March Madness

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Print this page by Bernie Niemeier
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Photo by Mark Rhodes

Welcome to The Big Book, Virginia Business’ annual compendium of list makers — who’s influential, who’s on the move and who’s well connected — generally speaking, the people, companies and organizations that are doing big things across Virginia.

The Big Book is always our biggest annual issue; just about everyone likes making or reading lists.  Our editors have been working madly for months, especially toiling over this year’s list of the 50 Most Influential Virginians. If you don’t see your favorite politician or university president on the list — don’t worry; we’ve excluded them to keep from crowding out other business and community leaders. If you’re not sure we have the right 50, what can I say?  We did our best, and there’s always next year.

The Big Book is also a great source book.  Check out our lists of largest public companies, private companies, law firms, accounting firms and contractors; fastest-growing firms; public and private colleges and universities; and on and on.  Throughout the year, people tell us this information helps their organizations with a wide range of sales efforts and development activities.

On March 12, we’ll celebrate the publication of this year’s Big Book with our annual Big Ball at The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond.  Each year this black-tie-optional event draws many of the who’s who from our lists.

The theme of this year’s Big Ball is March Madness.  Many Virginia schools were competing at or near the top of their basketball conference standings in mid-February, giving their alumni hope for a possible appearance in the NCAA Tournament in March.  Throw some school colors into your formal wear and come ready for fun.  Our sponsors, Williams Mullen, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Dominion as well as our nonprofit partner, The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, make this event possible.  Want to be a part of the party?  Give us a call to check on tickets.

Sports madness? Lately, I’ve experienced a little myself.  I recently developed a serious nagging wrist pain playing tennis.  My doctor prescribed an anti-inflammatory, but the pharmacy needed a “pre-authorization” that could take a week to get.

Not wanting to endure another week of pain, I asked how much it would cost to fill without insurance.  The clerk came back with an incredible answer: $1,020 for a 30-day supply!  Then, more calls to the insurer, an “exception,” and a co-pay price of $50.  Health care, now that’s some madness!

It seems there’s always more than enough madness to go around.  Take a look at history — from the Emperor Caesar’s assassination on the Ides of March, to the madness of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, to beat-generation poet Allen Ginsberg’s, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”

The potential for madness runs rampant in Virginia politics.  Just look at how quickly the spotlight for scandal, alleged or otherwise, shifted from Republican Bob McDonnell to Democrat Joe Morrissey.  Perhaps sadness is a better descriptor than madness — both cases, very sad.

This year was a short session for the General Assembly.  The official calendar ended on the last day of February, and the veto session reconvenes mid-April.  It’s common for a couple of days of early March madness to be required to get the state’s budget passed.

Despite the short session, we’ve seen a perennial set of “brochure bills” blossoming.  These are designed to score points with voters in both parties on polarizing issues such as gun rights, health care, gay rights, the environment, immigration and taxes.

Rarely do such bills make it out of committee, even more rarely do they pass both the House and the Senate, but they are seen as especially important with all of Virginia’s legislators coming up for re-election this year.  Brochure bills fire up the electoral base in both parties by reminding voters of their likes and dislikes.  This year’s session will undoubtedly score some points, but it’s unlikely to move the ball very far downfield.  Now there’s some madness!

Oh, but I digress!  Yes, it was a mad rush to put this issue of the magazine together, and we hope that you enjoy our Big Book.  We also hope that you will join us for The Big Ball.   I’ll be adding a bit of tartan flair to my tuxedo, representing Macalester College.  I’m not sure where Mac stands in basketball, but when I was a student they started what became an NCAA all-Division record for losses at football — 50 consecutive games lost over five straight years.  As I’ve often said in this column, I’m hopeful we can do better.

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