Business news and intelligence for and about the Virginia business firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright 20192019-09-16T14:21:00+00:00
10 Northern Virginia localities form economic development group
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/10-northern-virginia-localities-form-economic-development-group#When:14:21:00ZTen Northern Virginia cities and counties have banded together to form a regional economic development group.
The members of the Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance (NOVA EDA) include the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Arlington County, City of Fairfax, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, City of Falls Church, Fauquier County, Loudoun County, City of Manassas, City of Manassas Park and the Prince William County Department of Economic Development.
In a joint news release, NOVA EDA members said the move was partly inspired by efforts to land Amazon’s Eastern headquarters, HQ2. The company strongly encouraged a regional response to its request for proposal. As a result, four Northern Virginia jurisdictions — Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax County and Loudoun County — worked together on a joint bid.
"This is a historic moment for Northern Virginia," said Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the Fairfax County EDA, who has been a strong proponent for forming a regional group. "We have plowed this road alone and been successful. Imagine what we can achieve when we work together."
The successful Amazon bid bolstered the case for creation of a Northern Virginia regional economic development effort. "The need to leverage the lessons learned from the HQ2 experience is obvious," said Bob Buchanan, principal at the Buchanan Group, a commercial real estate development company, and chair of the 2030 Group, an organization of Washington-area business leaders advocating for regional approaches to issues such as transportation and housing. "How can you not leverage this with a sense of togetherness, collaboration and cooperation?" he added.
The NOVA EDA also said regional collaboration also has been encouraged by state and local officials working on issues such as affordable housing, transportation and education. The group also will work more closely with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership; as a regional organization, NOVA EDA will have access to site-selection activities, conferences and company tours.
"Northern Virginia is known for its cultural and economic vibrancy," Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement. "We have so much to offer workers and businesses, and them to us. It is essential that we work together as a region to manage economic development in a way that benefits communities throughout Northern Virginia. I believe NOVA EDA will do just that."
NOVA EDA joins 16 other regional groups from across Virginia, including the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance and the Greater Richmond Partnership.2019-09-16T14:21:00+00:00
Bank leases 69,620-square-foot building in Henrico
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/bank-leases-69620-square-foot-building-in-henrico#When:13:57:00ZAtlantic Union Bank has fully leased a Henrico County building that had been vacant for about four years.
Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer said the 69,620-square-foot building is located at 4300 Cox Road in the Innsbrook Corporate Center.
Will McGoogan of Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer handled the lease negotiations on behalf of the tenant.
Evan Magrill and Dean Meyer, also with Thalhimer, represented the landlord.2019-09-16T13:57:00+00:00
Divaris picked to lease Williamsburg shopping center
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/divaris-picked-to-lease-williamsburg-shopping-center#When:13:51:00ZVirginia Beach-based Divaris Real Estate Inc. has been selected to lease Lightfoot Marketplace, a new shopping center in Williamsburg.
The 124,588-square-foot shopping center at 6485 Centerville Road in Williamsburg is anchored by a Harris Teeter supermarket.
Other tenants include PetValu, Advance Auto Parts, CHKD Pediatric Medical Center, Heartland Dental, Valvoline, Panera, Great Clips and a Virginia ABC store.
Spaces available for rent range in size from 1,160 to 9,716 square feet.
Divaris was picked to lease Lightfoot Marketplace by Branch Properties, which recently acquired the shopping center.
Leasing is being handled by George Fox.
Divaris Real Estate and Divaris Property Management Corp. now lease and manage about 31 million square feet of space in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast.2019-09-16T13:51:00+00:00
Construction input prices fall
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/construction-input-prices-fall#When:13:44:00ZConstruction input prices fell slightly last month and are down nearly 1% year over year, according to an analysis by the Associated Builders and Contractors.
The analysis is based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Producer Price Index data released last week.
Overall construction input prices dropped 0.6% in August and were down 0.9% compared to the same month in 2018.
In addition, nonresidential construction input prices fell 0.4% for the month and are down 0.4% compared to August 2018.
In seven subcategories seeing a decline in prices during the past year, the greatest drops were in energy-related categories like natural gas (-33.3%), unprocessed energy materials (-19.1%) and crude petroleum (-15.7%).
Three other subcategories registered year-over-year declines greater than 10%: softwood lumber (-11.7%), iron and steel (-10.7%) and steel mill products (-10.6%).2019-09-16T13:44:00+00:00
Roanoke institute receives $1 million gift
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/roanoke-institute-receives-1-million-gift#When:20:39:00ZThe William Jacob and Barbara Boyle Lemon family of Roanoke has donated $1 million to Roanoke's Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, which is undergoing a major expansion.
The institute says the gift will help it to recruit and retain new researchers.
Begun in 2010 as a joint venture of Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic, the institute expects to open a new a 140,000-square-foot new building next fall. The building will house about 400 additional scientists and staff by 2027. Recruitment for new research teams began this summer.
The facility’s core research areas include immunology, cancer, cardiovascular science, and neuroscience.
William J. Lemon is a Roanoke lawyer and philanthropist. The gift was made on behalf of him, his late wife, Barbara, and their children, Sarah Ludwig, Tucker Lemon and Stephen Lemon.
The expansion project already has benefited from a $50 million gift from another Roanoke family, which was the largest gift ever received by Virginia Tech. That donation, announced in December, came from the Horace G. Fralin Charitable Trust and Heywood and Cynthia Fralin. 2019-09-13T20:39:00+00:00
Retail development planned for Chesapeake property
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/retail-development-planned-for-chesapeake-property#When:20:38:00ZVirginia Beach-based Kotarides Holdings has acquired a former Toys “R” Us store site in Chesapeake with plans to create new retail space.
The real estate company bought the 3.6-acre property at 4120 Portsmouth Blvd. in Chesapeake’s Western Branch area for $1.85 million.
The site is adjacent to Chesapeake Square Mall and an Office Max store, properties that Kotarides purchased last year.
Kotarides plans to demolish the Toys “R” Us building, which measured 29,195 square feet, to create new retail and restaurant space for tenants that cannot be accommodated at Chesapeake Square.
Kotarides has begun preliminary engineering on the newly acquired site but the size of the new spaces has not been determined.
The acquisition is a part of the Kotarides’ ongoing investment in new residential and commercial properties in Western Branch area.
The company, for example, has begun work on two mixed-use projects on Portsmouth Boulevard.
Founded in 1963 by Alex and O. Pete Kotarides, the company’s divisions include Corinth Residential, Kotarides Developers, Kotarides Builders and KPM, a real estate management division.
The company has projects in Hampton Roads and Richmond in Virginia and Raleigh, Winston-Salem and Charlotte in North Carolina.2019-09-13T20:38:00+00:00
Airbnb sites in Virginia see nearly 372,000 summer visitors
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/airbnb-sites-in-virginia-see-nearly-372000-summer-visitors#When:20:19:00ZNearly 372,000 people stayed at Airbnb sites in Virginia this summer.
San Francisco-based Airbnb Inc., an online lodging marketplace, said Virginia hosts earned a total of $60.3 million in supplemental income in accommodating 371,900 guest arrivals between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Those figures represent an increase from 2018's summer season when there were 280,900 guest arrivals in Virginia, with local hosts making a total of $42.9 million.
The top 10 Virginia destinations for Airbnb guests during this summer were:
Virginia Beach: 47,300 guest arrivals ($9.4 million in host income)
Richmond: 27,500 ($3.8 million)
Charlottesville: 25,000 ($3.7 million)
Norfolk: 23,900 ($4 million)
Arlington: 18,000 ($4.7 million)
Williamsburg: 15,200 ($1.9 million)
Alexandria: 14,800 ($3.3 million)
Fairfax County: 12,100 ($3.5 million)
Lynchburg: 11,800 ($1.1 million)
Loudoun County: 9,600 ($1.8 million)
The top five origin cities for Airbnb guests in Virginia were: Washington, D.C.; Richmond; Virginia Beach; Philadelphia; and Arlington.2019-09-12T20:19:00+00:00
Aviation company to expand in Newport News
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/aviation-company-to-expand-in-newport-news#When:20:12:00ZEagle Aviation Technologies LLC plans to expand its Newport News operations, a move expected to double its Virginia workforce.
Founded in 2009, Newport News-based Eagle Aviation currently employs 75 workers. It plans to add an equal number of jobs after spending $207,500 on new equipment.
The company develops and manufactures of prototype systems and components for the aviation, space and marine industries.
Eagle Aviation says its business is growing because of the expansion and diversification of its clients.
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership will assist the Eagle Aviation’s expansion through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP).
VJIP provides consultative services and funding to companies creating jobs or undergoing technological change.2019-09-12T20:12:00+00:00
DXC Technology names new CEO
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/dxc-technology-names-new-ceo#When:13:55:00ZMike Salvino has been named president and CEO of Tysons-based DXC Technology, a Fortune 500 IT services company. The appointment was effective on Thursday.
Salvino succeeds Mike Lawrie, who has served as DXC’s chairman, president and CEO since the company’s formation in 2017.
Lawrie will retire as DXC’s board chair on Dec. 31.
The company said Lawrie and the DXC board began discussing a succession and his retirement about a year ago.
Salvino joined the DXC board in May. He most recently served as a managing director at Carrick Capital Partners, a private equity firm focused on the technology sector.
Before he joined Carrick, Salvino was group chief executive of Accenture Operations for seven years. In that position, he was a member of Accenture’s Global Management Committee.
DXC Technology was formed in April 2017 as a result of the merger of CSC (Computer Science Corp.) and the Enterprise Services business of Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
The company, which has 138,000 employees worldwide, was ranked No. 122 on the latest Fortune 500 list of the nation’s largest publicly traded companies. It had 2018 revenue of $24.6 million.2019-09-12T13:55:00+00:00
State approves more than $780,000 for GO Virginia projects
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/state-approves-more-than-780000-for-go-virginia-projects#When:19:08:00ZFive grants totaling more than $780,000 have been awarded to Virginia economic development projects through the state’s Growth and Opportunity for Virginia (GO Virginia) program, which is designed to strengthen and diversify regional economies.
The money will fund projects in the Roanoke-New River Valley area (GO Virginia Region 2), Southern Virginia (Region 3), Eastern Shore (Region 5) and Southwest Virginia (Region 1).
The largest grant, $300,000, will be used by Virginia Tech’s Office of Career and Professional Development to create regional hubs connecting local employers, students, Tech faculty and economic development officials. One goal of the grant is to develop a talent pipeline for employers in high-priority industry clusters.
Also in the Roanoke-New River area, a $246,800 grant will be used to develop a Blockchain Ecosystem Catalyst program through Virginia Tech. The project’s goal would be to expand the number of workers skilled in the use of blockchain and related systems.
In Southern Virginia, Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corp. and Longwood University’s Small Business Development Center will use a $100,000 grant to develop a strategy for improving the region’s environment for entrepreneurs.
In the Eastern Shore, the Eastern Shore Foundation will use a $85,117 grant to encourage entrepreneurship by providing broadband connected co-working space, startup support services and space for small-scale production.
In Southwest Virginia, a $50,000 grant will be used by InvestSWVA in partnership with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and Virginia Economic Development Partnership to evaluate potential sites in the region for data centers.2019-09-11T19:08:00+00:00
Richmond to Washington rail project advances
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/richmond-to-washington-rail-project-advances#When:20:40:00ZA project aimed at improving rail service between Richmond and Washington, D.C., has reached a major milestone.
The Federal Railroad Administration and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) announced Tuesday that a federal environmental impact statement study has been completed, making the DC2RVA Rail Project eligible to receive additional federal funding.
“Now that environmental clearance is complete, construction of additional rail capacity in the Northern Virginia region can begin,” DRPT Director Jennifer Mitchell said in a statement.
DRPT has worked with more than 90 agencies, local governments and community groups, while conducting 23 public meetings during the past 6 years in developing a plan to shorten rail travel times between Richmond and Washington.
The resulting DC2RVA Rail Project is a 123-mile piece of the Southeast High Speed Rail proposal, which eventually would stretch to Florida.
“DC2RVA is a critical element of our vision to move more people through the entire I-95 corridor by providing safe, reliable multi-modal travel opportunities for our citizens,” Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said in a statement.
DC2RVA’s goal is to increase rail capacity to deliver additional and more reliable passenger and commuter rail parallel to the heavily congested I-95 corridor. When completed, the project is expected to bridge two growing megaregions in Northeast and Southeast Virginia. Another expected benefit of the project would be creating opportunities for freight rail growth at the Port of Virginia in Norfolk.
In 2014, DRPT was awarded a $44 million federal grant, funding nearly 80% of the environmental impact statement study costs for the project.
Additional funding from the commonwealth and Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX Corp. enabled DRPT to also complete preliminary engineering and 30% of the design of a railroad-owned-and-operated corridor from Chesterfield County to the Long Bridge over the Potomac River in Arlington County.2019-09-10T20:40:00+00:00
Concerned for our colonial capital
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/opinion/article/concerned-for-our-colonial-capital#When:20:10:00ZSince its restoration in the 1930s, Colonial Williamsburg (CW) has remained a significant economic asset for Virginia, with current employment of 1,778 jobs, 570,000 annual visitors and a property tax base of $266 million. Its educational mission was eloquently summed up by its founder, John D. Rockefeller Jr., who said, “That the future may learn from the past.” Since 1932, more than 100 million people have visited CW to experience that critically important message.
It is unfortunate to note that CW is now facing several life-threatening challenges. Exiting Colonial Williamsburg Foundation President and CEO Mitchell Reiss has been very outspoken on the existential dangers of continued operating deficits balanced by unsustainable endowment withdrawals along with relentless declines in attendance and visitor revenues.
These challenges have existed for many years. In 2002, the CW Annual Report stated: “This level of deficit is unacceptable. The foundation’s goal is to reach a balanced budget in 2006 with operating deficits of no more than $25 million in 2003 and $15 million in 2004.” From 2007 to 2014, however, the average annual deficit was $34 million.
Expense and revenue summary
Based on CW annual reports, operating expenses from 2009 to 2018 averaged $218 million, with total revenues averaging $197 million generating an average deficit of $21 million. On a positive note, 2018 expenses dropped 13%. From 2015 to 2018, annual deficits were eliminated but only through increased withdrawals from the endowment. From 2012 to 2017, visitor- and guest-generated revenues have remained flat averaging $38 million annually.
In 2018, the endowment declined to $650 million, a 17% drop from its $784 million value in 2013. From 2015 to 2018, the average annual endowment withdrawal increased to $65 million, up from an average of $44 million for 2007 to 2014. All of these large withdrawals are depleting the endowment’s ability to offer revenues in the years ahead.
Declining assets and total debt
In 2018, total assets declined to $1.04 billion from $1.32 billion in 2010, a 21% decrease. Net assets for 2018 were down to $620 million, from $908 million in 2010, a 32% decline. Total debt is $342 million, which equates to more than 52% of the endowment fund balance.
Annual attendance at CW has declined nearly 30%, from 780,000 in 2007 to 550,000 in 2018. Williamsburg’s hotel occupancy declined 17% since 2009, based on lodging tax revenues. Recently, several hotels have closed or adapted to residential usage. Alternatively, nearby Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Virginia Beach attract millions annually with steady increases since 2004.
It is appropriate to note that many of these adverse conditions are the fault of no one because many historic sites have also endured similar financial declines. And it is important to state that there are many CW leaders and dedicated staff who work very diligently to strengthen its operations in many ways.
Some observers have minimized CW’s financial declines while others see CW as doomed to closure. Many feel that history is no longer a popular tourism asset. Others work to finance new marketing efforts when previous efforts have not succeeded.
Some important steps for CW to take in the months ahead are:
• Prepare a 5-year financial plan with best/worst case scenarios.
• Attempt to increase the endowment to $1 billion.
• Restrict future endowment withdrawals to 3% to 5% for long-term value.
• Offer financial incentives for return visitorship
• Analyze, address and plan for the “aging demographic” reality.
• Consider the “History is Dead” belief and how to change this.
• Solicit public comments and participation for all of these issues.
• Expand evening programs to reach short-term or off-site day visitors
• Continue the “living history” programming, similar to the Tenement Museum.
• Resurrect the Kimball Theater as an educational/entertainment resource.
• Improve rail links to Washington, D.C., as a congestion-free travel option.
• Offer docents and walking guides to personalize the visitor experience.
Since 2015, Mitchell Reiss has implemented many positive measures to improve CW’s finances, install new programs and upgrade the museums. Mitchell Reiss and his wife, Elisabeth, deserve our thanks for their dedicated efforts.
Terence Masterson, a longtime visitor to Colonial Williamsburg, has served as an economic development director in Westchester and Cayuga counties in New York state and currently in Northampton, Massachusetts. Masterson attained a B.A. and M.P.A. from Pace University, White Plains, New York, and served as deputy mayor and trustee for Irvington, New York, from 1983-1993 and 2009-2010.2019-09-10T20:10:00+00:00
Hilb Group acquires Massachusetts insurance agency
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/hilb-group-acquires-massachusetts-insurance-agency#When:19:40:00ZThe Hilb Group LLC, a Henrico County-based insurance brokerage group, has acquired a Massachusetts agency.
The Sept. 1 deal involves The Incentive Group LLC, which is based in Waltham, Massachusetts and provides employee benefits consulting and insurance services.
Hilb Group said The Incentive Group will continue to operate out of its Waltham office under the management of co-founders Paul Beggan and Tim Nugent.
The Hilb Group has more than over 85 offices in 21 states. It is a portfolio company of Abry Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm.2019-09-10T19:40:00+00:00
Loudoun office park sells for $11.8 million
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/loudoun-office-park-sells-for-11.8-million#When:19:22:00ZA five-building professional office park in Loudoun County has been sold for $11.8 million.
Rockville, Maryland-based Edge Commercial Real Estate brokered the sale of the 113,000-square-foot Plaza @ Loudoun Tech, which is in the Sterling area.
Built in 1989, the business park is located near the intersection of Cascades Parkway and Nokes Boulevard.
The property is less than one mile from a Dulles Parkway interchange and about eight miles from Washington Dulles International Airport.
According to property records, the previous owner was Aetna Life Insurance Co. The buyer is Stewart Investment Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based wealth management firm.
The office park is 60% leased. Existing tenants include Inova Health System Toyon Research Corp. and Schnabel Engineering.
Joe Friedman and Haley Goeller of Edge Capital Markets Group and Todd McManus and Scott Rabin of the firm’s Northern Virginia landlord advisory team represented the seller.
