The Gateway Center for Enterprise Opens in Central Virginia

Thursday, 25 July 2013 16:43 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Today, Virginia’s Gateway Region opened The Gateway Center for Enterprise in Colonials Heights, Va., with the first of many third Thursday networking events...

Today, Virginia’s Gateway Region opened The Gateway Center for Enterprise in Colonials Heights, Va., with the first of many third Thursday networking events.

Today’s event was geared towards new entrepreneurs, with a speaker panel that provided information on how to start and grow a small business. Future third Thursday topics include how to access capital and leadership skills for innovators.

The focus of The Gateway Center is to support local entrepreneurs through a variety of programs, including training, networking events, one-on-one counseling, mentorship programs, and access to the office, library and resource center of Virginia’s Gateway Region. 

The Gateway Center was made possible through partnerships with The Center for Women's Enterprise at REDC Community Capital Group and the Crater Small Business Development Center at Longwood University. 

The center is housed within the main office of Virginia’s Gateway Region, a regional economic development group that supports the cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell and Petersburg, and the counties of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Prince George, Surry and Sussex.

Located in Central Virginia, the Gateway Region offers companies easy access to U.S. and international markets through Virginia’s premier transportation network. Advanced manufacturing, global logistics and food processing companies have been drawn to the area’s skilled workforce and access to top education and research institutions.

The Gateway Center is another example of the innovative environment Virginia offers to entrepreneurs. To learn more about starting a business in the Commonwealth, click here.

Virginia's Gateway Region houses The Gateway Center for Enterprise in Colonial Heights, 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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Dulles International Airport Delivers More than Passengers

Friday, 18 November 2011 17:17 by Info@YesVirginia.org

What many commuters traveling through Dulles Airport may not know is that this airport handles a significant amount of commercial freight and is primed to handle additional air cargo capacity. From refrigerated food to flowers to pharmaceuticals and heavy equipment, Dulles Airport offers a number of competitive advantages for advanced manufacturers, freight forwarders and third-party logistics providers.

Officials from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), Loudoun County, and Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) recently hosted a group of site selection consultants to expound upon these strategic advantages – location, low operating costs and existing infrastructure.

Located at the center of the East Coast air cargo market, the Dulles Catchment Area covers 25 states and part of Canada with overnight service. Dulles has a dedicated access road providing a fast connection to I-95, and its close proximity to I-81 and I-70 provide an extensive ground transportation network to Eastern, Midwestern and Canadian markets. Due to the nature of goods being transported, timing is critical and gains in efficiencies not only deliver a better product to the end user, but save the shipper from incurring spoilage costs.

Of equal importance to its import capabilities, Dulles is also able to attract a strong market for export, which is crucial to establish cargo for the backhaul. “If exports and imports match up, it’s a huge enhancement and adds to the price-point value. Air freight carriers and manufacturers ideally want the planes to be fully loaded both coming and going,” said Warren Hammer, VEDP Business Development Manager – Logistics.

Dulles Airport can also be highly competitive from a cost standpoint. It is an industry standard to charge landing fees; however, Dulles bases its fees on the Maximum Landing Weight while many of its competitors base their fees on the Maximum Take-Off Weight. As an airplane weighs considerably less at landing, due to fuel consumption, these cost savings can add up over time. Dulles also competes favorably on other costs such as lower cargo handling and fuel fees, as well as fewer weather-related delays compared to its Northern counterparts, leading to an overall lower operational cost structure for carriers and manufacturers.

In 2010 Dulles handled almost 323,000 metric tons of freight, with more than 195,000 metric tons traveling internationally. Its 442 weekly international departures to 48 destinations around the world illustrate how Dulles has already developed a substantial infrastructure. “There’s already a critical mass for the global air cargo market, but what’s most exciting is there’s capacity to grow,” said Brent Sheffler, VEDP Managing Director - Advanced Manufacturing. Added Sheffler, “Dulles has 515,000 square feet of cargo warehouse space, nearly one million square feet of cargo ramp and hundreds of acres surrounding the airport to support highly-secured air cargo and climate-controlled distribution facilities.”  

