establishing a collaborative environment between leading businesses and educational institutions to foster regional economic development.

Region 2000, representing the 2,000 square miles surrounding Lynchburg, Va., received the Public-Private Partnership award for its work in establishing a collaborative environment between leading businesses and educational institutions to foster regional economic development. The award is part of the Excellence in Virginia Government Awards given by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Region 2000 partners with six organizations to provide economic development, regional planning, workforce training and networking opportunities for the Lynchburg area. One of its newest organizations is the Center for Advanced Engineering and Research (CAER), a R&D center established to provide local companies with access to university research to speed the development of innovative products and technologies.

The Center for Advanced Engineering and Research opened in August 2011 and currently comprises three facilities. First, the CAER Research and Education Facility, located at New London Business and Technology Park in Bedford County, includes a nuclear power plant room simulator, three-dimensional simulation computing capability, research labs and a cognitive radio test room. Second, CAER operates a Wireless Test Facility in conjunction with Liberty University. This Open Area Test Site, originally developed by Ericsson, is designed to conduct Electro Magnetic compatibility testing. Third, the Wireless Sensor Lab operates as a partnership between CAER, the University of Virginia and Central Virginia Community College. This Multiscale Agile Systems Technology Lab supports the research of motes and other miniature electronic devices.

The CAER is a prime example of the many public-private partnerships established across Virginia to expedite innovation in the technology, advanced manufacturing and energy sectors. To learn more about Virginia’s key business sectors click here.

Below  - Governor L. Douglas Wilder congratulates Region 2000 Economic Development Council Director Bryan David.

Virginia – A Leader in High-Tech

Wednesday, 11 January 2012 15:37 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia adds to its dominance in the high-tech sector by winning the new headquarters location for Acentia, a premier provider of technology and management solutions for both federal and commercial customers, which has moved from Maryland to its new home in Fairfax County. The project includes a $3.1 million investment and the creation of 60 new jobs for the Commonwealth.

Virginia adds to its dominance in the high-tech sector by winning the new headquarters location for Acentia, a premier provider of technology and management solutions for both federal and commercial customers, which has moved from Maryland to its new home in Fairfax County. The project includes a $3.1 million investment and the creation of 60 new jobs for the Commonwealth.

While high-tech is often associated with the Silicon Valley, Virginia actually has the highest concentration of high-tech companies in the country. That’s according to the recently-released Enterprising States 2011: Recovery and Renewal for the 21st Century prepared by Praxis Strategy Group and Joel Kotkin for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In 2010 there were 12,999 high-tech firms in Virginia in industries such as Computer Systems Design Services, Engineering Services, Semiconductor and Related Device Manufacturing and Software Publishing. Over the last five years, Virginia’s high-tech sector has grown by 2,305 firms.

In addition to having the highest concentration of high-tech firms, Virginia also has the nation’s highest concentration of high-tech workers, according to the trade publication Cyberstates 2011. High-tech sector jobs grew to 277,575, up 6.7 percent in the Commonwealth from 2005 to 2010. Even more impressive, during this same time period high-tech employment fell by 6 percent nationwide.

Possessing a highly skilled IT workforce was an important part of winning the Acentia headquarters location for Virginia. According to Acentia CEO Todd Stottlemyer, “Fairfax County gives us access to the highly-skilled technical staff and management consultants we need to continue to provide essential services to our customers. As a company with very aggressive growth plans, we are excited about the possibilities that moving our headquarters to Virginia presents to our customers and the entire Acentia team. Our new space should be a springboard to a great 2012 for Acentia.”

To learn why Acentia and other high-tech companies such as CSC, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman have all chosen Virginia, click here.

Enviva Launches First Shipment from Virginia’s Port of Chesapeake

Monday, 9 January 2012 15:16 by Info@YesVirginia.org
On New Year’s Eve, Enviva LP opened its deep water terminal at Virginia’s Port of Chesapeake. The first shipment, consisting of 28,000 metric tons of wood pellets, is destined for Europe aboard the MV Daishin Maru.

On New Year’s Eve, Enviva LP opened its deep water terminal at Virginia’s Port of Chesapeake. The first shipment, consisting of 28,000 metric tons of wood pellets, is destined for Europe aboard the MV Daishin Maru

Enviva acquired the deep water terminal last January to handle up to three million tons of biomass export to international customers. The company constructed a 157-foot-tall silo at the site, able to store 45,000 metric tons of wood pellets at a time and withstand extreme weather conditions due to its technologically advanced design.

Enviva selected the Port of Chesapeake due to its deep water capacity and ability to handle a variety of vessels, as well as its access to international markets and proximity to biomass sources and other company operations. The company already has a facility in the region, and announced its plans to build a 454,000 metric ton wood pellet manufacturing facility in Southampton County, Va., this past November. The $75 million investment will create 64 new full-time jobs, plus the additional jobs created through the company’s logging supply chain.

With demand for renewable sources of energy expected to increase, Enviva, a leader in biomass fuel manufacturing, is well-positioned for growth. The company expects its facility at the Port of Chesapeake to be a “flagship operation,” as it is ideally situated close to the biomass supply chain with the capabilities to reach global customers. 

To learn more about why Virginia is laying claim to the title, “Energy Capital of the East Coast,” click here.

Amazon.Com Brings 1,350 New Jobs to Virginia

Thursday, 22 December 2011 15:56 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Just in time for the holidays, Amazon.com announced it will invest $135 million to establish two fulfillments centers – one in Chesterfield County and one in Dinwiddie County. 1,350 new jobs will be created from the combined project, which is the largest job announcement Virginia has seen since 2004.

Just in time for the holidays, Amazon.com announced it will invest $135 million to establish two fulfillments centers – one in Chesterfield County and one in Dinwiddie County. 1,350 new jobs will be created from the combined project, which is the largest job announcement Virginia has seen since 2004.

This joint win comes as a result of both counties working over many years to ensure their business parks would attract world class companies like Amazon. The Meadowville Technology Park in Chesterfield and Dinwiddie Commerce Park in Dinwiddie are shovel-ready sites offering sufficient water, gas, and electricity capacity for large business customers, as well as convenient access to I-95, I-85 and the nearby UPS hub.

Due to their central East Coast location, these two fulfillment centers will expand Amazon’s distribution ring across the U.S. and allow the company to easily service customers within one to two business days. Virginia already has a strong reputation for its logistics capabilities reaching both global and domestic markets. The Port of Virginia, with its deep harbor and Suez-class cranes, offers companies the only East Coast location able to hand post-Panamax vessels as first port of call. With two Class I railroads, an Inland Port, and a world-class interstate system, companies located in Virginia can transport goods to customers quickly and cheaply.

Virginia is a popular place for logistics companies with two recent announcement including Ace Hardware and Backcountry.com. To learn more about Virginia’s logistics capabilities and why more than 364 global logistics projects have been announced in the past ten years click here.

German Manufacturer Shifts into High Gear Bringing 80 New Jobs to Virginia Beach

Tuesday, 20 December 2011 15:33 by Info@YesVirginia.org