Edge has been retained as the exclusive leasing firm by the new ownership group, with regional manager Scott Rabin and senior vice president Todd McManus working on behalf of the investment firm
Founded in 2007, Edge currently leases and manages more than 8.5 million square feet of commercial office, flex/office, industrial/warehouse, retail and mixed-use space.2019-09-10T19:22:00+00:00
State tourism spending on the rise
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/state-tourism-spending-on-the-rise#When:19:17:00ZTourism-related spending rose by 4.4% in Virginia last year, increasing from $24.7 billion in 2017 to $25.8 billion in 2018, according to an economic impact report released Tuesday by the Virginia Tourism Corp.
The tourism industry continues to be a major player in the state, directly supporting 234,500 jobs and making up 7.4% of total private industry employment. Employees in tourism-related jobs in the commonwealth earned $6.1 billion in 2018, up 3.6% from 2017, according to the report, which was compiled by the United States Travel Association and commissioned by Virginia Tourism.
“Virginia’s tourism industry had a banner year in 2018, hitting new records and making important impacts on our communities across the commonwealth,” Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corp., said in a prepared statement. “As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Virginia is for Lovers and the tourism industry’s continued growth this year, we also celebrate the people who impact and influence our communities with their vision, passion and love for the tourism industry. Our industry is made up of creative, hard-working and dedicated professionals, and they work every day to make our communities more vibrant and dynamic. They help to make Virginia the best place to live, work and visit, and are our most powerful ambassadors for Virginia is for Lovers.”
The top five Virginia localities visited last year were the same as 2017: Arlington County, with $3.4 billion in domestic travel spending; Fairfax County, $3.3 billion; Loudoun County, $1.8 billion; Virginia Beach, $1.6 billion; and Henrico County, $963.5 million. Across the state, 45 of Virginia’s 133 counties and independent cities received more than $100 million in domestic travel dollars in 2018, and Virginia ranked eighth in the nation in domestic travel spending.
Aside from job creation, increased tourism spending also brought $1.78 billion in state tax revenue.
In the Richmond metro area, tourism spending was also up last year, rising by 5% to $2.6 billion. Visitors also generated more than $170 million in state and local taxes in the Richmond region, which includes the counties of Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Powhatan, the town of Ashland and city of Richmond.
The collective occupancy tax for hotels in Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico and Richmond surpassed the $30 million mark for the first time during fiscal year 2019, which ended in July, Richmond Region Tourism announced last month. The number rose nearly 50% over the past six years and reflects a year-over-year jump of 2.06%.
Henrico County, which tops the region in tourism dollars, with Richmond coming in second at $800 million, has 8,674 hotel rooms, making up nearly half of the region’s 17,707 rooms, according to Richmond Region Tourism. Richmond, by contrast, has only 3,671 guestrooms.
Jack Berry, president and CEO of Richmond Region Tourism, says that much of the region’s tourism is driven by sporting events, although business travel and visiting family and friends are important components as well. In 2018, the region’s highest hotel occupancy night occurred during NASCAR race weekend at Richmond International Raceway, Berry says.
“In the top 10 highest-occupied days of the year, 8 of the 10 involve some kind of sporting events,” he says, adding that he expects the same for 2019, with lacrosse, field hockey and soccer tournaments, along with NASCAR, to produce plenty of tourism traffic.
According to Yuri R. Milligan, a spokesperson for American Evolution, the 400th anniversary of historical events that happened in Virginia in 1619 had an estimated total economic impact of $95 million for events and exhibitions from 2016 through June 30. A comprehensive study of the commemoration’s economic impact will be completed in 2020, Milligan says.2019-09-10T19:17:00+00:00
PBS KIDS gets new leader
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/pbs-taps-new-leader-for-pbs-kids-content#When:15:31:00ZLinda Simensky has been promoted to a new role, head of PBS KIDS Content, at Arlington-based public television broadcaster PBS.
In her new position, she will lead the development of a multiplatform video content strategy for children’s programming.
Simensky joined PBS in 2003. She has worked with producers at the public television network on the development of a number of shows for children, including “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Wild Kratts,” “Dinosaur Train” and “Odd Squad.”
Before joining PBS, she was senior vice president of original animation for Cartoon Network.2019-09-10T15:31:00+00:00
Management firm picked for Airlie
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/management-firm-picked-for-airlie#When:21:05:00ZChevy Chase, Maryland-based PM Hotel Group has been selected to manage Airlie, a historic hotel and meeting facility in Warrenton.
Built in 1899, the Airlie house and farm was named after a Scottish castle. A member of Historic Hotels of America, the Virginia hotel features 22,000 square feet of meeting space and has 120 cottages and guest rooms.
PM Hotel Group manages nearly 40 hotels and development projects offering more than 9,000 guest rooms across the nation. In addition to Airlie, the company manages six other hotels in Virginia.2019-09-09T21:05:00+00:00
The Eagle has landed
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/the-eagle-has-landed#When:20:51:00ZA company with close ties to Wise County in Southwest Virginia unveiled a new home-delivery drone, the Flirtey Eagle, Monday at the National Press Club.
Flirtey, a Reno, Nevada-based startup, conducted the nation’s first Federal Aviation Administration-approved drone delivery in July 2015, an event that took place at Wise’s Lonesome Pine Airport. The drone carried a payload of medications to the county fairgrounds, where the annual RAM free health clinic was being held.
Last month, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and other Virginia officials marked that first drone delivery with a historical marker at the airport, but Flirtey CEO Matthew Sweeny may have overshadowed his company’s achievement by using the ceremony to propose to his girlfriend, Andi Kilgore, a Wise native who coordinated the 2015 delivery.
When he moved to the U.S. in 2014, Sweeny, an Australian native, set a goal of carrying out the first FAA-approved drone delivery.
“People told us at the time it was impossible,” he says, but when shopping around for locations that would embrace the idea, Wise stood out for its enthusiasm. “From that point in time, we had that ‘Kitty Hawk moment’ in Wise County,” Sweeny says, referring to the Wright brothers’ 1903 first manned powered aircraft flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
Sweeny expects the Eagle to deliver packages, including medications, within less than 10 minutes of an order being placed. Drone delivery would cost customers $5 to $10, about the same cost as the last mile of delivery by car or truck, which is the most expensive leg of a delivery, Sweeny says. However, the time between order and delivery would be much faster than it takes the pizza guy or the mail carrier.
He adds that the drone is designed to operate in 95% of wind and weather conditions, and it can carry 75% of packages now delivered on land — twice the payload capacity of other drone competitors. A remote pilot can fly up to 10 Eagles at the same time.
Sweeny says he hired scientists and engineers from NASA, Raytheon, SpaceX, Lockheed Martin and other companies to produce the new drone as well as the Flirtey Portal, a launchpad for the Eagle that fits in the space of a single parking space. The FAA, which governs airspace, has approved the technology.
“We’d like to have as many Flirtey Eagles in the air as delivery trucks on roads,” Sweeny says. He says that he’d like to partner with The Health Wagon in Wise again, perhaps delivering medicine to remote homes. The company’s next goal is to provide regular deliveries to customers’ residences later this year.2019-09-09T20:51:00+00:00
Three reasons to roll over a Thrift Savings Plan in retirement
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/opinion/article/three-reasons-to-roll-over-a-thrift-savings-plan-in-retirement#When:20:40:00ZFrom 2000 through 2013, at least 40,000 federal employees retired each year, with nearly 62,000 retiring in 2013. As of July last year, 14% of federal employees were eligible to retire, with that number expected to jump to 30% by 2023. With the impending retirement of hundreds of thousands of federal employees, the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), a 401(k)-style plan for federal employees, has begun encouraging participants to keep their balance invested in their TSP upon retirement.
While the TSP board, the body responsible for administering it, touts advantages such as straightforward choices, freedom to stay with the plan in retirement, and the ability to transfer funds into the plan, these apparent advantages also can create investment setbacks that unfortunately are not often brought to the attention of federal retirees.
1. Limited investment options
While federal employees enjoy the distinct advantage of having access to the lowest cost employer-sponsored retirement plan in the U.S. (average cost on a balance of $1,000 is 30 cents), the plan maintains a limited selection of only five basic investment options. Although this helps keep costs low, it also creates a significant lack of exposure to important asset classes, including medium-sized companies, emerging markets and alternative investments. Eliminating these asset classes means that investors are vulnerable to possible market fluctuations.
One way the TSP keeps its plan so affordable is by making all available funds, except the G Fund, index funds. Although index funds have positive attributes, investors should be wary of owning only index funds. For example, in 2017, six companies accounted for 25% of the S&P 500’s return for the year, and, at one point in early 2018, three companies were responsible for nearly half of the index’s positive return. Having individual companies account for such a large portion of your portfolio and blindly following a market index without professional management can unnecessarily expose investors to increased market volatility, especially in unpredictable or negative market environments.
2. Inadequate financial services
The TSP Board recently encouraged federal employees to keep their funds invested in their TSP account at retirement. However, participants should understand the limited withdrawal options, lack of critical investment management guidance, and absence of financial planning support they could encounter.
While TSP participants will have greater flexibility come Sept. 15, thanks to a new law governing withdrawals, even with these changes, participants still will have comparatively limited access to their funds. According to recent guidance from the rollout of new distribution rules, “you’ll still need to provide notarized signatures or other materials in paper form” for withdrawal requests or changes. On the other hand, investors with a financial advisor can simply call to request a distribution.
Additionally, the TSP board does not provide investors with any investment management or financial planning advice. Instead, participants are left to make critical investment decisions on their own. Plan participants also can be left unaware of gaps in their financial plan because they do not have a professional financial advisor proactively searching their plan for weaknesses that should be addressed.
3. Incomplete consolidation
I encourage investors to consolidate their investments at one financial institution with a fiduciary advisor. Advantages of consolidation include simplified statements, straightforward total returns for the portfolio, and ease of estate planning administration. But with the TSP, participants can only consolidate their retirement assets, forcing them to turn to a different institution for nonqualified investments.
True financial consolidation should involve all investment accounts, not just retirement accounts, in order to build a comprehensive financial plan. Considering investment accounts in isolation opens investors up to tax, investment and estate planning risks. Having all these accounts consolidated within one institution, however, allows these items to more easily be addressed in concert with one another. With the ease and peace of mind that comes with consolidation, investors are empowered to spend their time with family or pursuing their passions rather than overseeing multiple financial relationships.
Despite the Thrift Savings Plan’s advantages, federal employees may be getting what they pay for with the TSP. The interrelated nature of financial planning calls for investors to turn to a qualified financial professional to create a full financial plan that encompasses the participant’s goals. Integrated wealth management can provide TSP participants value through more expansive investment choices, professional financial planning and investment advice, and the benefits of true consolidation.
Consult with a financial professional to determine if consolidating your TSP account is in your best interest and to ensure that your investments are meeting your and your family’s goals and needs.
Steven Ulrich, CFP, a financial planner at Cassaday & Company Inc. in McLean, is a Chartered Federal Employee Benefits Consultant (ChFEBCSM), a specialization that focuses on retirement benefits, including the Thrift Savings Plan.2019-09-09T20:40:00+00:00
Hampden-Sydney receives its largest gift
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/hampden-sydney-receives-its-largest-gift#When:20:47:00ZHampden-Sydney College has received the largest gift in its history, $30 million from Stanley F. Pauley through The Pauley Family Foundation.
This will support construction of a new science facility, which will be named the Pauley Science Center. Pauley, who lives in Richmond, is the chairman and CEO of Carpenter Co., a major producer of polyurethane materials.
The company was founded by E. Rhodes Carpenter, a member of the Hampden-Sydney College class of 1929.
Pauley, a former member of the Hampden-Sydney Board of Trustees, has been a benefactor of many important educational and arts institutions.
“I am not a graduate of Hampden-Sydney, but I am inspired by the college’s unwavering 244-year commitment to scientific literacy and preparing its graduates for career success, advancing scientific progress, and contributing to our society’s well-being,” Pauley said in a statement.
The Pauley Science Center would follow several recent projects on campus, including construction of the Brown Student Center, the renovation of Brinkley (formerly Winston) Hall to create the Viar-Christ Center for the Arts, the transformation of Pannill Commons’ lower level into the Pannill Center for Rhetoric and Communication, and the groundbreaking for a new upperclassmen residence complex overlooking Lake Chalgrove.2019-09-06T20:47:00+00:00
Movie multiplex is part of large entertainment center planned in Northern Neck
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/movie-multiplex-is-part-of-large-entertainment-center-planned-in-northern-n#When:20:06:00ZThe Northern Neck is getting its first multiscreen movie theater as part of a larger entertainment center, as a Lancaster County couple breaks ground on the project Thursday.
Expected to open in late April 2020, Compass Entertainment Complex will include a 28,000-square-foot facility with six movie screens, an arcade, indoor adventure course and a full-service restaurant and bar, said Julien Patterson, who purchased a home in the region in 2005 with wife and business partner Terri Wesselman. Outside the facility will be a mini-golf course, batting cages and a go-kart track, plus other activities that Patterson said would be surprises.
A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled Thursday morning at the site, on the corner of Irvington Road and Wilson Lane between Kilmarnock and Irvington.
In 2012, Patterson and Wesselman sold Chantilly-based Omniplex World Services, a security and investigative firm, which at the time of the sale employed more than 3,500 people and had annual revenue of more than $100 million.
The couple then became involved in local development in 2017, starting an art gallery, clothing boutique and coffeehouse. Patterson said they researched the market and quickly concluded that a movie theater, along with other family-friendly entertainment options at the same location, was what the Northern Neck was missing. The closest movie multiplexes are more than 30 miles away in Gloucester and Yorktown.
“The Northern Neck is a wonderful place to live, work and play in many ways,” Patterson said Friday. “In all of the many things it had to offer, it didn’t have this.”
The complex will be built on seven acres of a 22-acre vacant lot. They do not have any plans for the other 15 acres, Patterson said, other than maintaining the wooded property, which is near the Hills Quarter community.
Patterson declined to give a specific cost of the project, saying that he hasn’t determined how many batting cages and go-kart tracks they’ll build. He does anticipate that the complex will employ 35 to 40 people year-round and up to 70 people during the summer high season, and they expect to begin hiring interviews in January.
The theater will show first-run movies, and screens will be available for corporate rental and special events. Patterson said he hopes to attract some businesses’ teambuilding activities, especially during the off-season.
“We’re trying to be thoughtful in our approach and our execution,” Patterson said. “When we look at what makes this area so unique, it’s because it’s such a wonderful community for families and young couples.”
Connemara Corp. of White Stone will serve as the project’s general contractor, along with JKRP Architects, Amusement Construction Co. Inc. and Harris Miniature Golf Courses Inc.2019-09-06T20:06:00+00:00
Andrew Genova joins Avison Young
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/andrew-genova-joins-avison-young#When:19:54:00ZAndrew Genova has joined the Toronto-based commercial real estate services firm Avison Young as a principal based in its Tysons office.
Genova will focus on consulting and advisory services for commercial real estate leasing and investment sales, primarily in the Washington, D.C., region.
He also will manage corporate real estate portfolios for international security technology companies and government contractors.
Genova previously was a vice president with West, Lane & Schlager Real Estate Advisors in Washington.
During his career, he has advised clients on more than 1 million square feet of space.
Genova holds a master’s degree in commercial real estate finance and development from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Birmingham Southern College.2019-09-06T19:54:00+00:00
SAIC appoints chief human resources officer
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/saic-appoints-chief-human-resources-officer#When:19:16:00ZThe Reston-based technology company Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) has appointed Michelle A. O’Hara as its chief human resources officer.
O’Hara, who has more than 20 years of HR leadership experience, will succeed Karen Wheeler, who is retiring. The appointment takes effect on Oct. 1.
SAIC, a Fortune 1000 company with revenue of $4.7 billion last year, has 23,000 employees. O’Hara currently is human resources senior vice president at the SAIC, where she has worked for 10 years.
She has led major HR functions at the company, including talent strategy, recruiting, benefits, learning and development, inclusion and diversity, payroll and executive compensation.
O’Hara received her bachelor’s degree from William & Mary and completed the Executive Education – Leadership program at the Yale School of Management.
She also holds a Strategic HR Business Partner Certification from the Human Capital Institute.2019-09-06T19:16:00+00:00
Norfolk building sells for $1.7 million
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/norfolk-building-sells-for-1.7-million#When:15:37:00ZA Norfolk industrial building has been sold for $1.7 million.
S. L. Nusbaum Realty Co. has reported that the Leeward Ventures LLC has purchased a 22,921-square-foot structure at 2330 Bowdens Ferry Road. The buyer of the building, which is situated on 4.43 acres, is Moses Industries II LLC.
Nusbaum's Michael Myers represented the seller.
In other Hampton Roads transactions, the real estate firm said Solis Properties LLC has purchased a 10,000-square-foot office building in Virginia Beach for $1.3 million.
The seller of the property at 1849 Old Donation Parkway was HR Acquisition I Corp. Chris Zarpas and Chris Devine of S. L. Nusbaum represented the buyer.
In Suffolk, Schewel Furniture has extended its lease on 26,651 square feet of retail space at Suffolk Plaza Shopping Center. Nusbaum's Chris Hucke represented the landlord.
Meanwhile in Central Virginia, Taylor’s Do It Center/Pleasant’s Hardware has leased 11,288 square feet of retail space at 9520 Chamberlayne Road in Mechanicsville. Tommy Drew of S. L. Nusbaum represented the tenant.2019-09-06T15:37:00+00:00
Architectural firm names new chairman
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/architectural-firm-names-new-chairman#When:19:19:00ZBurt Pinnock has been named chairman of the Richmond-based architectural firm Baskervill.
A Baskervill principal and fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Pinnock succeeds the firm’s longstanding chairman, Brent Farmer, who moved into an advisory emeritus role earlier this year.
Pinnock serves on the Historic Richmond Foundation Advisory Board, City of Richmond Board of Zoning Appeals, Venture Richmond board of directors and Virginia LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) advisory board.
He is also chair of the Commonwealth of Virginia Art & Architectural Review Board, co-chair of the Richmond 300 Advisory Council, and the creator and co-founder of Storefront for Community Design.
Founded in 1897, Baskervill is one of the nation’s oldest continually operating architectural firms.2019-09-05T19:19:00+00:00
Virginia schools make the grade in college rankings
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/virginia-schools-make-the-grade-in-college-rankings#When:17:13:00ZFour Virginia universities are ranked among the top 100 institutions in the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings, released Thursday.