The air cargo capabilities of Dulles International Airport add to the compelling story of why Virginia is CNBC’s Top State for Business. To learn why Virginia’s is a leading gateway to the world click here.

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Blacksburg Virginia Named Bloomberg Businessweek’s #1 Best Place in the U.S. to Raise Kids

Thursday, 17 November 2011 15:44 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Blacksburg Virginia Named Bloomberg Businessweek's #1 Best Place in the U.S. to Raise Kids

Best known as the college town surrounding Virginia Tech, Blacksburg is making a name for itself as a family-friendly community after receiving top scores on a number of factors parents consider when deciding where to live. “Excellent schools, combined with an affordable cost of living, relatively low crime, and plentiful amenities lifted Blacksburg to first place in Businessweek.com’s sixth nationwide ranking of best places in each state in the U.S. to raise kids,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Blacksburg offers residents a high quality of life with a multitude of recreational activities. Located between the Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains, the town provides easy access to the Appalachian Trail and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. In addition to an aquatic and community center, Blacksburg maintains more than 400 acres of parkland which houses public playgrounds, sports fields and miles of walking and biking trails.

It is no surprise that the top city to raise children has an excellent educational system, with schools that score well above average on standardized tests. The community is home to seven public schools – from elementary through high school – as well as several private schools, day-care facilities and preschools. As for higher education, Virginia Tech was ranked 28th in U.S. News & World Report’s Top Public National Universities list and its College of Engineering was ranked 15th in the nation. With more than 100 centers and institutes performing research, Virginia Tech graduates enter the workforce armed with real world, problem-solving experience. 

The Blacksburg workforce is highly educated, with two-thirds of residents above the age of 25 holding a bachelor’s degree or higher and 40 percent holding a graduate or professional degree. This type of educated workforce combined with the research capabilities of Virginia Tech is a huge draw for companies. The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center is home to more than 140 high-tech companies and research centers and Blacksburg Industrial Park is one of several industrial and research business parks housing numerous high-tech and manufacturing companies. In fact, Blacksburg had three companies make Inc. Magazine’s 2011 500|5000 list of the fasting growing U.S. companies.

To learn more about why Blacksburg, Va. is the best place in the U.S. to raise a family click here.

 

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Virginia On Target at CoreNet Global Summit

Tuesday, 15 November 2011 10:34 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia's web-based site selection tools on target with CoreNet Global Summit show theme - Social Dynamics: Connectivity, Creativity, Relationships.

Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) exhibited at the CoreNet Global Summit in Atlanta, Ga., last week to promote Virginia’s pro-business climate and extensive assets with business leaders and site selection consultants in the hopes of drawing additional investment and jobs to the Commonwealth. CoreNet Global is a leading member association for corporate real estate executives and this year’s event drew more than 1,500 attendees.

The international presence at this year’s show continued to increase, reflecting the macro trends of globalization and the subsequent expansion of the corporate real estate industry. Also of note was an increase in real estate firms, providing a full-service approach that end-users typically had to farm out to multiple service providers. 

The theme of this year’s event was “Social Dynamics: Connectivity, Creativity, Relationships,” exploring how people are connecting in different ways with new tools and how this impacts the corporate real estate industry. Fortunately, Virginia is right on target keeping pace with technology and the demands of the industry. The Commonwealth has one of the country’s most advanced site selection tools called VirginiaScan. VirginiaScan is a web-based tool that allows companies and consultants to search a database of more than 2,100 qualified sites and buildings across the Commonwealth based on a number of criteria such as property type, square footage, logistics requirements, labor statistics and existing business data. Virginia also has another web-based tool called Compare Virginia, which allows consultants to perform a side-by-side comparison of how Virginia compares with other states in a variety of areas, including education, employment, income and wages, labor relations, population, public debt and taxes. 

