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. 

 

Danville Community College Prepares Virginia's Advanced Manufacturing Workforce

Thursday, 3 October 2013 16:37 by Info@YesVirginia.org

With the U.S. seeing a resurgence of manufacturing jobs, Danville Community College (DCC) has launched a new initiative, the Southern Virginia Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing (SVCAM), to ensure Virginia, and especially the Dan River region, is well-positioned to capitalize on this trend.

One of the goals of SVCAM is to expand DCC’s advanced manufacturing training programs. The manufacturing jobs that have been reshored tend to be higher tech jobs that require a strong STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) background.

DCC has already increased the size of its popular Precision Machining Technology program. Graduates are in high demand from businesses in the region, and DCC has doubled enrollment capacity and added two new machining instructors.

With additional funding from the Virginia General Assembly and other industry partners, DCC plans to renovate its Charles Hawkins Engineering and Industrial Technology building and expand machining lab and classroom space from 6,500 to more than 20,000 square feet. SVCAM funding will also be used to expand DCC’s welding, robotics, industrial maintenance, electronics, polymer manufacturing, engineering technology, additive manufacturing and nanotechnology programs.

Another benefit of the SVCAM program is increased outreach to younger students. DCC has partnered with area high schools to establish a 33-hour dual enrollment program that allows juniors and seniors to earn credit towards an Advanced Manufacturing Certificate and gain valuable skills in one of four areas:  precision machining technology, electronics, industrial maintenance or welding.

The benefits of the SVCAM program are already paying off. North American Mold Technology recently announced plans to establish a new operation in Danville and create 120 new jobs. DCC’s ability to supply and train a high-tech manufacturing workforce was cited by the company as a key factor in their location decision and helped Virginia successfully compete against Ohio for the project.

DCC and its SVCAM program is another example of Virginia’s premier education system, offering valuable workforce training solutions that attract businesses to the Commonwealth. To learn more, click here.

 

Forbes.com Names Virginia America’s “Best State for Business”

Wednesday, 25 September 2013 12:38 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia won the top spot again in the Forbes.com 2013 Best States for Business ranking. Virginia has held one of the top two spots every year since the award’s inception, placing No. 1 from 2006-2009 and No. 2 from 2010-2012...

Virginia won the top spot again in the Forbes.com 2013 Best States for Business ranking. Virginia has held one of the top two spots every year since the award’s inception, placing No. 1 from 2006-2009 and No. 2 from 2010-2012.

Forbes.com uses six factors to determine its ranking, and Virginia is the only state to rank in the top five in four of the six categories. Virginia was ranked No. 1 for its regulatory environment, No. 2 for its labor supply, No. 4 for quality of life, and No. 5 for economic climate.

According to Forbes.com, “Virginia ranks first among the states in the regulatory category because of its business-friendly government policies and strong incentive offerings. The tort system is one of the best in the country for businesses, according to the Mercatus Center’s Freedom in the 50 States. Virginia is also one of 24 right-to-work states, which explains a union workforce that is only 4.4% of employment—fifth lowest in the U.S.”

The study also highlighted the strength of Virginia’s workforce, which has helped draw companies like Amazon.com and Microsoft to the Commonwealth. Virginia has the highest concentration of high-tech workers, according to TechAmerica’s Cyberstates 2013.

With concerns nationwide over the effects of sequestration, Forbes.com noted how well Virginia’s economy has performed. “Virginia’s $446 billion economy held up better than most states during the Great Recession thanks in part to spending by the federal government. But Virginia does have a widely diverse economy with strongholds in bioscience, logistics, manufacturing and technology. There are 31 companies (public and private) with more $3 billion in sales headquartered in Virginia.”

Virginia continues to garner top accolades due to the Commonwealth’s pro-business environment, competitive operating costs, world-class labor pool, premier logistics network and strong quality of life. To learn why companies have found success in the Commonwealth for more than 400 years, click here.

Denbigh High School’s Aviation Academy Recognized as PRIME School for Manufacturing Education

Tuesday, 24 September 2013 16:10 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Denbigh High School’s Aviation Academy in Newport News, Va., was added to the 2013-2014 list of Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (PRIME) programs for the upcoming school year. Only 11 schools across the country were added this year...

Denbigh High School’s Aviation Academy in Newport News, Va., was added to the 2013-2014 list of Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (PRIME) programs for the upcoming school year. Only 11 schools across the country were added this year.

PRIME is a program developed by the SME Education Foundation to prepare students for manufacturing careers by advancing education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects. It employs a community-based, real-world approach to education, forging partnerships between schools, higher education institutions, companies and the community.

To become part of the PRIME program, a school must have an exemplary manufacturing curriculum that has been in place for at least three years. The program must include both academic and hands-on fabrication instruction; access to local colleges with the opportunity to participate in postsecondary programs; and access to local manufacturing companies for company tours, job shadowing and mentoring opportunities.