In this year’s ranking, the University of Virginia notched No. 50; University of Richmond, No. 66; Washington and Lee University, No. 70; and William & Mary, No. 79. Last year, U.Va. was at No. 51, UR at No. 53, Washington and Lee at No. 75, and William & Mary at No. 87.
The rankings of more than 800 colleges and universities are based on 15 indicators in four areas: outcomes, resources, engagement and environment.
Outcomes account for 40% of each school’s overall score. That measure includes the salaries that graduates earn and the debt they take on to attend college.
The resources area (30% of a school’s score) examines the investment that schools make in instruction and student services.
Engagement (a 20% weighting), taken from a survey of students, looks at the quality of teaching and interactions with faculty and other students.
Environment (10% weighting) looks at the diversity of the college community.
Other Virginia schools listed among in the top 400 were:
Virginia Tech, No. 105
Virginia Military Institute, No. 176
George Mason University, No. 184
Hampden-Sydney College, No. 274
James Madison University, No. 279
Eastern Mennonite University, No. 299
Roanoke College, No. 340
Virginia Commonwealth University, No. 391
Hampton University, the University of Lynchburg, Randolph-Macon College and Shenandoah University were all included in an alphabetically listed group ranking of schools for spots 401 through 500.
The top 10 schools on the overall list are Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University, University of Pennsylvania, California Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Brown University, Stanford University, Cornell University and Duke University.
The report also included a number of breakouts of top 10 schools in various categories.
U.Va. ranked 10th among top public universities. Also, VMI was fourth and W&L tied for eighth among the top 10 “No Regrets” schools. Those are colleges that students ranked highest for being worth the expense.2019-09-05T17:13:00+00:00
Norfolk Southern furloughs 130 Roanoke workers
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/norfolk-southern-furloughs-130-roanoke-workers#When:19:53:00ZA Virginia legislator is taking Norfolk Southern to task for furloughing about 130 Roanoke employees on Tuesday
Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke City) said he was “shocked and deeply disappointed to hear about Norfolk Southern's plans right after Labor Day. Aside from financially harming families and creating a severe economic blow to the Roanoke Valley, this decision shows a blatant disregard for Roanoke's role in helping to build the railroad in our region."
Norfolk Southern said the furloughed employees can apply for positions elsewhere in the company.
"As we execute our new strategic plan, we expect that targeted hiring and furloughing will remain components of our operating model,” the company said in a statement. ”Today, that entailed the furlough of approximately 130 employees in Roanoke, Virginia.”
Norfolk Southern announced in December that it will move its corporate headquarters from Norfolk to Atlanta.2019-09-03T19:53:00+00:00
LeClairRyan files for bankruptcy
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/leclairryan-files-for-bankruptcy#When:19:04:00ZLeClairRyan, once the fifth-largest law firm in Virginia, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday.
LeClairRyan filed its petition in federal bankruptcy court in Richmond on Tuesday, just five weeks after the 31-year-old firm announced that it would shut down.
In the filing, LeClairRyan estimates it has assets and liabilities ranging from $10 million to $50 million. The firm said it owes money to between 200 and 999 creditors.
The law firm’s secured creditors include investment fund ABL Alliance and ULXP, a legal staffing joint venture started in 2018 between New York-based legal services provider UnitedLex Corp. and LeClairRyan. ULXP hired more than 300 administrative and legal support professionals from LeClairRyan, according to the filing.
According to the bankruptcy petition, LeClairRyan owes $8 million plus interest to ULXP and the firm also owes approximately $6.8 million to ABL, which issued a revolving loan to LeClairRyan of $15 million in December 2017.
Leading a list of LeClairRyan's 20 unsecured creditors is Matrix One River Front Plaza LLC, based in Cranbury, N.J. It is owed $815,406 for lease obligations.
Virginia-based unsecured creditors include: Super-Server LLC in Richmond for $623,106 in trade debt and Poe & Cronk Real Estate Group Inc. in Roanoke for $207,389 in professional services.
Debts to nine of the 20 creditors involve lease obligations. The group includes Miami-based Paramenter Realty Partners, which is owed $414,482. Paramenter owns the SunTrust Center, the home of LeClairRyan’s Richmond offices.
The filing traces the law firm’s rapid demise.
Founded in 1988 in Richmond as a boutique law firm for startup companies, LeClairRyan at its peak employed about 385 attorneys working in 25 offices throughout the country.
Nonetheless, its gross revenue and profitability have declined in recent years, leading to the departure of many attorneys.
LeClairRyan entered the joint venture with UnitedLex in June 2018 to form ULXP in an attempt to improve its financial situation, according to the bankruptcy filing. The law firm remains a partner in the venture.
The departure of LeClairRyan's attorneys, however, accelerated this year, culminating with the July announcement that firm co-founder Gary LeClair was joining Richmond-based Williams Mullen, the state’s third-largest firm.
On July 29, LeClairRyan's members decided to dissolvethe firm, beginning a wind-down process.
The bankruptcy petition was filed by Lori D. Thompson, chair of the firm’s dissolution committee.
Thompson was LeClairRyan’s general counsel in 2017 and leader of its Roanoke office. Still based in Roanoke, she joined West Virginia-based law firm Spilman Thomas & Battle after the decision was made to shut down LeClairRyan but agreed to continue as chair of the dissolution committee.2019-09-03T19:04:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/AP_Richmond_Ashe_Blvd_photo.pngRichmond employees install an Arthur Ashe Boulevard sign at the street’s intersection with Kensington Avenue. AP photo
Signs of change
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/signs-of-change#When:04:00:00ZWhen city workers installed the new signs for Arthur Ashe Boulevard, renaming one of the city’s most historic and visible streets, Richmond took a leap foward, and the nation noticed. On a steamy day in late June thousands of people crowded on the front lawn of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture and piled onto the street (formerly known as the Boulevard) to share in the celebration of tennis legend and humanitarian Arthur Ashe, a Richmond native.
It’s that type of change that brought Leonard Sledge, Richmond’s new director of economic development, to the city.
“I think Richmond is a city that is consistently looking to tell all sides of its history and have people see all sides,” says Sledge. The former executive director of Georgia’s Henry County Development Authority, he also previously served as economic development director for Hampton.
“The renaming of Arthur Ashe Boulevard was tremendous. There’s an amazing opportunity for Richmond to grow, and I’m going to do the best I can in terms of leading economic development.”
Arthur Ashe Boulevard also will be home to “Rumors of War,” the first public sculpture by Kehinde Wiley, the world-renowned artist who painted the official portrait of former President Barack Obama. A response to Richmond’s famed equestrian Confederate monuments, the massive bronze statue represents the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ biggest financial acquisition. The museum, however, has not disclosed how much the privately funded sculpture will cost. “Rumors of War” will debut in New York City’s Times Square in September before the piece is permanently installed on the VMFA’s front lawn in December.
Meanwhile, a new $25 million, 29,000-square-foot building near the James River, the American Civil War Museum, examines the conflict from many perspectives. The facility is the result of a merger between the Museum of the Confederacy and the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar.
The changes taking place in the Richmond region, which has a population of 1.3 million, has attracted new employers to the area. Currently there are seven Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the region, including Henrico-based Altria Group and Goochland-based CarMax.
The Greater Richmond Partnership markets the area to business prospects on behalf of the city of Richmond and Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties. “This is important to ensure that we share the full spectrum of the economic development opportunities in the region and the continued recognition that our respective citizens do not all live and work in the same locality,” Sledge says.
The partnership welcomed its new president and CEO, Lara Fritts, in August. She is only the third person and the first woman to fill that role in the organization’s 25-year history.
The region’s business pulse
Richmond has outgrown its reputation as a staid Southern metro area.Named a top food destination by the crowdsourced business-review site Yelp, Richmond enjoys regular national attention for its dining and beer/spirits scene. The city’s Scott’s Addition neighborhood, once a gritty industrial area, has been reborn as a hotspot for restaurants and breweries.
Another change has been the introduction of a rapid-transit bus system linking the city’s east and west ends. The GRTC Transit System’s Pulse service celebrated its one-year anniversary in June, with ridership averaging double its initial goals. The Pulse recently earned a Bronze Standard BRT rating by the New York-based nonprofit Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.
“The evolution of transit in Richmond creates opportunities for more transit-oriented development,” says Sledge. “A great example of this is the Sauer Center development, which is across the street from a [Pulse] station.” A 40-acre mixed-use, multimillion-dollar project under development on West Broad Street, the Sauer Center will be anchored by the city’s first Whole Foods grocery store.
Also in the works, NH District Corp., a nonprofit led by members of the corporate and civic community and chaired by Dominion Energy CEO Tom Farrell, has proposed the $1.5 billion redevelopment of a downtown Richmond neighborhood anchored by a 17,500-seat arena on the site of the now-shuttered Richmond Coliseum.
If approved by City Council, the Navy Hill development also would include more than 2,500 apartments plus hundreds of affordable housing units. In addition, the plans call for a 541-room high-rise hotel and 1 million square feet of commercial and office space. It will also restore the historic Blues Armory as a food market and include a GRTC bus transfer station. The developers expect the project to have a $3 billion economic impact on the region, including $1.2 billion in wages.
Thanks in part to these developments, the economic picture for the city is on the upswing. In fiscal year 2019, Richmond’s economic development office helped 18 businesses locate or expand in the city, investing more than $67 million and adding more than 1,200 jobs.
That investment total, however, does not include the $350 million expansion of the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. The 16-story, 500,000-square-foot inpatient facility will include trauma and emergency care and house 86 patients, with the potential to expand to 125 beds in the future. The facility is scheduled to open in 2022.
Another significant development is Amazon’s new $10 million specialty fulfillment and last-mile delivery center on the Virginia Interstate 95 Logistics Center site near the Port of Virginia’s Richmond Marine Terminal. Announced in July and scheduled to open in October, the 461,700-square-foot center is expected to create 150 jobs, adding to Amazon’s existing 10,000 employees in the state.
Amazon is the second major company to lease a building in the center. Brother International Corp., a significant Port of Virginia user, relocated its East Coast distribution center from New Jersey to a 461,700-square-foot warehouse there earlier this year.
Sledge credits these moves in part to California-based Panattoni Development Co. It made the strategic decision two years ago to develop spec Class A industrial warehouses near the Richmond Marine Terminal, helping attract logistics operations to the city. “The projects demonstrate that Richmond is a great location for advanced manufacturing and e-commerce,” Sledge says. “We are glad that more developments like Hourigan’s Deepwater Industrial Park are being developed to help us attract more advanced manufacturing and e-commerce projects to the city.”
The growth of existing companies in the city is also adding to its economic picture. Chicago-based LBP Packaging acquired Richmond-based Dominion Packaging’s Quick-Service Restaurant business in late 2018. LBP is creating 118 jobs and investing approximately $19.7 million in the Richmond operation.
The city’s big challenge is making sure there is a diverse mix of buildings available to “respond to companies that express an interest in locating here as well as existing companies who desire to keep growing in the city,” Sledge says. “Another challenge the city is aggressively addressing is the development of quality affordable housing so people will have great opportunities to both live and work in the city.”
High-tech in Henrico
In Richmond’s surrounding counties, Henrico County’s eastern sector is “ground zero” for rapid speed connectivity, says Anthony Romanello, executive director of the county’s Economic Development Authority.
The Marea and Brusa international subsea high-capacity data cables landing in Virginia Beach feed into the QTS Realty Trust data center in eastern Henrico.
These high-capacity cable systems give the region increased access to European and South American markets through cables that run to Spain and Brazil. Offering 200 terabits per second of ultrahigh transmission capacity, “Marea has the fastest connectivity ever in the world so far,” says Romanello. “You could send every movie ever made across the Atlantic to Spain in 42 seconds.”
Henrico has seen a flurry of economic activity this year “in all sectors,” says Romanello.
In fiscal year 2019 the county had $751.6 million in capital investment, with 320 jobs created.
Early next year, the first-phase buildout of Facebook’s 970,000-square-foot data center is scheduled for completion in Henrico’s White Oak Technology Park. The $1.5 billion project will have 2.4 million total square feet and create more than 200 jobs when complete. The project has generated more than 1,300 construction jobs. Facebook is also investing $250 million in solar farms to support its data center investment.
Meanwhile, Swedish manufacturer Alfa Laval Inc., which specializes in heat transfer, separation and fluid handling, has added a new production line at its plant in eastern Henrico, creating 15 jobs. The addition is part of the company’s $50 million expansion at three of its U.S. plants.
New Chesterfield hotel
In neighboring Chesterfield County, Shamin Hotels Inc. is planning to invest approximately $125 million in multiple developments, including an upscale, destination hotel and 10,000-square-foot conference center at Stonebridge, the former Cloverleaf Mall property in Midlothian.
Stonebridge is a redevelopment success story. The mixed-use revitalization project is home to Kroger Marketplace, one of the grocer’s largest stores in the mid-Atlantic region. Created in a public-private partnership led by the Chesterfield Economic Development Authority, Stonebridge also includes apartments, shops, a senior center and the Richmond Volleyball Court.
“The new hotel and conference center position Chesterfield to take advantage of sports tourism activity. Sports tourism is a key component and the No. 1 tourism generator for the region,” says Karen Aylward, assistant director for Chesterfield County Economic Development. “There hasn’t been a full-service hotel built in the county in a couple of decades.”
In other economic news in Chesterfield, electrical connectors manufacturer ERNI Electronics Inc. is building a $25 million national headquarters with a production and distribution facility at the Waterford Business Park. The project will create approximately 105 jobs.
Hanover’s banner year
Fiscal year 2019 was Hanover County’s most successful year on record. The county saw more than $350 million in investments during the year with the expected creation of more than 2,700 jobs.
“We are having some of the strongest years we have seen,” says Linwood Thomas, the county’s director of economic development. “We are attracting interest from major corporations, both national and international.”
Currently, vacancy rates for industrial space are under 1%, so the county has created a speculative building program to encourage construction of multi-use structures. “That has generated a lot of attention,” Thomas says. “It’s the first of its kind in the state. We just announced our second speculative building by national developers, TPA Group of Atlanta. They will be building a 250,000-square-foot speculative building in the Lakeridge Parkway corridor.”
Raleigh, North Carolina-based developer Brookwood Capital Partners started construction on Hanover’s first speculative building earlier this year. Completion is anticipated by the end of the year. The 150,000-square-foot building, also in the Lakeridge Parkway corridor, is already fully leased. Hanover-based Wine & Beer Supply is the latest tenant to sign on.
Hanover scored its largest project when Canadian-based Cascades Inc. announced it plans to invest $275 million in a lightweight recycled-containerboard operation in the former Bear Island Paper Mill. Expected to open by 2022, the project will create 140 jobs.
Furthermore, the Virginia Department of Forensic Science announced this summer that it’s building a 283,000-square-foot facility in Hanover to house the Central Forensic Laboratory and Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
The upcoming months also look promising, Thomas adds. “We will have some major announcements of well-known companies.”2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/VCU_MP_Franklin_and_Shafer_Updated_19_0523_%281%29.pngVCU’s new ONE VCU master plan calls for a series of landscaped “Front Door” entranceways into the university. Courtesy VCU
Front doors to the future
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/front-doors-to-the-future#When:04:00:00ZAt 173 acres or so in downtown Richmond, the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University is smaller than the average Virginia farm (181 acres).
Now, plow a portion of 31,000 students, more than 23,000 employees and 2,500 full-time faculty members into the mix (not to mention a daily river of visitors, passersby, vendors and other city denizens), and you can see that sometimes even crossing the street could be a problem.
VCU understands that.
Which is why being able to walk safely across campus streets is one of the priorities spelled out in the university’s new master plan, the latest in a series of plans since VCU was created in 1968 after the General Assembly merged Richmond Professional Institute (RPI) with the Medical College of Virginia (MCV).
The notion of pedestrian safety is especially heightened on the MCV campus, where patients and their families are often on foot navigating streets and sidewalks on their way to treatment, the plan says. (During the 2018-19 school year, there were 47 accidents involving pedestrians at VCU, up from 29 the previous year.)
This is the first master plan in VCU’s history to set a unified vision for all of its properties — everything from parking lots to hospitals to student housing — on the medical campus and the former RPI campus, now known as the Monroe Park Campus. One goal is to unify the campuses as never before, with increased joint programming and transportation links, among other initiatives.
Many college campuses have grand gates marking their entrances. You couldn’t miss them if you tried. That’s not the case at VCU, however.
In fact, VCU’s master plan came up with an easier way to find the university’s front door — creating more than one.
“Our campuses [MCV and Monroe Park] are very porous and blend into the fabric of the city, and we like it that way,” says VCU Vice President for Administration Meredith Weiss, who helped oversee the master plan.
“Suburban and rural universities may have just a few entrances into campus, but we have dozens. The ‘Front Doors’ effort identified the major entrances into our campuses (both vehicular and pedestrian) and identified design solutions to let people know when they are on campus, without separating us from the city,” Weiss adds.
Over the summer, construction pushed ahead on the university’s first two “Front Doors” projects at Franklin and Shafer streets and Main and Linden streets. The Front Doors will make entering and crossing the campus safer and more walkable, Weiss explains.
Conceptual renderings of those first two Front Doors show wide, landscaped and clearly delineated pedestrian crossings that leave little guesswork about the separation between people and vehicles.
VCU’s master plan incorporates all the goals you might expect any university to have: student success, national prominence and diversity.
And, with its well-known health system, VCU has a laser focus on providing health care at a high level to a region of nearly 1.3 million people.
While VCU has been in business for 51 years as a merged institution, the new master plan — labeled “ONE VCU” — marks the first time that the public research university side of the merger and the VCU Health System, borne out of the Medical College of Virginia, are cooperating on a master plan as part of a shared vision. The university’s board of visitors approved the master plan in March.
In a highly compact, densely populated urban campus like VCU’s, land is everything, and the cooperative master plan acknowledges that reality.
“It highlights the importance of working collaboratively to find the highest and best use of land on each campus to further the mission of VCU,” Weiss says.
As an example of this newly minted collaboration, the VCU administrator pointed to a university-owned surface parking lot, which VCU sold to the Health System. The health system, in turn, will construct a parking deck on the site to address the critical parking shortage for employees on VCU’s MCV Campus.
Parking in any urban environment can be a headache, and it’s no different on the VCU campus.