Tools like those mentioned above cater to the on-the-go demands of executives and site selection consultants by allowing them to access web-based tools and get a head-start on research, while maintaining confidentiality in the early stages of a property search. To learn why CNBC has selected Virginia as the Top State for Business and how VEDP can help with your site selection search click here

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New ITT Exelis Headquarters Open for Business

Wednesday, 9 November 2011 16:15 by Info@YesVirginia.org

Yesterday, ITT Exelis celebrated the official opening of its new headquarters in Fairfax County, just a few short months after Governor McDonnell’s announcement of the company’s plans to invest up to $5 million and create 100 new jobs. This has been a busy few weeks for ITT Exelis, completing its spin-off from ITT Corporation on October 31, and ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange as an independent company on November 4. 

Secretary Cheng and Congressman Jim Moran were on hand to offer their congratulations to the company as ITT Exelis unveiled its logo on the newly christened headquarters building. Located on Tysons Boulevard, the new corporate headquarters is housed in the center of the bustling business community of Tysons Corner in McLean, Va., just a few miles away from the Pentagon and other key government and military customers. With expansion of the D.C. Metro’s Silver Line expected to come right through the area in a couple of years, contact with D.C. defense players will only improve.

Proximity to key customers isn’t the only reason Virginia won this deal. ITT is already well acquainted with Virginia’s pro-business climate, as it is has a strong presence across the state with operations in McLean, Herndon and Roanoke. The decision to further its presence in the Commonwealth, particularly with ITT Exelis’ headquarters location, illustrates an understanding of Virginia’s strong assets that include a highly skilled workforce and a favorable regulatory and tax environment.

Coming right on the heels of Northrop Grumman’s new headquarters opening, Virginia is establishing itself as the global hub for the defense industry. Already home to ATK, BAE Systems Inc., CACI International, Computer Sciences Corp., General Dynamics, SAIC and SRA International, the Commonwealth is in a strong position to attract additional defense players. To learn why top defense and aerospace companies said yes to Virginia click here.

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Top U.S. Construction Company Brings 625 Jobs to the Top State for Business

Monday, 7 November 2011 17:06 by Info@YesVirginia.org

Virginia wins big again – Bechtel Corporation, rated the top U.S. construction contractor by Engineering News-Record, just announced its plans to invest $18 million and bring 625 jobs to Fairfax County in Northern Virginia. The company will relocate its Global Operations headquarters from Maryland and establish its Government Services group headquarters at the Reston Town Center in Reston, Va.

Bechtel selected Virginia because it has the right combination of resources to help the company succeed in a global environment. The growth sectors of the Commonwealth closely align with Bechtel’s market focus, and the location in Fairfax County puts the company in close proximity to key customers in the government, IT, energy and transportation sectors. With the company’s corporate headquarters in San Francisco, Virginia’s central East Coast location gives Bechtel a coast-to-coast presence as well as global access through nearby Dulles International Airport.

Virginia’s ability to match the company’s workforce needs, particularly in the IT and engineering sectors, helped seal the deal. Virginia has the highest concentration of high-tech workers in the nation according to Cyberstates 2010 – 277,575 to be exact. The Commonwealth also has a strong pipeline of educated technology professionals entering the workforce with more than 18,500 students enrolled in IT programs and 3,400 degrees and certificates awarded in the 2009-2010 academic year. To learn more about Virginia’s technology assets click here.

Bechtel is part of a steady stream of companies who have recognized Virginia’s pro-business climate and selected the Commonwealth for their headquarters operations.  SAIC, CSC, Volkswagen of America, Northrop Grumman, ITT Exelis and Hilton Worldwide are just a few companies that have established headquarters in the Commonwealth. To learn why many of the world’s largest companies call Virginia home click here.

