Get to Know VEDP’s NEW COO Dan Gundersen

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

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

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

Q:  What has your first 75 days been like?

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

Q:  What specifically have you focused on?

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

Q:  What does VEDP do really well?

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

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

Q:  What challenges do you see ahead?

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

Q:  Where are you focusing your efforts for FY15?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pollina Awards Virginia Another Top Pro-Business State Ranking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Orbital Sciences Completes Second Launch to the International Space Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VEDP Welcomes VJIP to the Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia a Top State for Private Equity Investment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Private Equity Growth Capital Council

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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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’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