As the ONE VCU master plan was being developed over a year and a half, a parallel study was underway to determine the university’s parking needs.
The study found that VCU had an inventory of 12,370 parking spaces and leased an additional 2,550.
It also determined that while the university’s Monroe Park Campus had enough parking to meet future demands, the MCV Campus required an additional 2,700 parking spaces.
Part of that need will be filled by a more-than-1,000-space parking garage in the Health System’s new $349 million adult outpatient facility.
Overall, VCU’s goal is to increase the number of parking spots for patients and visitors on the MCV Campus from 980 to about 3,100.
VCU also is working closely with the city’s transit system to provide free bus service to students and employees over the next three years through a multimillion-dollar contract in the hope of getting more cars off campus and off the streets.
Dedicated bike lanes also are a priority, in conjunction with the city’s Bicycle Master Plan.
The city government, for example, opened a protected bike corridor that runs 15 blocks along Franklin Street from VCU’s Monroe Park Campus to the State Capitol.
The university’s growth has in­­creased the number of vehicles entering and leaving the campus on a daily basis, further contributing to congestion, says Larry Little, vice president of support services and planning for the VCU Health System.
“What we’re trying to create on the medical side for the first time is almost like a ring road, where we put our services, or a lot of our services, on the corners of our campus so that folks can go there, park there, leave there and they don’t have to come through the middle of campus,” Little says.
In addition to the adult outpatient facility, VCU Health System is also building a $350 million, inpatient children’s hospital on the MCV Campus that is expected to open in 2022.
Parks and an athletic village
On suburban and rural college campuses, green space is a given — long, rolling lawns, wide-open vistas, verdant viewsheds that stretch to infinity.
By contrast, VCU has a lot of hard surfaces.
To help mitigate the corridors of brick, glass and concrete, the ONE VCU master plan redefines the core of both the university’s campuses with additional green space.
“One of the things we heard on the MCV Campus is that people go down to the State Capitol when they need a little bit of a reprieve from the city or from their jobs, because it’s the closest large green space,” says Jeff Eastman, the university planner.
On the Monroe Park Campus, students have for years used — on a cooperative basis — the city-owned Monroe Park, which has just reopened after two years of renovation. The park is managed by a public-private partnership with directors nominated by the city’s mayor and VCU’s president.
Eastman says Monroe Park has served the university well over the years, but now VCU needs its own parklike green space so it can schedule programs without trying to juggle the demands of a city park.
VCU’s plans call for creating an “iconic” green space on the Monroe Park Campus between the existing Cabell Library and a new student commons and wellness center, as well as expanding a small park on the MCV Campus.
More on-campus housing along the Grace Street corridor is also part of the ONE VCU plan. Administrators say student demand calls for an additional 700 to 1,000 beds on campus.
Currently, only about 16% of the university’s 24,000 undergraduate students live in college-owned, -operated or -affiliated housing, according to the most recent survey by U.S. News & World Report.
Among other things, the master plan recommends further study on the creation of a residence for the university president — VCU currently has no presidential residence — and it envisions an athletic village that would accommodate a new tennis center, practice fields, a baseball stadium and field house.
While there is no mention in the master plan of where the athletic village might be located, Gov. Ralph Northam’s 2018-20 biennial budget gives VCU the right of first refusal on a 20-acre site on Hermitage Road, a few miles from the university. It’s currently occupied by the state Alcohol Beverage Control Authority, which plans to move its headquarters and warehouse to Hanover County by 2021.
In July, the state ABC closed an $8 million deal on a 40-acre site in Hanover County near the Interstate 295 and Pole Green Road interchange. News reports have suggested that VCU is considering building its athletic village on the site of the former ABC headquarters, which also might include a new stadium for Richmond’s minor league baseball team, the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
But Pam Lepley, VCU’s vice president for university relations, says, “There is nothing new to report since the budget was passed.”
On the Monroe Park Campus, the master plan calls for construction of a $121 million STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education building on the site of the existing Franklin Street Gym, which is slated for demolition in 2020.
The university’s fast-growing College of Engineering also is highlighted in the master plan.
A $93 million Engineering Research Building is currently under construction at the northeast corner of Cary and Belvidere streets in Richmond, with completion set for 2020.
The College of Engineering also is on track to grow to 2,000 students by 2020, a 39% increase over its enrollment in 2013, when Dean Barbara D. Boyan took over, outlining an aggressive agenda for growth.
Boyan had three goals: “Increase the number of students, increase the research profile and increase faculty. We’ve been able to do that,” she says.
Over the next five to six years, the College of Engineering plans to enroll 3,000 undergraduate students, the majority in computer science and computer engineering, aided by the construction of a new building dedicated to helping students train for the digital economy.
But like every other growth decision on the tightly packed VCU campus addressed in the university’s master plan, the College of Engineering will grow only if it makes the best use of the land that’s available, even if it means tearing up what’s already there.
Executive Dean John Leonard says the engineering college already has found the spot for its future digital economy building.
“It’s a parking lot right now,” he says.
Give a little, take a little.2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/Deborah_Oswalt.pngMedicaid expansion enrollees are relieved and grateful to have healthcoverage, says Deborah Oswalt. Photo by Shandell Taylor
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/work-stoppage#When:04:00:00ZOne of the arguments for expanding Medicaid is that the cost of health care hits the working class hard.
Nationally, more than half of uninsured people struggle to pay their medical bills, harming their credit ratings and their finances.
According to the nonprofit Virginia Health Care Foundation, the average percentage of medical debt in collections in the state is 18%. But in poorer localities, the percentage of patients with overdue medical bills climbs as high as 43%. Medicaid expansion is intended to offset this deluge of debt. A 2017 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research of 5 million credit records in states that expanded Medicaid showed a reduction of medical debt in collection by $3.4 billion in the first two years.
But poor health takes a toll on more than finances, says Deborah Oswalt, executive director of the Virginia Health Care Foundation. Stress over an ill family member or an untreated disease can cause its own difficulties, she points out: “Can you imagine living with that sword of Damocles over your head all the time?”
Last year, the foundation, which supports free clinics and community health centers across the state, received a $250,000 grant from Optima Health to help enroll Virginians in Medicaid. As part of that grant, the foundation has trained about 2,500 people working in various aspects of health care around the state in Medicaid enrollment procedures. The most common words the trainees use to describe their patients’ reactions, Oswalt says, are “relief” and “gratitude.”
Many of those enrolled in Medicaid have complex health problems such as hypertension and diabetes, and a significant number — more than 15,000 — have problems with substance abuse, the state Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) reported this May.
Treating chronic, debilitating health problems like those takes time. That may complicate the next major phase of Medicaid expansion in Virginia: the work requirement.
As part of the compromise that broke Virginia’s firewall against Medicaid expansion, some of the state’s enrollees are supposed to go to work.
Virginia is seeking a waiver from federal authorities to approve its work requirements plan. If implemented, Virginia’s plan would require non-exempted Medicaid enrollees to have some form of work for at least 10 months out of a year or face losing Medicaid health coverage.
However, the Virginia proposal offers a number of alternative ways to meet those work requirements, including job training, job seeking, education and community volunteering. In addition, it would exempt pregnant women and primary caregivers for children or the elderly, as well as people with serious medical conditions.
So far, nine states have received federal approval for work requirements. Four of those states are in the process of implementing the requirements, though three — New Hampshire, Kentucky and Arkansas — have been blocked by a federal judge who called their work requirements overly strict.
Conservatives have argued for years that requiring welfare recipients who can work to do so will spur them to earn their way out of poverty. The Trump administration has pointed out that states’ Medicaid work requirements align with that of other federal welfare programs. A spokesman for the federal Department of Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services called the Medicaid work requirement an effort “to give states greater flexibility to help low-income Americans rise out of poverty.”
In Virginia, the discussions, legal issues and time it will take to put in place the final agreement means the work requirement is unlikely to take effect before 2021, DMAS officials have said.
This has exasperated conservative lawmakers, who overwhelmingly voted against Medicaid expansion and saw the work requirement as its one saving grace.
“This just isn’t what we were promised,” Sen. Stephen Newman, R-Bedford, told DMAS Director Jennifer Lee during a meeting this spring. “It just seems like it was delay, delay, delay.”2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/Jennifer_A._Minear.png“The processing time is increased for all types of visas..." says Jennifer Minear of the AILA Photo by Shandell Taylor
Hitting a wall
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/hitting-a-wall#When:04:00:00ZWhile national news about immigration focuses on raids to deport people who are in the United States illegally, Virginia immigration attorneys warn that the biggest immigration problems businesses face are visa application delays and denials.
“What we see are obstacles to legal immigration [that are] inconsistent and arbitrary,” says Jennifer A. Minear, a director in Richmond-based law firm McCandlish Holton’s immigration practice group.
Hiring workers from other countries is more difficult than it used to be, according to Minear, who is president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “The processing time is increased for all types of visas, and the outcomes are less certain than they’ve ever been.”
There’s particular concern about the H-1B visa program, which allows companies to employ foreign workers temporarily in occupations requiring highly specialized knowledge and at least a bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent, in a certain specialty.
The H-1B is the country’s largest temporary employment visa program, according to the Pew Research Group. A worker can stay in the United States initially for up to three years on an H-1B visa. That initial visa can then be extended once for up to a total of six years.
‘A frustrating game’
The denial rate for H-1B visas has jumped significantly, notes Lakshmi Challa of Challa Law Group in Henrico County. Denial rates for H-1B petitions for initial employment rose from 6% in fiscal year 2015 to 32% in the first quarter of FY 2019, according to the National Foundation for American Policy.
Last year, the top 100 Virginia employers filing applications to sponsor H-1B workers were seeking to hire nearly 7,850 people at an average salary of $82,643, according to employment website Myvisajobs.com. Top employers sponsoring foreign workers in the commonwealth last year included Capital One, which was hiring developers and software engineers, and the University of Virginia, which was seeking assistant professors.
Challa says that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has changed how it determines whether a position qualifies as a specialty occupation.
“Instead of the formal process of rewriting policy, they’re just doing it through their decisions,” she says. “To make matters worse,” she adds, USCIS has rescinded a longstanding policy memorandum that directed adjudicators to give deference to a prior approval of an H-1B petition when considering an extension involving the same employer and the same worker.
With extension petitions now receiving as much scrutiny as initial petitions, “this puts the H-1B community in very uncomfortable circumstances,” Challa says, because many workers hope for long-term employment.
The immigration policy changes are also creating a “substantial increase” in businesses seeking her legal assistance, Challa says.
“Highly skilled talent is a critical resource, and any issues impacting their immigration status causes business disruption,” she adds. Increased denials of H1-B petitions impact a company’s bottom line, Challa says, and creates “a feeling of uncertainty throughout the organization and beyond, hindering their ability to retain and recruit international talent.”
Michael McVicker, an immigration attorney in Reston, reports that the process of applying for an H-1B visa has become more costly for businesses because much more paperwork is often required.
Requests for Evidence (RFE), a request issued by USCIS to petitioners for residency, citizenship, family visas and employment visas, “have gone up dramatically,” McVicker says.
“Before, you could have a two-paragraph job description and an employer support letter was maybe three pages in length. Now it needs to be much longer,” he says.
Businesses continue to wade through the process because there is a shortage of skilled U.S. workers, especially in the IT sector, McVicker says. After spending time and money searching for domestic employees, “employers … don’t look forward to the extra expense” of visa applications, he adds.
Minear calls the situation “a frustrating game right now. You have to be prepared for how to play that game. It’s totally unpredictable.” But a company can go to court, and, in the long run, she says, “when a business sues, usually the government will just reverse the denial.”
In addition to seeking H-1B visas for skilled foreign workers, businesses rely on other types of employment visas to fill jobs that attract few U.S. applicants, says Dustin W. Dyer with Henrico-based Dyer Immigration Law Group.
The H-2A program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the country to fill temporary agricultural jobs. In the Old Dominion, Dyer says, that might mean harvesting apples in Winchester or working in tobacco fields in Southern Virginia.
H-2B visas permit employers to hire foreign workers to come to the United States and perform nonagricultural services on a one-time, seasonal or intermittent basis. These employees, for example, might work during the high season at a ski resort or at an amusement park.
Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 workers per fiscal year. In May it was announced that 30,000 additional visas would be allowed through the end of the current federal fiscal year, ending Sept. 30. That ceiling was reached in June.
“Businesses are not able to bring in the workers they need to [hire] for seasonal jobs that are a lot of hard labor for low pay,” Dyer says. The choices, he says, usually are to increase wages in an effort to attract more American workers or face a downturn in business.
Large companies have more flexibility to avoid the impact of labor shortages, according to Dyer, but “smaller businesses suffer; it’s too much of a headache.”
These visa headaches hurt the Virginia economy in a number of ways, says Challa, noting that the commonwealth is home to the eighth-largest foreign-born population in the United States.
The economy has benefited from foreign workers on H-1B visas who are generally highly paid, dependable consumers, she says. Now, “these folks are concerned about making an investment like buying a house” because of uncertainties about their immigration status.
Also, approximately 168,000 Virginians are employed by immigrant-owned companies, Challa says, and “many of these companies are looking to expand to the U.S. because they are supporting a tech company in the U.S. … They look [and] see how easy is it going to be if they are investing? Can they bring in their senior executives? That is the most critical issue given the current trends.” With visa denial rates going up, “that’s a major consideration that they have. It’s one of the first questions they ask,” she says.
“The startup community is led by the international community,” she adds. “We need to make sure we have smart immigration policies that are fostering economic growth and continue to make the U.S. the hub for disruptive technology.”
Minear urged Virginia businesses to be more vocal about the problems they are encountering and “encourage congressional oversight” of USCIS’ processing delays. “They are overstepping. American companies need to make it plain the impact this is having on the American economy.”2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/Reis-1391.pngColonial Williamsburg Foundation President and CEO Mitchell Reiss is stepping down in October. Photo by Mark Rhodes
A historic challenge
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/a-historic-challenge#When:04:00:00ZWhen Mitchell B. Reiss steps down as president and CEO of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in October, it will mark the end of a five-year tenure heading up a hybrid complex of 18th-century historic sites and modern-day commercial businesses.
It will also mark the end of a roller coaster ride of ups and downs in the foundation’s financial health as its commercial ventures — operated under the Colonial Williamsburg Co. umbrella — are on track this year to have a positive cash flow for the first time, says Reiss.
He came to Colonial Williamsburg after a career in diplomacy and education. His diplomatic duties included playing a key role as a special envoy in the Northern Ireland Peace Process. He also served as the director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, its principal strategic planning arm.
He previously served as president of Washington College, a liberal-arts college in Chestertown, Maryland, and was William & Mary’s vice provost of international affairs.
Colonial Williamsburg’s $1 billion in assets include its 301-acre historic campus, two art museums, five hotel properties, a spa, 11 restaurants, 14 retail outlets and a Robert Trent Jones-designed golf course, among other recreational amenities.
Stopping the bleeding
With nearly 2,000 full- and part-time employees, Colonial Williamsburg is one of the region’s largest employers. Upon his appointment in 2014, Reiss was charged with reversing the organization’s numerous challenges, which included a seven-year decline in visitation, a bevy of businesses that had yet to turn a profit in 36 years and a dwindling foundation endowment. At the same time, he was tasked with bringing the foundation into the future, including diversifying Colonial Williamsburg’s leadership and overseeing upgrades of its technology, amenities and educational efforts.
“There were two urgent challenges: One had to do with our financial health, and the other had to do with our core mission of attracting people to come and visit,” Reiss says, citing long-term operational losses on Colonial Williamsburg’s commercial side and a 30-year decline in visitation for the historic site. Ticket sales reached a high of 1.2 million in 1988 and dropped to 550,171 last year, the lowest point since the 1960s.
In the face of what Reiss called “daunting” financial losses, he instituted a June 2017 restructuring that resulted in the layoffs of 71 employees and the outsourcing of an additional 262 jobs in the foundation’s hospitality and leisure businesses.
“That was a very difficult time because these folks had been wonderful employees … for many years,” says Reiss. “But financially we were not sustainable, given the structure of the foundation and what the market was telling us in terms of visitation.”
At the end of 2016, midway through his tenure, the foundation was losing $148,000 every day — down from $176,000 in daily losses in 2014. But the organization’s debt stood at $317 million, forcing significant endowment withdrawals that ate into the fund’s principal. Colonial Williamsburg was withdrawing as much as 12% of the endowment in some years, compared with a typical 5% for similar nonprofits. At the rate the endowment was diminishing, Reiss estimated it would be exhausted by 2026. At the same time, the organization’s revenues decreased from about $148 million in 2016 to $127.3 million in 2017.
Today, Reiss forecasts that Colonial Williamsburg will see a $4 million to $5 million positive cash flow this year from its commercial side, which includes its lodging and restaurant businesses. However, Reiss and a Colonial Williamsburg spokesperson would not comment on whether the organization’s historic tourism and exhibitions division, which operated at an
$18.39 million deficit in 2018, was expected to lose money again this year.
Reiss does say that Colonial Williamsburg is on track to withdraw 42% less from its endowment this year than it did in 2014.
“We’ve stopped the bleeding,” he says, adding, “We believe we have turned a corner with the endowment and can see a better future; however, no organization’s financial health is ever assured.”
On the museum side, Reiss says, the challenges were many, ranging from a “broader, secular trend of less visitation to historic sites” to revamping Colonial Williamsburg’s marketing and updating its technology.
In addition to staff reductions, Reiss slashed the foundation’s advertising budget from $11 million in eight urban markets to $6 million in two: the Northern Virginia/D.C. area and New York. He oversaw a reallocation of ad spending away from costly television spots and toward more affordable social media. Colonial Williamsburg also overhauled its online presence, consolidating seven websites into a single umbrella landing page. Overall, it reduced its total marketing and communications spending nearly 43% — from $21.4 million in 2014 to $12.3 million in 2018.
Placing more emphasis on digital marketing enabled Reiss’ team to target audiences with precision and understand their return on investment.
Another technology piece included activating Wi-Fi in the historic area and creating a mobile app that included digital ticketing and real-time event notifications.
“There hadn’t been proper investment in IT, and we had to put systems in place to measure what we think we knew, but we didn’t have any real data for,” Reiss says. “If we couldn’t measure it, we couldn’t manage it. … Dragging the IT options into the 21st century has been an understated but very important contribution to the success we’ve had.”