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Virginia Brews Up 800 New Jobs in Isle of Wight

Tuesday, 1 November 2011 15:59 by Info@YesVirginia.org

Isle of Wight County received some big news when leading coffeemaker Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (GMCR) announced it will invest $180 million and create 800 jobs over the next five years. The company plans to purchase a 330,000-square-foot building at Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park that will serve as a production and distribution facility, handling the roasting, grinding, flavoring and packaging of its Keurig® single-serve product line. 

Governor McDonnell aptly described this project as “transformational for Isle of Wight County.” The county, part of the Hampton Roads region, was especially hard hit by job losses during the recent economic downturn. The 800 jobs that this project will bring are particularly meaningful to this community.

Virginia was able to attract this world class consumer products company because it was able to provide a location that aligned the company’s production facility with its supply chain, workforce and logistical needs. The Commonwealth’s central location on the Atlantic Coast allows for easy transport to the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest markets. 

GMCR referenced the appeal of Virginia’s workforce as one of the key factors in selecting this site. Virginia is home to 525 Food Processing companies that employ more than 33,000 people. A steady stream of skilled employees is provided through Virginia Tech’s Department of Food Science and Technology, the Virginia Packaging Application Center at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, and the Center for High Performance Manufacturing, also at Virginia Tech.

The Food and Beverage cluster is growing in the Commonwealth as Food Processing companies have invested more than $2 billion since 2000, creating more than 6,900 new jobs. Hershey, Kraft Foods, Perdue, Smithfield and Tyson have all elected to locate operations in Virginia. In fact, Phoenix Packaging Operations, LLC, a company that invested $37.5 million over the last eighteen months to establish and then expand its first U.S. operations in Virginia, counts GMCR as one of its packaging customers. 

As Virginia’s Food and Beverage industry continues to grow, its education system has kept pace by expanding its offerings and including specialized training programs to support this growth. The synergies of this public-private partnership are evident, drawing additional companies to the area and furthering the positive trend. To learn more about Virginia’s thriving Food and Beverage industry click here.

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U.S. News and World Report Recognizes Virginia’s Education System

Friday, 28 October 2011 09:59 by Info@YesVirginia.org

With the Governor’s Second Annual Forum on Education and Workforce Training occurring next week, Virginians are primed to discuss our world-class workforce and ensure it remains at the top. Recently, several Virginia colleges and universities received national recognition for being among the best higher education institutions in the nation. In the prestigious U.S. News and World Report Top Public National Universities List, The University of Virginia ranked second and The College of William and Mary ranked sixth. The University of Virginia’s undergraduate business program was recognized with a fifth place ranking and its renowned law school placed ninth this year. The College of William and Mary had the eighth ranked undergraduate teaching program in the country.

Washington and Lee University ranked twelfth among the nation’s best liberal arts colleges. Virginia Commonwealth University had the number one Nursing-Anesthesia program and the number four Fine Arts Program. Virginia Tech University’s College of Engineering was rated fifteenth in the country. The University of Richmond was ranked twenty-seventh in the national liberal arts college category. It was also listed as the third up-and-coming liberal arts school and ninth for best value in the liberal arts school category. Virginia Military Institute was ranked fourth in the public liberal arts college category. George Mason University also received a nod as the number two up-and-coming school in country.

At the regional level Virginia educational institutions also showed strongly. In the category of Top Public Regional Universities in the South, James Madison University was ranked number two, the University of Mary Washington was ranked number six and Christopher Newport University was ranked number nine.   

Success at the collegiate level is grounded in a strong system of elementary and secondary education. U.S. News and World Report also released its Best Public High School List and one of Virginia’s high schools received the number one spot in the Gold Medal category. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., was selected from more than 21,000 public high schools across the nation as the number one public high school based on proficiency standards and the degree to which it prepared students for college-level work.

In the 2010-11 academic year, 133,603 degrees from associate through doctorate were awarded at Virginia's colleges and universities. With more than 500,000 students currently enrolled in more than 100 in-state institutions of higher education, and 18,000 military personnel exiting the armed services annually, Virginia is producing a diverse pipeline of skilled workers able to meet the needs of businesses looking to expand into the Commonwealth.