PRIME is part of SME’s initiative to support the reshoring of manufacturing jobs to the U.S. and ensure we have a strong pipeline of skilled manufacturing workers to support future industry needs.

Denbigh High School’s Aviation Academy offers a four-year magnet program that prepares students for careers in engineering, aviation and electronics. Students take a number of classes at the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, including an FAA Pilot Ground School course. The academy provides students with cutting-edge electronics and technology equipment, and students are encouraged to pursue college dual enrollment opportunities. 

Denbigh High School’s Aviation Academy is another example of Virginia’s exemplary secondary education system, preparing graduates to enter the manufacturing workforce or pursue more advanced degrees at the Commonwealth’s leading higher education institutions. To learn more, click here.

Orbital Sciences Completes Launch from Virginia to the International Space Station

Thursday, 19 September 2013 14:00 by Info@YesVirginia.org
At 10:58 a.m. yesterday morning, Orbital Sciences successfully completed the second launch of its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft from Pad-OA of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia...

At 10:58 a.m. yesterday morning, Orbital Sciences successfully completed the second launch of its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft from Pad-OA of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

This mission is the first time a spacecraft launched from Virginia will visit the International Space Station.

Antares will deliver the Cygnus spacecraft along with 1,300 pounds of food, clothing and other cargo to the Expedition 37 crew on the International Space Station. 

The Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station on Sunday, September 22. Prior to its arrival, Cygnus will perform a series of tests and maneuvers to demonstrate its readiness to rendezvous with the space station. On Sunday, the crew of Expedition 37 will operate the station’s 57-foot robotic arm to grapple Cygnus and maneuver it into the docking station.

The purpose of this mission is to demonstrate the capabilities and readiness of Orbital Sciences’ cargo delivery system as part of its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program with NASA. Orbital Sciences successfully completed the inaugural test flight of Antares and Cygnus in April.

Subsequently, Orbital Sciences will carry out eight resupply missions through 2016, delivering approximately 20,000 kilograms of cargo to the International Space Station as part of its $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA.

These resupply missions will aid the crews of the International Space Station in carrying out scientific experiments in a microgravity research lab.

Following the historic LADEE launch just over a week ago, Virginia’s leadership in space exploration is evident. Through the MARS facility, Virginia offers one of only four commercial sites approved by the FAA for orbital space launches.

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

Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft launch from Pad-OA of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.  Photo color-enhanced and courtesy of NASA/Bill Ingalls.

The MACH37 Cyber Accelerator Opens in Herndon, Virginia

Tuesday, 17 September 2013 16:10 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia’s new MACH37 Cyber Accelerator recently opened at the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) in Herndon, Va., just five months after the announcement of its creation...

Virginia’s new MACH37 Cyber Accelerator recently opened at the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) in Herndon, Va., just five months after the announcement of its creation.

The MACH37 accelerator program is designed to capitalize on Virginia’s expertise in the cybersecurity industry and help launch additional start-up companies developing innovative technology in this area.

The first five companies selected for this program are Cypherpath, Key Cybersecurity Inc., Pierce Global Threat Intelligence, CyberLingua, and Sikernes.

These companies will participate in two 90-day sessions. At the beginning of the first session, they will receive seed funding, followed by introductions to a network of cybersecurity experts and investors to help mentor and develop their products and technology. 

At the end of the first 90-day session, the companies will go before a professional panel on Demo Day. If the presentation is successful, selected companies will receive additional funding and be allowed to participate in the second 90-day session.

The MACH37 Cyber Accelerator is modeled after the Y-Combinator, an accelerator program in Silicon Valley that has helped develop more than 460 companies. The MACH37 program helps cybersecurity entrepreneurs bridge the gap between idea generation and commercialization. 

The program is named after the escape velocity of Mach 37, the minimum velocity needed to launch passed the earth’s gravitational field.

MACH37’s location at CIT is in the hub of the Dulles Technology Corridor, providing early stage companies access to a solid pipeline of high-tech employees.

In addition, CIT is partnering with Virginia Tech to develop a cyber test range available to MACH37 companies. This remotely-accessible test center will be located nearby at Virginia Tech’s Hume Center for National Security and Technology in Arlington, Va.

The MACH37 Cyber Accelerator is another shining example of how Virginia’s public and private institutions partner to create an innovate environment for entrepreneurs to create new products and technology. 

To learn more about Virginia’s pro-business research and development opportunities, click here.

Governor McDonnell meets with members of the cybersecurity community during the MACH37 Cyber Accelerator grand opening event at CIT in Herndon, Va.

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Virginia Economic Development Partnership is the Best State for Business

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

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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. 

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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 Receives an A+ for Small Business Friendliness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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RockTenn’s West Point Mill Celebrates 100 Years in Virginia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About VEDP

Virginia Economic Development Partnership is the Best State for Business

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

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

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.

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.