Though the foundation studied technology at other cultural and historic sites, it concluded that high-tech bells and whistles didn’t have a place on-site at Colonial Williamsburg.
“We use the technology for process, but we use the people we have here for the substance of the experience,” Reiss explains. “Once they’re here, they want to talk to [a historical interpreter playing] Thomas Jefferson, not a hologram. … They want to have a conversation with an 18th-century interpreter who is an expert on the Constitution or farming or trades.”
Back to basics
Citing a return to Colonial Williamsburg’s core values of education and organic experiences, Reiss instituted programming with a more tactile focus: an archaeological dig for kids, axe-throwing, a musket-shooting range, a historic tavern crawl and events such as haunted ghost walks. He also diversified and expanded interpretive programming to include focuses on women and African American heritage, a tactic that has worked at sites such as Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest estate in Bedford County.
Former Poplar Forest CEO Jeffrey Nichols, who left in August to become executive director of nonprofit Georgetown Heritage, says Poplar Forest’s expansion of such story‑telling represents a shift away from traditional historical narratives that don’t resonate as well with people. “It’s a way to personalize and humanize people and give depth to people we knew very little about,” he says. With 30,000 visitors a year, Poplar Forest is much smaller than Colonial Williamsburg, but its visitation has also been trending downward.
Both Nichols and Reiss cited the ongoing challenge of attracting audiences that are disinclined toward history, coupled with competition ranging from amusement parks to video games. Reiss referred to the teenager who recently won $3 million at the Fortnite World Cup, a video game competition held in New York City this summer. “He had 10,000 people in the stadium watching and millions watching around the world, so you tell me — do you think the world has changed?”
Philip G. Emerson, executive director of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, which oversees the living-history recreation at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, concurs. “Like many institutions, we are faced with time poverty and the abundance of leisure-time activities that attract consumers and their wallets,” he says.
Paid visitation at the combined Jamestown-Yorktown sites totaled 533,730 in 2018, a decrease of 12.6% from 2017. The umbrella foundation has invested in visitor research for more than 30 years and employs a research specialist in that area to assist with identifying trends and driving programs that attract various audience segments.
Other historic sites experience similar issues. Even at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, last year’s attendance of 1,067,754 was down 62,646 visitors from 2017. “Typically, we do see more in a year after an election,” says Matt Briney, vice president of new media at Mount Vernon.
Having reached the end of his tenure, Reiss asks, “How do you revive a love of American history — among young people especially? That’s our challenge, and I don’t have the answer for that.”
As Washington College’s president, Reiss oversaw a $60 million annual budget. He says the practice of being “aggressively transparent” with those financials helped inform many of the decisions he made at Colonial Williamsburg. His academic career taught him to create on-the-ground advisory teams of “front-line employees” who interacted with stakeholders regularly.
“I think not sequestering yourself in your office but actually having folks who are dealing with customers every day and understanding what that means are two very important takeaways from my previous lives,” he says.
From his years at the State Department, he learned “putting the mission first is absolutely crucial for any institution to have a chance of success.”
Reiss has not formulated plans beyond his departure, saying only that he would like a new challenge.
“If you look at my experience, the longest I have ever been in a job is four years — this one will be five,” he says. “This is a tough gig, and it’s not without its challenges and certainly not without a lot of joy and gratification … but I think it’s time to hand it off to somebody else who will take the baton, continue to build and make the place even better.”
In a statement, Thurston R. Moore, chairman of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation board of trustees, lauds Reiss’ accomplishments.
“We’re deeply grateful to him,” Moore says. “He’s done a remarkable job of getting our operations and finances in better shape, without losing sight of our core educational mission and while providing guests an experience that is both relevant and fun. We hate to see Mitchell go, but we understand, and we thank him for putting us in the position we’re in today.”2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/MAR_0131.pngVEDP CEO Stephen Moret. Photo by Mark Rhodes
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/encore-performance#When:04:00:00ZUPDATED AUG. 28
In 2007, when Stephen Moret was CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber in Louisiana, he had a career-changing moment.
A new employee from Georgia had raved about her state’s innovative workforce development program, so he arranged to take a tour. “It’s probably something the Georgia people regret to this day,” jokes Moret, now president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP).
“I’ve never been more impressed with a single economic or workforce development program than I was with Georgia Quick Start,” he recalls. “It was just so impressive.”
Moret was so impressed, in fact, that when he was tapped as Louisiana’s secretary of economic development in 2008, his first order of business was to replicate Georgia’s Quick Start program — and improve upon it. And he hired the second-ranked Georgia Quick Start official to run it.
That became Louisiana’s FastStart program. Launched that same year, it provides prospective companies with free recruitment and training services as long as they commit to creating a set number of jobs in the state.
FastStart quickly eclipsed Georgia as the top-ranked workforce development program in the nation. Business Facilities Magazine deemed it the “gold standard” for such programs. During the past 10 years, FastStart has developed custom workforce solutions for companies including Benteler, Electronic Arts, Gardner Denver, GE Capital, IBM and ConAgra.
Now Moret’s set to do it again here in Virginia, as he prepares the VEDP to create a “world-class, turnkey, customized workforce recruitment and training incentive program” based on the Georgia and Louisiana initiatives.
“Every time you create something new, you can kind of say, ‘Well, what would you do differently if you had to do it over?’” Moret says. “I just saw this as a big opportunity for Virginia. [It’s] something I’ve already seen work [and it’s] particularly powerful for the smaller metro and rural regions where companies are worried about … [finding] enough quality talent.”
VEDP’s new program will be focused on economic development projects — new facilities or expansions of existing ones — that Virginia is competing with other states to land, mostly manufacturing plants, corporate headquarters, distribution centers and software-development facilities.
Moret has hired Mike Grundmann, VEDP’s new senior vice president of workforce solutions, to head the program. Grundmann is a 20-year veteran of Georgia’s Quick Start and was director of advanced manufacturing for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Working for Quick Start, Grundmann oversaw the development of more than 100 custom workforce solutions for companies including Ciba Vision, Pirelli Tire, Amazon, Sony Music and Gatorade.
By this time next year, Moret expects to have hired 12 full-time employees toward an eventual staff of 50 that will be devoted to Virginia’s new workforce solutions program. VEDP expects to begin work on pilot projects by the end of this year. By its fifth year, Moret expects that the program will be providing workforce solutions for 100 economic development projects in the commonwealth each year. The General Assembly allocated $7 million to fund the program’s launch and operating costs, including hiring staff and purchasing equipment.
VEDP staff will work quickly to market Virginia’s assets to the client companies and will tour facilities and interview company leaders to understand their specific hiring needs, business models and processes, Grundmann explains.
Says Moret: “We’re selling not just customization; we’re also selling speed. Sometimes you’ll have a company say, ‘I’ve got a plant in Germany. I essentially want one just like that in the United States, and I want to have it up as quickly as possible.’”
In the current low unemployment environment, recruiting and training employees is a service companies find very attractive, Moret says. And they’ll find it especially valuable, he adds, when they learn that it would cost them three to four times as much to develop the same level of customized recruiting and training services that VEDP can offer for free. (VEDP estimates it will spend $800 to $1,000 per job position for recruiting and training.)
A key part of that service is recruiting people who are a good match for the company’s culture and values, Grundmann says. “When a company is building a new plant, they’re excited about all the latest and greatest [technological innovations]. They’re also excited about the opportunity to build a culture from scratch,” he says.
“That’s one of the big advantages of the pre-employment training,” Moret says. “Are people showing up on time? Are they exhibiting the skills that you need? And how are they interacting with other folks? Those are all things that help them get to a better fit.”
VEDP staff also will develop custom training materials for new employees.
“It is not only extremely customized, but very rich in illustrations, 3-D animations, video, everything to make it more visual. The whole idea is to shorten the new-hire learning curve,” Grundmann says.
Adds Moret: “We’re not producing any credentials … [or] degrees. … It’s literally recruiting and training people not just to be a welder or an electrician but to be a welder for this particular company, this particular plant.”
Prospective workers will train on the actual equipment they’ll be using, usually in the same factories where they’ll eventually be working. VEDP will get the process started and then will partner with the commonwealth’s community colleges, which will implement the training services.
“Virginia’s community colleges have long played a critical role in meeting the training needs of businesses, both those that are new to the commonwealth, as well as those expanding here,” says Virginia Community College System Chancellor Glenn DuBois. “We’re excited about this program and what it will mean for the individuals and businesses that we serve, as well as the impact for Virginia’s growing reputation.”
Back on top
Virginia’s program is well-positioned for success, Moret says. “We got to the No. 1 … [workforce] ranking in Louisiana with far less to work with than we have in Virginia. We’ve got one of the best public education systems in the country and one of the best higher-education systems. We’ve got great community college facilities.”
Another feature that will make Virginia’s program stand out from those in Georgia and Louisiana, Moret adds, is that VEDP will give client companies a choice between using its fast-track customized workforce program or receiving a Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP) grant that will provide funding so the company can create its own recruitment and training program.
However, Moret is confident that when companies learn how much expertise and added value VEDP’s staff will bring to the table, they will choose its program.
Moret sees the initiative as a key component in raising Virginia to the top of all the major national business rankings. In July, Virginia regained its prestigious No. 1 ranking on CNBC’s annual America’s Top States for Business report. That ranking was largely due to Virginia landing Amazon’s $5 billion East Coast headquarters (HQ2), a coup that Moret helped accomplish.
“I think what we can do here will be far better than what Georgia and Louisiana have … and that’s not taking anything away from them. We have the advantage of hindsight, and we’re starting from scratch,” Moret says.
“We’ve got a much stronger starting position, a much stronger set of existing assets and if we deliver really, really well and market it really aggressively, I think we’ll get there quickly. Our public goal is to get ranked in the top two to three in the country within three years and shooting for No. 1 within five [years]. I’m absolutely 1,000% certain we’ll hit the first [goal] and I think there’s a very good chance we’re going to hit the second one too.”
CORRECTION: The print version of this story incorrectly stated the companies with which Louisiana's FastStart company has worked. This story has been updated with the correct information.2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00Graphic courtesy American Association of Port Authorities
International ports convention returns to Norfolk
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/international-ports-convention-returns-to-norfolk#When:04:00:00ZIn October the Port of Virginia will play host to the 108th annual American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) Convention and Expo, which will be held at the Hilton Norfolk The Main hotel.
It will be the fifth time over the last 93 years that the convention representing the Western Hemisphere’s ports industry has convened in Norfolk.
“We’ve been at this for a long time,” says Aaron Ellis, public affairs director for the Alexandria-based international trade association.
The AAPA represents 130 seaport authorities and 200 associated organizations from the United States, Canada, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Its first convention was held in December 1912 in New York City. Last year, it met in Valparaíso, Chile.
Focusing on topics such as economic development, trade, technology and coastal resiliency, this year’s event in Norfolk is expected to draw 500 to 600 attendees and more than 80 exhibitors. Ludovic Renou, president of Norfolk-based cargo carrier CMA CGM America LLC, will deliver the keynote address.
The Port of Virginia “is just a fabulous port. It’s got everything that is of interest to somebody in the port industry,” Ellis says. “It’s got one of the deepest channels in the country; it’s got a huge Navy presence. There are just so many aspects that make Norfolk a good [ports industry] calling card, if you will.”
The convention’s theme will be “Revolutionizing America’s First Port,” a nod to the Virginia ports industry’s origins, which reach back to the early 1600s in colonial Jamestown. The AAPA convention was last held in Virginia in 2007, the 400th anniversary of Jamestown’s founding.
“The Port of Virginia has literally been America’s first port for over 400 years,” says Jay Stecher, the Port of Virginia’s vice president of marketing and communications. “If you think about what they were doing at that time to what we’re doing now — the investments we’re making in people, in technology and equipment and what the future is going to bring — we think it’s going to be an interesting theme.”
And with the port having just completed a $320 million expansion of its Virginia International Gateway facility in Portsmouth, complete with the East Coast’s largest ship-to-shore cranes, Virginia has a lot to show off at the convention.
“[It’s] one of the reasons we’re so excited about having the convention in Norfolk this year,” Stecher says. “The timing was perfect to showcase all the benefits [the Port of Virginia has] to share with the maritime industry.”2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/Reinhart-4971.pngVirginia Port Authority CEO John Reinhart. Photo by Mark Rhodes
Casting a wider net
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/casting-a-wider-net#When:04:00:00ZUpdated Aug. 28
From frozen foods to massive offshore wind-turbine components, the Port of Virginia is stepping up efforts to attract new and diverse cargo, bolstered by expanded terminal capacity and a long-awaited project to deepen Norfolk’s commercial shipping channels.
“Part of our plan is to be an economic engine,” says John Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “We’re fortunate to play on fields where opportunities exist.”
The third-largest port on the East Coast behind New York/New Jersey and Savannah, Georgia, and the fifth-largest in the U.S., the Port of Virginia is one of the commonwealth’s dominant economic drivers. More than 160 port-related business announcements have been made over the past four years, with almost $4 billion in investments and 15,000 jobs created throughout Virginia. In fiscal year 2019, the port played a role in generating 2,800 new jobs, developing nearly 3 million square feet of space and driving $2 billion in investment across the commonwealth. The port has handled a record 3 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent containers) of cargo this year, up from 2018’s annual volume record of 2.85 million TEUs.
Since Reinhart took the port authority’s helm in 2014, the port has set yearly cargo volume records and will have invested almost $1.5 billion through 2024 for terminal expansion, dredging and infrastructure improvements. “We’ve been growing every year,” he says. “We want to grow faster than the market at large. If market growth is forecast at 3%, we’re trying to grow [by] 5%.”
Diversifying cargo is part of the port’s overall strategic plan to enhance volume in multiple areas of business as a way of building strength in good trade environments, while offering stability during uncertain times.
Providing direct service to more than 45 countries and two-thirds of the U.S. population, the port is positioning itself as both a point of origin and destination for cargo the world over, including freight from emerging economies such as Africa, India and Latin America. According to the International Transport Forum, an intergovernmental think tank, global demand for cargo transport is expected to triple by 2050. “The world is continuing to get connected,” Reinhart adds, noting that ocean carriers calling at the port provide regular services to both emerging and established ports and economies.
‘Wider, Deeper, Safer’
A $700 million expansion project at the port’s two largest terminals, Virginia International Gateway (VIG) in Portsmouth and Norfolk International Terminals (NIT), will increase the facilities’ annual container throughput capacity by 46% by 2020 and position Virginia as the East Coast’s main container shipping port. VIG’s upgrades include an 800-foot wharf expansion, four 170-foot-tall ship-to-shore cranes (the largest in the Western Hemisphere), 26 additional rail-mounted gantry cranes, four extra inbound gate lanes for trucks, almost 20,000 feet of new rail track and 13 additional container stacks. NIT is getting 60 rail-mounted gantry cranes, 30 semi-automated container stacks and two new Suez-class ship-to-shore cranes. The upgrades and increased capacity have already led to record-setting volumes in fiscal year 2019.
“Before our modernization and expansion of Virginia International Gateway and Norfolk International Terminals, there was not a lot of footprint to work on diversification of cargo,” Reinhart notes. “Now we have the capacity.”
Then there’s the port’s $350 million Wider, Deeper, Safer project to deepen and widen the Norfolk harbor. Engineering and design work are underway, with construction slated to begin in early 2020. When completed in 2025, the main Norfolk shipping channel will be 55 feet deep, while the Thimble Shoal Channel will be 1,400 feet wide, allowing the Port of Virginia to reclaim its status as the deepest port on the East Coast and making it easier for the ultra-large container ships already calling at the port to navigate through its shipping channels.
On the same page
Along with the upgrades, the port has been working more closely with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership on marketing endeavors. “We see the Port of Virginia as one of the most important economic assets in the commonwealth of Virginia,” says VEDP President and CEO Stephen Moret. “Its increased capacity makes it one of the most advanced ports in the world.”
Moret sits on the port’s board of directors, and Reinhart is a member of VEDP’s board. It’s an arrangement both say has increased collaboration between the organizations.
“Our strategies are aligned,” Reinhart says, adding that port representatives regularly travel with VEDP officials on overseas trade missions. “We call on some of the same customers to try to attract them to the commonwealth.”
That’s a big shift from just a few years ago when the port sent representatives on an overseas visit without knowing that VEDP staffers were visiting the same country a few days later. “Now we share notes, work projects and regularly talk about how to support each other,” Moret says.
Each organization also has staff embedded in the other’s offices, and they are working together on the commonwealth’s first-ever international trade plan, an effort to increase the number of Virginia companies involved in global commerce, help expand into new markets and attract programs associated with significant international trade. The plan is slated to be published this fall.
“The port is knocking it out of the park,” Moret says, noting that it is one of Virginia’s strongest economic selling points, particularly for the manufacturing and distribution sectors.
So far, the expansion at VIG and NIT has resulted in a 66% increase in refrigerated cargo capacity. Reinhart seeks to position Virginia as an export and import center for refrigerated cargo. Earlier this year, the port completed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southeast In-Transit Cold Treatment Program, paving the way for Virginia to compete with Northeastern U.S. ports for refrigerated cargo. Through the program, containerized imports can enter the port directly after completing a two-week cold-treatment process to safeguard against pests.
That paid off for Virginia this April when the commonwealth beat out Georgia in landing Preferred Freezer Services’ new cold-storage warehouse. It will be branded as Lineage Logistics, the Michigan-based warehouse and logistics company that acquired Preferred Freezer Services in May. Lineage is investing $60 million to build the 200,000-square-foot cold facility in Portsmouth. Meanwhile, InterChange Cold Storage is building a cold-storage and blast-freezing facility in Mount Crawford, 90 minutes south of the Port of Virginia’s Virginia Inland Port in Front Royal.
As an offshoot, more equipment and jobs related to the cold-storage industry could be making their way to the region, including refrigerated containers and workers to maintain them, as well as additional USDA inspectors.
“We’re the U.S. East Coast’s leading vegetable exporter, and this designation positions us to achieve the same success with imported fruit,” Reinhart notes. “Refrigerated import and export freight are opportunities for strong growth for us.” The port also handles refrigerated cargo on its thrice-weekly Richmond Express barge, which connects Hampton Roads terminals to the Richmond Marine Terminal via the James River.
The port launched the James River barge service in 2008. Last year, carriers shipped almost 30,000 containers from Norfolk cargo terminals to the Richmond terminal via the barge, a record volume. More than a dozen ocean carriers also list Richmond as the destination or origin for cargo. The port added a second barge in 2016 for refrigerated containers.