Click here to learn more about Virginia’s excellent education system and workforce training programs serving a variety of industry sectors.

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Did you know this is Manufacturing Appreciation Week?

Friday, 21 October 2011 09:17 by Info@YesVirginia.org

Governor McDonnell declared October 17-21 as Manufacturing Appreciation Week for Virginia. This should come as no surprise to the many Virginians employed by the manufacturing industry — more than 200,000 of us. In the last few weeks alone, manufacturing companies across a variety of industries have signaled their confidence in Virginia’s workforce by locating or expanding their operations in the Commonwealth.

Federal-Mogul Corp., a global automotive supplier, plans to invest $10 million to expand its automotive engine bearing manufacturing facility in Blacksburg Industrial Park, bringing 50 new jobs to Montgomery County. Albany Industries, a manufacturer of upholstered household furniture, announced it will invest $2.5 million to establish production capabilities in Galax, Va. This investment represents Albany Industry’s first operation in Virginia and will bring 335 new jobs to Southwest Virginia. 

On the international front, Axxor Group, a Netherlands-based producer of honeycomb, announced it will establish its first U.S. operation in Pittsylvania County in Southern Virginia. In 2006, Swedwood North America, a furniture manufacturer and subsidiary of IKEA, selected Virginia as the location for its first U.S. manufacturing facility. As Axxor Group is a major supplier of honeycomb to Swedwood’s furniture manufacturing operations, this investment is a natural outgrowth of that initial partnership.  

Also arriving from across the pond is NBG Holding’s announcement to establish its first U.S. subsidiary, Fiber Cable Technology, in Botetourt county. The Austrian company will invest $5 million and create 25 new jobs to manufacture specialty optical fiber and optical cables for the defense and energy markets. 

Whether manufacturing furniture or fiber optic cable, companies from all around the world have recognized the pro-business advantages a Virginia location offers. To learn more about the breadth of industries served by the Commonwealth click here. You can also view a Made in Virginia video produced by the Virginia Manufacturers Association here.

Governor McAuliffe recently announced the launch of Cyber Virginia, a plan to establish the Virginia Cybersecurity Commission and augment Virginia’s leadership in cybersecurity.

The Commonwealth has a strong legacy in cybersecurity, and is well-positioned with the infrastructure to grow this sector. Virginia has the highest concentration of high-tech workers, according to Cyberstates 2013, and up to 70 percent of the world’s Internet traffic flows through Northern Virginia every day. Growth in the Commonwealth’s data center industry remains robust — investment topped $1 billion in 2012 — positioning Virginia as the place to be for companies moving towards cloud computing.

Virginia’s close proximity to the federal government’s cybersecurity operations also played a role in establishing its leadership position. The Commonwealth is home to the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communication Integration Center, and DARPA.

Virginia’s premier institutions of higher education are poised to maintain the Commonwealth’s leadership in technology through a healthy pipeline of skilled technology workers. Twenty-two of Virginia’s 23 community colleges offer training programs in cybersecurity.

In addition, the NSA and U.S. Department of Homeland Security named five Virginia schools as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education: George Mason University, Hampton University, James Madison University, Marymount University, and Norfolk State University. Virginia Tech was named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research.

To highlight a couple of these programs, Virginia Tech offers the Hume Center for National Security and Technology, which researches intelligence applications of cyberattacks and defense. The university also provides students with real world experience through its IT Security Lab. In partnership with the Naval Postgraduate School and L-3 Communications, Virginia Tech hosts the Cybersecurity Innovations Laboratory at its Arlington campus.

In one of our recent blogs, we mentioned George Mason University’s expertise as the author of the VEDP Cybersecurity Export Market Report. GMU is home to the International Cyber Center and founded the Center for Secure Information Systems in 1990, which was the first academic center in security in the U.S. and one of the NSA’s original Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.

To learn more about Virginia’s leadership in cybersecurity and the overall technology industry, click here.