“We have refrigeration and freezer space all over the commonwealth,” Reinhart says. “More refrigerated containers are going up to Richmond and back by barge. People want these products close to where they are.”
Freight increased last year by 31.5% at the Richmond Marine Terminal and by 7.8% at the Virginia Inland Port. The Richmond terminal is investing $570,000 to purchase new top loaders for moving containers on and off tractor-trailer trucks. The Port of Virginia is investing $36 million in two projects at the inland port to improve traffic flow and safety on a local road and to expand the terminal’s overall cargo-handling capabilities. The port is funding the road project through a U.S. Department of Transportation BUILD (Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development) grant. Inside the terminal, the port is investing $3.3 million to be matched by $7.7 million from Virginia’s Rail Enhancement Fund. The $11 million project will expand capacity and improve cargo flow at the inland port.
Growing with the wind
Along with refrigerated cargo, the port is setting its sights on the nascent offshore wind-energy industry. Between 2,000 and 3,000 wind turbines could be installed off the East Coast over the next two decades, and the port is marketing itself as a logistics and staging center for the construction and maintenance of the massive turbines. Dominion Energy is working with Denmark’s Ørsted Energy on a $1.1 billion project to build two 6-megawatt wind turbines about 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Slated to be up and running next year, the 600-foot-tall turbines are projected to power about 3,000 homes with emissions-free energy. They will be the first to be built in U.S. federal waters and the first to be operated by a regulated utility. (A private energy development group owned by Ørsted operates a five-turbine offshore wind farm in state waters off Rhode Island.)
Reinhart notes that the port is only 35 miles from federal waters where the wind turbines will be erected and has no bridges or overhead obstructions to hinder the movement of turbine components, including massive towers and blades. “When you look at the strategic logistics and natural attributes of the port, we can evolve to be an important player in the offshore-wind supply industry, and be a good central point for wind farms north and south of here,” he adds. “But we have to be ready to dip our toes in the water in 2020.”
‘An offshore-wind super port’
A 2018 report produced by consulting firm BVG Associates cites Virginia’s central location on the mid-Atlantic seaboard, as well as its pro-business environment, deep-water port free of overhead obstructions, large maritime workforce and dock capacity as advantages in driving the offshore-wind supply chain.
After evaluating 10 Virginia terminals for their readiness to accommodate offshore-wind manufacturing and construction, BVG Associates determined that Portsmouth Marine Terminal and Newport News Marine Terminal are the best-prepared port facilities to meet the demands of offshore-wind activities. Container traffic is shifting to the upgraded and expanded NIT and VIG facilities, leaving the Portsmouth and Newport News terminals with ample space to store the wind turbines’ massive foundations before they’re shipped to the offshore construction sites. BVG Associates concluded that each terminal will require up to $10 million in upgrades to be prepared for use as logistics centers for offshore-wind operations.
Portsmouth Marine Terminal would be especially well-suited for housing components because of its 287-acre footprint, says George Hagerman, a senior project scientist in Old Dominion University’s Center for Coastal and Physical Oceanography.
“Portsmouth Marine Terminal has the potential to be an offshore-wind super port,” Hagerman says. “There’s nothing that has that large of an area and access to the open sea without a bridge in the way. There’s probably nothing like it on the East Coast.”
However, the terminals’ ground-bearing strength would have to be reinforced to withstand the weight of the colossal components. “That could take up to 24 months to see what would be required and then to do it,” he adds.
Global offshore-wind project developers, procurement and logistics specialists, foundation and substation fabricators and offshore platform builders have visited the port over the past two years to scope out its potential as a staging ground for building wind farms. Port officials have pointed out to the visitors that the Port of Virginia is the only East Coast port with federal authorization to dredge channels to 55 feet deep.
“Offshore wind is definitely picking up speed,” Hagerman says. “But there’s still a risk that there is not going to be a steady demand for the product. That’s the real challenge for everybody looking at that investment.”
Strategic military asset
Meanwhile, the port is also expanding its military cargo. Over the last five years, PMT, NIT and Newport News Marine Terminal have been used about a dozen times to load and offload military vehicles. In addition, the army unloaded approximately 400 vehicles at the port in August. Last year, the port began working with the U.S. Army Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) to strengthen its role as one of the nation’s 16 strategic ports for deploying military personnel and equipment. The port has run several test trials for the SDDC involving the shipment of military kit vehicles.
“We exercise the capabilities at East Coast ports to determine the flexibility to use multiple ports to move cargo as fast as possible,” explains Lt. Col. Altwan Whitfield, commander of the 841st Transportation Battalion in Charleston, South Carolina. “During the test runs, we send vehicles, including track vehicles, which are larger, bulkier and awkward in size and shape. We look at cranes, stevedores and rail to determine maximum capacity and which port would be best to use. Each port has its own oddities, but everyone must be on the same sheet of music.”
Whitfield says the SDDC has an excellent relationship with the port, which has also deployed airplanes used in Afghanistan military operations: “It’s a great partnership that allows us to do our job. Overall, the Port of Virginia provides us the capacity we need to get our military as far forward as fast as possible by being available to us.”
Seeking new opportunities
The Virginia Maritime Association also has joined forces with the port and the VEDP to aggressively market the port for other new lines of cargo business.
“Opportunities to diversify the port are important to us,” says David White, the association’s executive vice president. “It’s not just about positioning ourselves to be attractive to steamship lines but positioning ourselves to get more cargo traded through our port and use our port as a gateway to the global marketplace.”
However, Virginia faces stiff competition from other East Coast ports for certain freight such as automobiles. “Baltimore and Jacksonville, Florida, are large auto ports, but there are opportunities for Virginia [to expand],” White notes.
However, Moret of the VEDP contends that the port’s ability to capture automobile freight has to some extent been constrained by Virginia’s lackluster past economic development efforts surrounding the automobile industry.
“We need to reset our economic toolbox,” Moret says, pointing out that recent automobile assembly plants opted to set up shop in Georgia and South Carolina. To capture that business, Moret says, the state must offer corporate incentives, customized workforce training, marketing solutions and site development plans. The General Assembly and VEDP have been addressing these issues over the last few years, he adds, with the legislature allocating $2 million to the VEDP this year for site characterization plans.
And that is starting to pay off, according to Reinhart. “I’m tickled with where we’re sitting,” he says. “I think some other ports will be surprised at how efficient we’ll be with the peak season coming up. It’s all coming together at the right time.”2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/858Danville-IKERA-Sept2019-.pngIkea says it will provide job search assistance to the 300 workers who will be let go. Photo by Mark Rhodes
Danville grapples with Ikea plant closure
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/danville-grapples-with-ikea-plant-closure#When:04:00:00ZThe closing of Danville’s Ikea plant at the end of the year is terrible news for its employees, but the mood in the city is not as heavy as it was when Danville’s textiles and tobacco industries collapsed in the 1990s.
The Swedish furniture manufacturer’s 300 local employees will be able to work until production ends in December, and the company is working with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union and federal, state and local agencies to provide support and job search assistance.
“The Ikea Industry board of directors made the decision in late June and we announced it to our co-workers on July 10,”
says site manager Bert Eades. “We understand it is a tough message, and we will support all co-workers as much as possible in this time of change. Despite many efforts to improve, the cost structure for production in Danville is still too high, especially when it comes to raw materials. This results in pricing that is significantly higher than for other plants making the same products.”
The loss of a business and 300 jobs is significant to Danville and Pittsylvania County’s manufacturing labor force of nearly 18,000, but the region is “now on the road to economic revitalization, helped in part by foreign investment, particularly advanced manufacturing projects from the United Kingdom,” says former Danville mayor Linwood Wright, now a consultant with the city’s office of economic development.
With several manufacturers, a large call center and other employers operating now or in the near future, the region is no longer as vulnerable to economic devastation as it was in the 1990s, when textile and tobacco employers closed up shop.
Meanwhile, Eades has plans for a job fair to help his colleagues find new work, and he has talked with Danville Community College about providing educational opportunities. Also, Ikea is helping to find a new occupant for the nearly 1-million-square-foot plant it has occupied since 2008 in Cane Creek Centre, an industrial park jointly owned by the city and the county. Several parties have already expressed interest.
“It’s our intent to do everything we possibly can do to bring at least equivalent employment to this site so Ikea’s workers will have an opportunity to seek jobs that will minimize any time out of work,” says Telly Tucker, Danville’s director of economic development.2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/071913_1191.pngThe Health Wagon will take over the annual Wise County health clinic in July 2020. Photo by Tim Cox
Wise RAM health clinic ends, but need persists
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/wise-ram-health-clinic-ends-but-need-persists#When:04:00:00ZFor the past 20 years, the annual Wise County clinic — a city of tents on the county fairgrounds where thousands of people line up every July for free health care — has served as a potent symbol of insurance disparity and poverty.
But in the past two years, the annual number of patients has decreased from more than 2,000 in 2017 to only 1,128 last July. Tennessee-based Remote Area Medical, which has run the pop-up clinic with local partners since 1999, has announced it will not continue next year; that is so it can provide help to communities in greater need.
The Health Wagon, a nonprofit free clinic in Wise, will take over running the annual clinic next July, only with a different name: Move Mountains Medical Mission. Volunteer doctors and nurses will offer medical, dental and vision testing, and local churches and organizations will give away free clothing, school supplies and electric toothbrushes.
With nearly 300,000 more Virginians on Medicaid since January and the creation of more free and sliding-scale clinics in Southwest Virginia, fewer people need to attend the annual clinic. But Health Wagon Executive Director Teresa Tyson says that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a serious need for the annual clinic.
As an example, Tyson mentions a free-clinic patient who works at a McDonald’s. The patient can’t afford private insurance and doesn’t qualify for Medicaid because she earns $34 over the state limit. Additionally, laid-off employees from companies like the Blackjewel coal mines need free health services.
“We’re really the only option for those patients,” Tyson says.
Also, a shortage of rural dentists means that Southwest Virginia residents continue to need the Virginia Dental Association Foundation’s Mission of Mercy project, which brings dentists to the Prior Convocation Center at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise on the same weekend as the three-day Wise clinic. The group has treated more than 24,000 dental patients in Wise since 2000.
Meanwhile, Health Wagon is expanding its regular free-clinic services, including providing ultrasound testing and opening a new clinic just for Medicaid recipients in Coeburn, a town in Wise County. Tyson also is considering expanding into Kentucky’s coal country, as well as starting mobile cardiac catheterization and endoscopy labs.
“I would love this to be a medical mecca for people to travel to,” she says.2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/Clay_St.pngThe proposed $1.5 billion downtown redevelopment project includes the state’s largest entertainment venue. NH District Corp.
Richmond to consider $1.5 billion Navy Hill project
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/richmond-to-consider-1.5-billion-navy-hill-project#When:04:00:00ZIn August, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney unveiled plans for the city’s largest-ever economic development project — the $1.5 billion Navy Hill mixed-use development that could transform a 10-block area of downtown Richmond. Its future is in the hands of City Council, which is expected to vote on the project no sooner than the end of this year.
The centerpiece of the public-private partnership, proposed by a group of corporate heavy hitters led by Dominion Energy CEO Thomas F. Farrell II, is a $235 million, 17,500-square-foot arena to replace the 48-year-old Richmond Coliseum. It would be the state’s largest entertainment venue.
The plans also include 260,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space; a 541-room luxury hotel within walking distance of the Greater Richmond Convention Center; 1 million square feet of commercial and office space; more than 2,500 apartments; a $10 million renovation of the Blues Armory; and a GRTC Transit System bus transfer station. VCU’s Center for Urban and Regional Analysis estimates that the project, which is expected to take four to five years to complete, would create 9,300 permanent jobs and 12,500 construction jobs.
Farrell’s group, the nonprofit NH District Corp., has powerful backers, including luxury resort and hotel magnate William H. Goodwin Jr. and former Altria Group Chairman and CEO Martin J. Barrington. They promise that the project, which will rely primarily on more than $900 million in private investment, will carry no financial risk for city taxpayers.
Under the proposal, the city’s share would be funded by $350 million in nonrecourse bonds. It’s projected that revenues from a Navy Hill special tax district would pay back the bonds and produce an additional $1 billion in surplus revenues. Stoney has pledged that 50% of the surplus would go toward modernizing city public schools, with the rest funding affordable housing, neighborhood infrastructure and the arts.
Skeptics, however, say the project sounds too good to be true, especially given past economic development boondoggles such as the now-defunct 6th Street Marketplace shopping center and the Washington Redskins Training Camp.
“I think there’s some concerns around [the city’s] ability to manage large projects … and we cannot afford to waste any of our precious tax dollars,” City Councilwoman Kimberly Gray says. “It’s 6th Street, it’s Redskins — it’s a lot of these big projects that the taxpayer ends up holding the bag and closing the gap and footing the bill.”
Before voting on the project, City Council will hear from a commission anticipated to be appointed this month to study the proposal.2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/Hopkins_6.pngRichard Woods was hired after completing the boot camp conceived by Debby Hopkins. Photo by Norm Shafer
Hershey boot camp gives new workers taste of success
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/hershey-boot-camp-gives-new-workers-taste-of-success#When:04:00:00ZAt 20, Dalton Branch felt he wasn’t reaching his potential waiting tables at Applebee’s, so when a friend told him how much he had enjoyed The Hershey Co.’s boot camp at the Stuarts Draft plant, Branch thought he would give it a try.
“The classes were great life lessons,” says the Waynesboro High School graduate, now a temporary worker at the chocolate maker’s production line in Stuarts Draft.
Hershey’s boot camp is the brainchild of Debby Hopkins, chief workforce officer and program director at the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board, which provides workforce services to prepare production workers for their new jobs.
“We give students examples of things that have happened that led to terminations and how to avoid them, and what specific behaviors will lead to a successful career at Hershey,” Hopkins says.
During two weeks of instruction this summer, Branch learned everything from how to operate power equipment to how to balance his budget. “I realized it would allow me to have a better lifestyle for myself and potentially give me a career in manufacturing,” he says.
The boot camp, which started last year with 11 participants, targets recent high school graduates and people who are underemployed, want to make a job change or have disabilities. Hopkins hopes to expand the program to other businesses.
Participants are hired and paid through the plant’s temporary labor contractor, System One. Graduates are first in line for full-time jobs, and seven people from the first boot camp in 2018 are now full-time workers at Hershey. From this year’s class in June, 24 out of 30 are still employed by System One.
“We wanted to find the best sources for our labor pool,” says Karen Van Curen, senior human resources manager for Hershey’s Stuarts Draft plant, and the company has embraced the program as it plans a major expansion in Stuarts Draft next year.
Right now, the local workforce is at 1,100 after 212 employees were hired in 2018. And the $104 million Reese’s Peanut Roasting Center of Excellence, Hershey’s advanced, high-tech peanut-roasting facility, is expected to come online around October 2020, creating 65 jobs, with the possibility of adding more later.
“Boot camp helped us realize there is a gap between a person who has been in manufacturing and one who hasn’t,” says Van Curen. “It’s quite a learning curve, and boot camp can soften that.”2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/761Workforce-Sept2019-.pngShawn Avery and William Mann collaborating on regional workforce development. Photo by Mark Rhodes
Groups partner to build world-class workforce
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/groups-partner-to-build-world-class-workforce#When:04:00:00ZBusiness leaders across eastern Virginia are demonstrating how cooperation can bridge skills gaps between the current workforce and job openings in local industries.
After forming the Southeastern Virginia Regional Workforce Collaborative last fall, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council and the Greater Peninsula Workforce Board funded a report this year on the region’s workforce demographics, the supply-demand gap in work skills and a workforce strategy to improve the talent pipeline.
Delivered in June, the Talent Alignment Strategy report notes that the region has a labor shortage and is operating at close to full employment, echoing the national employment rate. As a result, the gain of 30,000 jobs over the past five years has outpaced growth in the working-age population of 9,600 people. Information technology is at the top of the industries seeking qualified employees.
The report notes that a single regional talent development strategy “will be key to Hampton Roads’ ability to create a robust workforce and world-class talent development system.”
Serving approximately 4,500 businesses and employers, the new regional collaborative is working with local school systems, community colleges, technical schools, apprentice programs and four-year colleges and universities to identify needed skillsets and develop programs to meet those needs.
It’s also working to address regional labor shortages, especially in high-growth fields such as shipbuilding and ship repair, health care, information technology and hospitality.
Additionally, the collaborative will work to encourage military veterans to remain in Hampton Roads and to convince millennials that the region’s employment opportunities, lifestyle and other amenities are on par with areas such as Charlotte, North Carolina, and Northern Virginia. “Young people look for a certain style and quality of life,” says William Mann, executive director of the Greater Peninsula Workforce Board. “We have to work really hard to make the case for millennials that this is the place to stay.”
In a region long plagued by fragmentation, the collaborative also seeks to be a template for the formation of other alliances. “We’re probably setting a really good example for how other organizations in the area might consider working together,” Mann adds.
“We’re speaking with one voice when meeting the needs of the business community in Hampton Roads,” says Shawn Avery, president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council. “It shows we’re unified when it comes to workforce development for businesses looking to come into our area.”2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00
People - September 2019
Clark Simpson is Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer’s new vice president in the Capital Markets Group, which specializes in multifamily and retail investment properties. He is based in Virginia Beach and most recently owned Commonwealth Property Group, a brokerage and management company he started in Norfolk and sold to SlateHouse Group LLC. (Press release)
Suffolk-based TowneBank has tapped former SunTrust Bank executive Charity Volman to head up its newly created Corporate Banking Group in Norfolk. Volman most recently served as president of SunTrust’s South Hampton Roads market and has more than 29 years of experience in the banking industry. She brings three members of her SunTrust team to TowneBank’s new department: executive vice president Karen Priest and senior vice presidents Laura Morgan and Brian Woodell. (VirginiaBusiness.com)
Mark Showers has been named Frederick County’s new fire marshal after serving as the department’s interim head since March, after the retirement of John Bauserman. During his career, Showers has worked in the Fire Marshal’s Office and the Frederick County Fire and Rescue Department and graduated from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Accelerant Canine Program. He and his trained dog, Walker, have responded to about 300 calls. (The Winchester Star)
Andrew LaGala has been named director of Lynchburg Regional Airport. He will succeed retiring director Mark Courtney on Nov. 1. LaGala has served as deputy director. (News & Advance)
John Lecci has been named a senior director of professional liability at Glen Allen-based Markel Corp. He heads the company’s New York-based U.S. Professional Errors & Omissions team. Lecci formerly worked for Axis. (News release)
Allison Mays, vice chair of the Washington County Board of Supervisors, has been selected to participate in the National Association of Counties’ Economic Mobility Leadership Network, a program sponsored by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The group will meet three times this year in Oregon, Minnesota and Maryland to discuss successful policies that improve residents’ quality of life. (Washington County News)
Virginia Tech faculty members Daniel Slade, assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Scott Verbridge, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics at the College of Engineering, received a $358,627 award from the National Institutes of Health to study how an oral bacterium is involved in the proliferation of colorectal cancer, the second most common form of cancer in the world. (News release)
Virginia Tech faculty members Daniel Slade, assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Scott Verbridge, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics at the College of Engineering, received a $358,627 award from the National Institutes of Health to study how an oral bacterium is involved in the proliferation of colorectal cancer, the second most common form of cancer in the world. (News release)
Richmond native Jeffrey Sadler has been hired as the new housing and revitalization coordinator for the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. Sadler formerly worked as associate director of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Community Revitalization Office. Funding for the position will be supported by The Harvest Foundation, which has worked since December 2018 to convene stakeholders and other officials in a community conversation about housing. (VirginiaBusiness.com)
Wendi Craig has been named general manager of the Martinsville Bulletin. Craig had worked for the newspaper for 19 years before joining Virginia Media Inc., a subsidiary of Mountain Media LLC of West Virginia, in 2016. (Martinsville Bulletin)
Joseph M. Zehner has stepped down as president of Putney Mechanical Co. Inc. in Farmville after 45 years with the HVAC firm. He has sold his interest in the company, leaving W. Parker Terry Jr. as sole owner. The company was founded by S. Waverly Putney Jr., Zehner’s father-in-law. (The Farmville Herald)2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00
For the Record - September 2019
Newport News-based Huntington Ingalls Industries has agreed to pay $159,050 in back wages and interest to settle allegations of hiring discrimination at its Gulf Coast shipyard. The allegations that Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi, discriminated against 80 black applicants for helper/laborer positions date from November 2011 through October 2012. In the settlement agreement, the company did not admit wrongdoing, nor has it been found in violation of federal law. (The Virginian-Pilot)
Norfolk-based Meredith Construction is leading a proposal for a large development in the Lamberts Point area of Norfolk featuring a bowling alley, brewery, restaurants, and retail and office space. Five buildings on the western side of Hampton Boulevard between West 24th and West 26th streets would be renovated, and five more would be built for the project. Meredith has owned the property for almost 40 years, CEO Peter Meredith says, and negotiations with tenants are underway. The project is expected to be completed and open in the fourth quarter of 2020 at the earliest. (The Virginian-Pilot)
What might be the last video rental store of its size on the East Coast is set to close. The Naro Expanded Video Archival Library, an institution in Norfolk’s Ghent neighborhood, announced it was closing in August. The store converted from a business to a nonprofit in 2016, relying on fundraisers like one on Kickstarter in 2017 that raised $45,288, which kept its doors open another two years. Other efforts didn’t raise enough money, the board of directors said. So far, the plans are to keep the video collection intact and available to the public, ideally at an academic or cultural organization. (The Virginian-Pilot)
Describing the upgraded Port of Virginia as the “most modern, efficient and most productive in the Western Hemisphere,” state officials, port executives and Gov. Ralph Northam announced the completed $320 million expansion of the port’s Virginia International Gateway (VIG) facility in Portsmouth. It now has the largest cranes on the East Coast, plus an 800-foot expansion of the berth to accommodate as many as three ultra-large vessels at once. The port system’s overall goal is to expand capacity at VIG and the Norfolk International Terminals by more than 40% in the next year. (VirginiaBusiness.com)
Three Hampton Roads defense contractors — Chesapeake-based Prism Maritime LLC, Virginia Beach’s VT Milcom and Fleet Support Group LLC, a unit of Hun­­­­­tington Ingalls Industries in Virginia Beach — are among six companies that will share in a $2.45 billion contract for high-tech Navy systems that could provide work for the next 10 years. The other three firms are in Fairfax County, and work is expected to be finished by 2024, although it could be extended to 2029. (Daily Press)
Amid a vast embezzlement scandal, the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority is running more than eight months late with its fiscal year 2018 audit. The EDA’s executive director, Douglas Parson, said that a study by Cherry Bekaert, the firm investigating the authority’s finances, didn’t provide everything they need to complete the audit, which is usually presented in January. In the meantime, the EDA’s accountant and bookkeeper are working with an auditing firm, but results may not be in until October or November, Parson said. (Northern Virginia Daily)
The Graham Packaging Co. facility in Harrisonburg is closing its doors Sept. 4, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. The plastics production business plans to lay off 115 employees. In 2004, when Owens Brockway Plastics in Harrisonburg was sold to Graham Packaging with 30 other manufacturing facilities, the plant employed 419 people. (Daily News-Record)
Members of the Harrisonburg Electric Commission say they’re going to continue discussing solar power, which has seen rapid expansion locally. Customers who install solar panels receive credits on their energy bills, despite recent concerns that future solar users wouldn’t reap the same benefits beginning in 2020. But commissioners say they plan to discuss more ways for the utility’s customers to use renewable energy at their Sept. 24 meeting. (The Citizen)
The Supreme Court of Virginia overruled the Circuit Court of Augusta County’s decision to uphold the county’s property-tax assessments against the McKee Foods Corp. location in Stuarts Draft. The state’s high court said the county’s assessor failed to adjust the property’s value for depreciation when it assessed the plant at $28.5 million for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 tax years and at $31.7 million for the 2014 tax year. McKee argued the assessment should have been closer to $15.1 million. The county will seek a new trial. (The News Leader)
A new store in downtown Staunton, Nature’s Bliss, sells hemp-derived CBD oil, made legal under the 2018 Farm Bill. Previously, hemp was considered a Schedule 1 drug because it was in the same family as marijuana, despite the fact that hemp isn’t intoxicating. As of July 1 in Virginia, anyone selling CBD products must register with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. (The News Leader)
Money constraints have delayed the opening of the Staunton Innovation Hub from this summer to 2020. The co-working project received a $25,000 Virginia Main Street grant, shared with the Staunton Downtown Development Association, for an Innovation Hub square. Peter and Alison Denbigh, local entrepreneurs, purchased two buildings in December 2017 for $840,000 for the project, which will offer classes, seminars and office space, as well as co-working areas. (The News Leader)
In July, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority finalized buying approximately 40 acres in Hanover County for a new headquarters and distribution center. ABC purchased the property from Riverstone Properties, the real estate arm of Richmond businessman William H. Goodwin Jr.’s Riverstone Group. The state liquor monopoly plans to leave its current nerve center in 2021, a move that will make room for Virginia Commonwealth University to acquire the state property off Arthur Ashe Boulevard and potentially partner with the Richmond Flying Squirrels to build a new baseball stadium. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Atlanta’s loss is Richmond’s gain, as real estate research firm CoStar Group is shifting dozens of jobs from one capital city to another. The Washington, D.C.-based company is adding 100 jobs to its Richmond office as a result of changes at its Apartments.com unit, which it purchased in 2014. CoStar plans to cut 173 employees from Apartment.com’s Atlanta home base, according to a WARN notice filed with the Georgia Department of Labor. The move to add 100 multifamily sales jobs to CoStar’s Richmond division would bring its local employee headcount to 950, the company said. (Richmond BizSense)
Dominion Energy Virginia has announced plans to spend about $33 million to build four electric power battery storage projects at three sites in Central Virginia. The pilot projects, totaling 16 megawatts, would be the utility’s first use of battery storage technology. Dominion executives said that the projects will test different applications for battery storage, which is increasingly seen as a way to improve the resiliency of the electrical grid and better integrate renewables such as wind and solar. (The Associated Press)
LeClairRyan, once the state’s fifth-largest law firm, announced in early August that it was shutting down after 31 years. By the time of the announcement, several LeClairRyan attorneys had already exited for other firms, led by the departure of co-founder, name partner and former CEO Gary LeClair, who joined Williams Mullen. The firm’s gross revenues have declined from $163 million in 2015 to $122.5 million last year. Its staff has also decreased from a peak of more than 350 attorneys to fewer than 190 attorneys. (VirginiaBusiness.com)
Texas-based True Health Diagnostics LLC, a blood-testing company operating a laboratory formerly run by the now-defunct Health Diagnostic Laboratory, has filed for bankruptcy protection and has laid off some of its employees in downtown Richmond. The company warned that it may be forced to close its operations entirely. True Health said the job reductions were necessary because the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has suspended all Medicare payments to the company, according to a letter sent to the Virginia Employment Commission’s rapid response unit and the Richmond mayor’s office. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
The real estate company Joyner Fine Properties has been acquired by Virginia Credit Union. The Henrico County-based real estate firm, which has been in business since 1973, will keep its name, brand and employees, but it becomes part of the largest state-chartered, member-owned financial cooperative in the state. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Appalachia Town Manager Fred Luntsford presented a proposal to extend the Wise County town’s boundary to the foot of the Powell River Trail, which would include the former Bullitt mine site and other areas that could be used for future economic and recreational development. The town already maintains the area, but the land lies outside its corporate limits, Luntsford said. Penn Virginia, a land-holding company, owns some of the property. The town would need approval from the Wise County Board of Supervisors to expand its boundaries. (The Coalfield Progress)
In a three-day auction of properties owned by bankrupt coal producer Blackjewel LLC, Kopper Glo Mining LLC bid successfully on Black Mountain and Lone Mountain mines on the Kentucky/Virginia border, including part of Wise County. Kopper Glo will pay $7.55 million in cash, as well as royalties with a net present value of $9.1 million, while Coking Coal LLC bid $50,000 in cash and royalties of $2.41 million for Wise’s Pardee Mine. Bristol, Tennessee-based Contura Energy bid $33.75 million for two mines in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin — which it sold to Blackjewel in 2017 — and the Pax Surface mine in West Virginia. (Bristol Herald-Courier)
Bristol is no longer on the Virginia comptroller’s list of most fiscally distressed localities, which the city topped in 2017 because of its high level of debt and problems with its solid waste landfill. A new report, released in June, shows steps that city leaders and the state took have succeeded, with improved grades in 12 ratios used to determine Bristol’s financial position and fiscal strength. In the past two years, the city has limited borrowing and spending, set up reserve accounts, increased cash on hand and no longer borrows money to pay bills between real-estate tax collections. (Bristol Herald-Courier)
A $500,000 grant is funding Southwest Virginia’s first large-scale solar project, which is projected to generate more than 3 megawatts of clean energy for the Mineral Gap Data Center, operated by DP Facilities Inc. on 22 acres in Wise County. The county’s Industrial Development Authority won the grant from the Abandoned Mine Land Pilot Program, which is supported by federal dollars and administered by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. The solar farm, located next to the data center in the Lonesome Pine Regional Business and Technology Park, will be installed by Charlottesville-based Sun Tribe Solar. (Bristol Herald-Courier)
When it comes to horses, Greg Dutton of McClure knows a lot about them and what it takes to get them moving. His new business, Misty Mountain Bit LLC, is already selling the bits he makes globally. Dutton sells his products from a mobile trailer he takes to various horse shows. Misty Mountain Bit, currently the only company selling U.S.-made gaited horse bits, was recently approved for a $10,000 seed capital matching grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority. The business was established in February when Dutton purchased the equipment and inventory of Grissom Bits. (The Dickenson Star)
The Cumberland Forest Project, run by The Nature Conservancy, has acquired surface rights to 153,000 acres of forest in far Southwest Virginia known as Highlands-Lonesome Pine. Most of the acreage falls in Dickenson County, and county officials have met with the conservancy’s Clinch Valley program director to find out what the acquisition will mean locally. According to county administrator David Moore, timbering will continue on the land, along with the planting of replacement trees. The property was acquired from an investment fund managed by The Forestland Group. (The Dickenson Star)
Wise County has put in a request that the Pound River be designated as a Virginia Scenic River, following the lead of Dickenson County, which also requested the designation by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. Both sides of the river have now been assessed, and if the Pound is recommended as a Virginia Scenic River, the Dickenson County Chamber will ask a local legislator to present it during the 2020 General Assembly session. (The Coalfield Progress)
As former Blackjewel employees contend with lost jobs and bounced paychecks, a former coal executive has donated $250,000 to the Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board to assist 125 workers who have signed up with the Virginia Employment Commission. Each family will receive $2,000 from the Richard and Leslie Gilliam Foundation, which is also assisting miners in Kentucky. Blackjewel filed for Chapter 11 protection July 1 in a West Virginia bankruptcy court, but the company’s last payments to employees in late June bounced. (The Coalfield Progress)
Norton’s Sugar Hill Cidery had a soft opening in August, on land owned by the Norton Industrial Development Authority. The business, owned by Greg and Jennifer Bailey, occupies the front of the property, with the city’s farmers market operating from the back. The Baileys expect to employ six full-time and 24 part-time workers in the cidery, which will include a restaurant and sell its own craft beers. Norton received a community development block grant for downtown revitalization that includes the construction of an area for outdoor seating and a fire pit. (The Coalfield Progress)
Richmond Fed President Tom Barkin visited Abingdon in August to discuss educational and workforce development opportunities with Southwest Virginia leaders. Ignite, United Way of Southwest Virginia’s initiative to prepare young people for the workforce, connected 38 students to internship opportunities with local employers this summer. Fewer than half of high school graduates in the region move on to college, military or technical training, according to Travis Staton, president and CEO of the United Way of Southwest Virginia. That is a big concern, Barkin said, as is the growing skills gap in Virginia’s labor market. (News release)
LewisGale Medical Center in Salem opened its new helipad in August, a $3 million project that took 16 months for Charles Perry Partners Inc. to complete. The rooftop helipad includes a three-story elevator shaft with access to the emergency room, operating room and another floor with office and storage space. Flights by medical helicopters are expected to increase, officials say. (WSLS 10 News)
The owner of the Marketplace shopping center in Christiansburg has requested a permit for a farmers market, according to town documents. Developer Walt Rector took over the site — across North Franklin Street from the New River Valley Mall — and is in the midst of giving the property a significant overhaul. The Marketplace’s request has no affiliation with the farmers market that the town of Christiansburg has operated since 2015 on Hickok Street, town officials said. (The Roanoke Times)
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality ordered work to cease on a 2-mile section of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in eastern Montgomery County, but a citizens group monitoring construction said that DEQ’s action doesn’t go far enough. Mountain Valley Watch members called again for a full stop-work order on the entire 301-mile natural gas pipeline project. DEQ inspectors found an imminent and substantial risk to water quality on the site near U.S. 11/U.S. 460, requiring work to stop until the problems are corrected. (The Roanoke Times)
Roanoke College will be able to move forward with a series of campus upgrades, thanks to a $250,000 grant from the Richmond-based Cabell Foundation and from other donors. The grant came with a challenge that the school raise an equal amount in matching gifts, which the college recently met. Projects include classroom renovations and new technology, a humanities center at the Fintel Library and updating the Bast Center’s lobby and fitness studio space. (The Roanoke Times)
Sears is closing its store in late October at Roanoke’s Valley View Mall, where it is an anchor tenant. The Sears auto center at the mall was set to close in late August, according to a news release from Transform Holdco LLC, which acquired some Sears and Kmart stores when Sears Holding Corp. filed for bankruptcy. The Roanoke store is one of 26 locations closing this fall, but it is the only one in Virginia so far. It’s unclear how many local employees will be affected. (The Roanoke Times)
The Virginia Tech Foundation is awaiting approval from the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors on $104.1 million in requested bonds, which would be among the county Economic Development Authority’s largest bond issuances since 2000. The bonds would fund properties the foundation plans to build, mostly in Roanoke and Blacksburg, including buildings proposed for the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. However, the county is expected to earn only $141,461 in annual real estate tax revenue from the foundation’s Blacksburg properties because the foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt entity. (The Roanoke Times)
Amazon continues to dominate real estate around Arlington and other Northern Virginia localities, as its plans for the $5 billion HQ2 East Coast headquarters move forward. Maryland-based developer JBG Smith Properties has submitted plans to Arlington County to add nearly 1,000 more housing units in its RiverHouse community at the edge of National Landing, where two 16-floor apartment buildings stand. The new buildings would have 750 rental units, ranging in size from studios to three-bedroom units, according to JBG Smith, plus a central courtyard and about 30,000 square feet of retail space at street level, including a potential daycare center and medical office. (VirginiaBusiness.com)
Amazon Web Services has inked a deal to lease a 270,000-square-foot office building in Herndon, owned by Griffin Capital Essential REIT Inc., according to multiple sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. The building, known as South Lake at Dulles Corner, is about 2 miles from One Dulles Tower, which AWS also leased in full. Griffin, based in California, disclosed the lease to a Fortune 100 company in a news release but did not identify the tenant. (Washington Business Journal)
Capital One, the McLean-based bank with a popular credit card business, announced in July that a hacker stole about 100 million credit card applications. A criminal complaint against a Seattle computer programmer, Paige Thompson, says that 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 bank account numbers also were exposed. She was a systems engineer at Amazon Web Services for a year and a half until fall 2016, according to an online résumé. The hack appears to be one of the largest data breaches ever to hit a financial services firm. (The Washington Post)
Tysons-based Gannett Co. Inc. was acquired for $1.4 billion by GateHouse Media LLC, creating the largest newspaper group in the country, both by titles owned and circulation. Together, the companies own 265 daily papers — including Gannett flagship publication USA Today in Tysons — with a combined circulation of 8.7 million, as well as hundreds of weekly and community papers. The new company will retain the Gannett name, and its assets include The News Leader in Staunton, Virginia Lawyers Weekly in Richmond and The Progress-Index of Petersburg. (VirginiaBusiness.com and The Washington Post)
Loudoun County supervisors approved a $2 billion industrial center in Leesburg, adding to the county’s cluster of data centers. The 95-acre Loudoun West is set for the east side of Sycolin Road, north of the Dulles Greenway and south of Cochran Mill Road. Among the changes to the initial proposal, Leesburg-based NuVu Real Estate has increased the total area of tree conservation area around the perimeter of the property from 575,000 square feet to 651,000 square feet, an increase of 1.74 acres, and modified its commitments to transportation improvements. (Loudoun Times-Mirror)
The e-commerce and technology company Amazon has announced plans for a solar farm in Pittsylvania County. The farm, which is projected to begin producing energy sometime in 2020, will produce 45 megawatts of renewable energy capacity, which translates to roughly 100,000 megawatt hours every year. The energy produced will be used to power Amazon Web Services data centers, according to the announcement. (Danville Register & Bee)
Through the first half of 2019, the economy of Halifax County has expanded by nearly 500 jobs even as the official unemployment rate has bounced around the 4% mark. In June, the local jobless rate climbed to 4.3%, up from 4% in May, as the active labor force grew at a rate faster than new jobs were created. Notwithstanding those trends, however, Halifax County has seen an upswing in jobs since the beginning of the year, with 14,995 employed workers as of June. In January, that figure stood at 14,502. (SoVaNow.com)
The Harvest Foundation is expanding its economic development efforts with an incentive pool to fund projects in Henry County and the city of Martinsville. Its initial $5 million infusion will be used as grants in Henry County and Martinsville on a case-by-case basis for economic development initiatives, such as creating new industries and jobs and expanding existing businesses. “The demand is rising for higher-paying, living-wage careers in Martinsville and Henry County,” Allyson Rothrock, president of The Harvest Foundation, said in a statement. “Our community members are increasingly better-educated and acquiring additional skill sets that support the growth of advanced manufacturing and highly technical trades.” (Martinsville Bulletin)
Pittsylvania County is the tobacco capital of Virginia, with no other county coming close in terms of production. Production in Pittsylvania County and throughout the United States, however, is on a significant decline while profit margins grow thinner and thinner. According to a March report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service and the United States Department of Agriculture, Virginia farmers across the state intended to set 17,000 acres of flue-cured tobacco, which is a nearly 20% decrease from the previous year. (Danville Register & Bee)
The Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in July to approve a strategic plan to help guide the county. The plan is a map or timeline for ways leaders can improve the county in four main categories: economic development, financial stability, strategic partnerships with education providers and citizen engagement. (Danville Register & Bee)2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/Dr.-Ruth-Harris-Virginia-CPA_%C2%A9_Caroline_Martin_Photography-2.pngRetired VUU professor Ruth Harris became Virginia’s first black female CPA in 1962. Photo by Caroline Martin
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/breaking-ground#When:04:00:00ZRuth Coles Harris was born in Charlottesville in 1928, in the thick of the Jim Crow era. Throughout the commonwealth, government services were segregated and unequal. In 1926, Charlottesville joined a handful of Virginia communities that provided high schools for African American students.