A view of the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington, which houses the Northern Virginia location of the Hume Center for National Security and Technology.

Richmond’s Legend Brewing Co. Celebrates 20 Years

Thursday, 27 February 2014 14:23 by Info@YesVirginia.org
With the craft brewery movement quickly gaining speed over the last two years, Legend Brewing Co.’s 20-year history makes it Virginia’s oldest craft brewery still in operation. It is also the largest independently-owned craft brewing company in the Commonwealth...

With the craft brewery movement quickly gaining speed over the last two years, Legend Brewing Co.’s 20-year history makes it Virginia’s oldest craft brewery still in operation. It is also the largest independently-owned craft brewing company in the Commonwealth.

In January 1994, founder Tom Martin opened a small tasting room and pub off West 7th Street, then a gravel road in Richmond’s historic Old Manchester district. He started with four beers — the quickly popular Brown Ale, Lager, Pilsner and Porter.

What began as a 10-barrel brewhouse with four fermenters and four finishing tanks has grown into a 30-barrel brewhouse with 37 fermenters and 10 finishing tanks. In addition, the small tasting room has blossomed into a full restaurant with seating for 180 inside and 200 on the deck. Its location right on the James River with unobstructed views of the city skyline quickly made this a Richmond hot spot.

The rise of the farm-to-table and locally-grown movements have made the experience of visiting a craft brewery increasingly popular. Legend beers are unpasteurized and made with simple, natural ingredients — barley malt, hops, water and yeast. In addition, beer-lovers can enjoy a tour of the brewery followed by a tasting and meal, all enjoyed within an historic setting.

Legend has become a mainstay in Virginia’s ever-growing food and beverage industry because of its focus on delivering high-quality, fresh products. It is also one of the few craft breweries that produce both lagers and ales, which require a different process and ingredients.

Virginia’s beer industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years. According to the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, there were 46 breweries in 2011. That number increased to 63 in 2012 and 75 in 2013, with most of the growth coming from the craft brewery niche. Part of that growth is attributable to Senate Bill 604, signed in May 2012, which allows beer manufacturers to sell and sample beer on their premises without obtaining a second restaurant license.

With the Brewer’s Association reporting 70 more breweries in the planning stages in Virginia, the Commonwealth’s craft brewery industry is poised to continue its positive momentum. Virginia has proven to be a successful location for entrepreneurs and food and beverage companies alike, making it an ideal choice for the craft brewery market. To learn more, click here.

Virginia Ranked Top 3 in LEED Green Building Certifications

Monday, 24 February 2014 17:05 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The U.S. Green Building Council recently named Virginia No. 3 for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications as part of its annual ranking...

The U.S. Green Building Council recently named Virginia No. 3 for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications as part of its annual ranking.

LEED is one of the most well-recognized and respected green building certification programs in the world, incorporating design, construction, maintenance and operational aspects into its environmentally-friendly analysis.

More than 57,000 commercial and institutional projects currently participate in LEED, comprised of 10.5 billion square feet of construction space in 147 countries. Each day more than 1.5 million square feet of space is LEED-certified.

In 2013, Virginia had 160 projects LEED-certified, which encompassed 16.8 million square feet of space and 2.11 square feet per capita. The ranking is based on per capita numbers to allow for a fair comparison among different population levels.

The office and retail space at 1776 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, Va., received recognition as a notable project. It is the first commercial building in Arlington to earn LEED Platinum certification.

“As the economy recovers, green buildings continue to provide for jobs at every professional level and skill set from carpenters to architects,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC.

Investment in green-building infrastructure creates real economic value in the form of lower energy costs up front, and the reduction in greenhouse gases ensures a sustainable future for the environment and future generations.

Virginia’s leadership in this area is yet another example of the innovative environment the Commonwealth offers to business owners. To learn more about Virginia’s unique resources that have allowed companies to prosper here for more than 400 years, click here.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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