Before then, black families in the Charlottesville area had to send their children elsewhere to gain an education beyond the eighth grade. As a result, both of Harris’ parents attended boarding schools at their families’ expense. With their parents’ encouragement, Harris and two of her sisters — the great-granddaughters of slaves — all pursued higher education. Two of them, Harris and her older sister, Bernadine Coles Gines, would become the first black, female certified public accountants in their respective states.
Harris holds a bachelor’s degree from Virginia State University, a master’s from New York University and a doctorate from William & Mary.
In 1962, she became the first African American woman to earn a CPA license in Virginia. At the time, there were fewer than 100 black CPAs in the nation. Harris’ landmark achievement, however, is only part of her legacy.
For 48 years, she was a professor at Virginia Union University in Richmond, where she served as the first director of the Sydney Lewis School of Business. Harris sat for the CPA Exam 57 years ago because she encouraged her students to take the test. She knew her words would carry more weight if she, too, was a CPA. After passing the exam, she worked part time as an accountant in addition to teaching at VUU.
The Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA) honored her achievements by creating the Ruth Coles Harris Advancing Diversity & Inclusion Award and naming her its first recipient in May.
The award recognizes VSCPA members who “have made significant strides in advancing and championing diversity in the accounting profession,” says Stephanie Peters, the VSCPA’s executive director.
“Dr. Harris was selected as the inaugural recipient of the award, and given her tremendous impact, we couldn’t think of a better way to honor her and her legacy than naming the award after her,” Peters says. “She broke barriers for African Americans in the profession and then spent her career pushing her students to follow in her footsteps. Naming the award after her ensures she will continue to inspire others for years to come.”
Harris has received many honors over the years, including being named by the Library of Virginia in 2015 to its list of Virginia Women in History.
Virginia Business spoke with Harris, who turns 91 in September, about her life and work, the changes she has seen and her hopes for younger generations.
Virginia Business: Can you tell me a little about what Char­lottesville was like when you were growing up?
Harris: It was that city where you did not have a lot of [African American] professionals, and as a result of that, I really was not acquainted with many professions. I knew that there were dentists and physicians. I had never seen a black lawyer. We didn’t have any in Charlottesville at that time. They were teachers; they were clergy. Basically, those were the professions that I was acquainted with.
Now, most children see all kinds of professionals. They’ll see a fireman or a policeman that they can identify with. They’ll see a scientist, they’ll see all sorts of people, and they’ll say, “I think that’s what I want to be when I grow up.” Well, I couldn’t say I wanted to be an accountant when I grew up, because I’d never heard of an accountant. My great-grandparents were slaves. My grandfather worked as a janitor in one of the frat houses at the University of Virginia, and one of the fraternity brothers gave him an old manual typewriter, and he gave it to us. My mother was a schoolteacher, and my father was a dentist.
I had two sisters. Well, actually I had three, but one died as a child. I was the valedictorian of my class in elementary school, high school and college, as were my two sisters. Our parents were really sold on education, as you might guess. I looked around and saw what people were doing and, on my street, you had a family who took in laundry, and that’s how they made a living. I said, “I don’t want to do that.”
I knew I needed more education to do what I wanted to do, and I could understand why they didn’t have education, because many people couldn’t afford to send their children away to high school. Many of them didn’t have more than a fourth- to eighth-grade education themselves. That’s what Charlottesville was like when I was growing up.
VB: What did you study at ­Virginia State?
Harris: My sister was a business administration major, and that appealed to me, so I registered for that, and I was glad I did, but I didn’t know anything about accounting still.
All business majors had to take an introductory course in accounting, and it was my favorite subject. I could just stay up all night working.
VB: Why did you like it so much?
Harris: I like dealing with figures, for one thing, and in those days, you had to do a manual practice set. So, you had a whole set of books, and you’d be given all these transactions. Then you had to record them and just go all the way through the process to making the financial statements, and everything had to balance.
I just couldn’t go to bed until I made my own balance. I had to find all the errors. To me it was not a chore. I just enjoyed doing it because I knew everything had to balance, and then that was the challenge — to make sure that it did.
VB: So, you received a degree in accounting in 1948?
Harris: No. There were no accounting majors in any of the HBCUs [historically black colleges and universities such as Virginia State], because there were no opportunities in the field of accounting [for black people].
In order to be a CPA, you had to have two years’ experience in public accounting, and you couldn’t get the experience. Nobody would hire you. Business administration was the major that most of the schools had.
We only had one accounting professor [at Virginia State]. Those of us who loved accounting, and there [were] only about six of us in the class, we took advanced accounting as an elective.
[The accounting professor, Dr. George Singleton] always told us that we should follow our dreams. He said it may not be in his lifetime, but at some point in time, he said, the door of opportunity is going to open. You have to be prepared so when the door opens, you’ll be ready to walk through. He drilled that in your head.
He was the fifth black graduate from the school of business at NYU. He encouraged us to go to NYU. He had done the same thing for my sister’s class, and she went to NYU, so then I had two reasons to want to go. [Editor’s note: To avoid integrating its state universities, Virginia at the time provided scholarships to help African American students pursue graduate degrees in other states.]
Two of us decided that we would go to NYU and major in accounting, so we did. Near the end of my time at NYU, I had almost finished my requirements for my degree, and I was wondering, “What am I going to do next?” My sister wanted me to stay in New York and study for the CPA exam with her. I hated New York. I wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. I just wanted to come back to Virginia, but I had no idea what I would do when I came back.
Dr. John Ellison, who was president of Virginia Union then, sent me a telegram. He said that I had been highly recommended for a teaching position at Virginia Union, and he was going to be in New York. He said he would like to come by and interview me for this position if I was interested.
I had nothing else. I had never thought about teaching. I said, “Well, I can’t go be an accountant, so I’ll go teach.” He made the offer, and I accepted the job. That’s how I got to Virginia Union.
There were several reasons why I wanted to accept that position. One, I didn’t have anything else to do. Two, I wanted to be back in Virginia, and three, he was not my husband then, but my husband and I had started at Virginia State the same year. At the end of our freshman year, he was drafted into the Army and when he came back, I was a senior. I started teaching at Virginia Union in September ’49, and we got married Sept. 2, 1950.
VB: You graduated with your master’s in 1949, but you couldn’t actually become an accountant because you were African American?
Harris: None of the firms would hire African Americans so they could get their two years’ experience. There were no black firms. There was one person who lived in New Hampshire, and he was very fair-skinned. He applied to take the CPA exam, and they didn’t have a question on the application that asked what race you were. He was so afraid somebody would find out and then they would put him out of the exam, but they never found out and he passed the exam.
I still figured, “Well, OK, one of these days it’ll change,” and it did.
VB: Why did you decide to take your CPA exam while teaching at Virginia Union?
Harris: Well, several reasons. No. 1, I still had not given up my dream of practicing public accounting. Then, I couldn’t ask my students to do something that I wasn’t willing to do, and I knew the pass rate was very low.
I’ve got to go take this exam and pass it so that [my students] will believe that they can pass, and because they will see somebody who has done it. I was encouraged when my sister passed it. She was the first black, female CPA in the state of New York. When she did that, I said, “If she could do it, I should be able to do it.”
VB: What was the preparation and testing process like?
Harris: I never took time away from my family to study for it. I would wait until they all went to bed at night, and then I would start studying. Sometimes I would study until 2 o’clock in the morning and then I’d go to bed, but I was always behind my desk at 8 o’clock in the morning. I took the exam in Richmond in May 1962, and I passed all except one part.
In November ’62, that part was given in Virginia Beach, and [because of segregation], I knew I could not stay in the hotels in Virginia Beach. The Virginia Board of Accountancy sent everybody a letter, and they sent you a list of the names of the motels or hotels and said, “Check where you want to stay, and we’ll make the reservations.”
Well, I sat and looked at that letter for a couple of days, and I said, “I don’t mind fighting a civil rights battle, but I’m really going to Virginia Beach to try to pass this examination, and then I’ll fight some more civil rights battles.”
I didn’t know anything about Virginia Beach, and I knew Norfolk was the closest city, and I didn’t know anything about Norfolk. I had to ask around to all my friends, “Do you know anybody in Norfolk?”
Finally, somebody told me about a hotel where I could stay in Norfolk. It was a black-owned hotel. I went there, and of course, I had to drive over to Virginia Beach in the morning.
In the midst of the examination, each member of the state board came by individually to apologize, and I was really upset with them because you need every minute to work on that exam, and I did not want them taking my time away from solving my problems to apologize to me.
VB: What was the bigger barrier — being a woman, or being African American?
Harris: The biggest barrier was being African American, because if you were white and you were a woman, I would think that you just didn’t get into the profession because you didn’t want to be there. I mean, there were no rules or regulations that kept you out, but it just wasn’t a profession that you found women in.
I noticed that at the college level, the students that I taught, there were a few men who were excelling, but most of the better students were female — which brings me to what a problem we [had] with trying to get employment for them. We tried to get internships. We couldn’t. We had to send one student to Northern California.
Most of the Big Eight accounting firms in the 1970s and ’80s were represented here in Richmond. I would call them and try to get some internships for my students, and they would tell me that their offices were so small that they just couldn’t hire them. At the same time, my friends over at VCU would tell me that practically all of their students were going to these same firms, and they were getting internships.
You have to get accustomed to people being rude. The IRS wanted me to send in some of the better students. I think I sent them about five or six to interview.
I said, “How did the students perform? First of all, did you make any offers?” The recruiter said, “No, I couldn’t make any job offers but there were some really good students.” I said, “Well, why couldn’t you make somebody an offer if they were all really good? I think they’re good, too. I only sent you the best that we had.”
He said to me, “I wish I could have hired some of your students. In the Internal Revenue Service, the people have to travel. We didn’t think that white women would want their husbands traveling with black women.” I thought that was insulting.
VB: What’s your view now in 2019 about the profession, in terms of diversity?
Harris: We’ve come a long way. I couldn’t even have dreamed of being a partner in a Big Four firm. Although I couldn’t do it, I just feel so good about the accomplishments of my former students. One of them is a vice president at Dominion Energy. She has done exceptionally well. One of my former students was the first African American to become a senior vice president at [Sovran Bank, now Bank of America].
VB: What else would you like to see for your great-grandkids’ or your children’s generations?
Harris: Actually, the biggest thing is, give them an opportunity. Not special privileges, but just look at them as people. Give everybody an equal chance.2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00
Followups - September 2019
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/followups-september-2019#When:04:00:00ZOrganizers drop plans for new Virginia bank
Two executives who were trying to create a new Northern Virginia bank instead have joined Tysons-based Old Dominion National Bank.
Old Dominion announced in early August that Melinda McClure has been named its executive vice president and chief strategy officer while Richard D. Horn will become executive vice president and general counsel.
McClure was chairman and CEO and Horn was chief operating officer and general counsel of McLean-based VisionBank, a financial institution that was in organization.
VisionBank has withdrawn previously submitted applications to bank regulators to become a Virginia-chartered commercial bank. Industry observers had expected it to become the first new bank formed in Virginia in a decade.
VisionBank’s organization plans were mentioned in a February story exploring the lack of new banks in Virginia.
Veterans program exceeds hiring goal
More than 50,000 military veterans have been hired through the commonwealth’s Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program since its inception seven years ago, the governor’s office announced in August.
Begun as a pilot program in 2012 and made a permanent project the next year, V3 encourages the employment of veterans by helping employers develop best practices for recruiting, hiring and retaining former members of the military.
More than 900 businesses, federal agencies, educational institutions and government agencies in Virginia are V3-certified employers.
Virginia Business has tracked the development of V3 and other veterans employment programs in its July issue during the past four years.
CORRECTION: The August 2019 article “Back to the future?” misstated the net worth of Michael Bills, who is a multimillionaire and the founder and chief investment officer of Charlottesville-based Bluestem Asset Management LLC.2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/NVIEW_AP_VBshooting.pngA May 31 shooting by a disgruntled employee took the lives of 12 people at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. AP Photo
Fifty-six minutes in America
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/opinion/article/fifty-six-minutes-in-america#When:04:00:00ZOn May 31, a disgruntled Virginia Beach public utilities engineer went on a shooting rampage through a city municipal building. Over 36 minutes, he killed 11 city workers and a contractor and wounded four others, including a police officer, before he was fatally wounded in a gunfight with police.
On Aug. 3, a white nationalist shot and killed 22 people and wounded 24 more at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart during a 20-minute massacre aimed against immigrants.
About 14 hours later, on Aug. 4, yet another armed and angry young man gunned down 10 people, including his own sister, and wounded 14 others outside a Dayton, Ohio, bar. That attack lasted 30 seconds.
It took 90 minutes — more time than all of these shootings combined — for the Republican-majority Virginia General Assembly to adjourn its July special legislative session on gun control without debating or voting on any legislation.
Instead, they referred all pending bills to the Virginia State Crime Commission for study. The legislature plans to reconvene on Nov. 18, after the upcoming election in which every Assembly seat will be on ballots.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam called the special session in the wake of the Virginia Beach workplace shooting. However, Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox decried the move as “an election-year stunt,” calling the session “premature” and saying lawmakers required more time to study gun violence before contemplating legislative actions.
The sale of guns and ammo is an $11 billion industry in the United States. But the financial costs of gun violence far exceed that. Lost wages and economic contributions attributed to firearms violence alone total more than $49 billion annually.
Last year, there were 340 mass shootings across the nation, leaving 373 people dead and 1,346 wounded, according to the nonprofit research group Gun Violence Archive. As of early August, there had been 255 mass shootings in the United States this year — more than one a day — killing 275 people and injuring 1,065.
And that’s just mass shootings. In 2017, more than 39,700 Americans died from overall gun violence, including 1,028 Virginians, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That being said, Virginia is largely a gun-friendly state. About 29% of Virginians own at least one firearm, according to the results of a 2015 survey published in the medical journal Injury Prevention.
In its annual Gun Law Scorecard, the nonprofit, San Francisco-based Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave Virginia a “D” grade, citing factors such as its lack of universal background checks and not requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms. Also, seven years ago, Virginia repealed its law limiting people to purchasing one handgun per month.
In decades past, it wasn’t unusual for even Old Dominion Democrats to campaign as gun-toting hunters — take U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, for example, who handed out blaze-orange “Sportsmen for Warner” bumper stickers depicting hunting rifles during his successful 2001 campaign for governor. However, Warner, who once received an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, has walked back many of his pro-gun stances in recent years, renouncing past votes against banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.
Virginia politicians generally have adopted strong anti-gun stances at their peril, though, as evidenced by Democrat Dan Gecker. A popular, two-term Chesterfield County supervisor, Gecker lost his 2015 state Senate race to Republican Glen Sturtevant Jr. Gecker’s campaign was mortally wounded, politicos say, by $700,000 worth of gun-control ads funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund.
Nevertheless, fatigued by the relentless tide of mass shootings, public opinion may be shifting.
A May Quinnipiac poll found that 94% of U.S. voters favor universal background checks, and 61% want stricter gun laws. About 84% of Virginia voters support stronger background checks, and 54% favor increased gun control, according to a 2018 poll by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy.
Following the August shootings, President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke about expanding background checks and instituting “red-flag” gun laws to restrict firearms access for people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others. (Both are initiatives Northam intended to introduce during Virginia’s aborted special session.)
Regardless of the solutions proffered, one thing is clear: Ignoring or sidestepping the problem may not be an option for much longer.2019-09-03T04:00:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/832Danville-Jackson-Sept2019-.pngCataracts forced Jean Jackson into an early retirement from her job at the Nestlé plant in Danville. Photo by Mark Rhodes
‘A whole new day’
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/a-whole-new-day#When:22:44:00ZIt wasn’t the work that proved too much for Jean Jackson. It was the drive home.
Even though cataracts had begun clouding her eyes, she felt capable of doing her job as an inspector of prepared pasta at the Nestlé refrigerated foods plant in Danville. But after she’d finished her shift, it would be dark by the time she got behind the wheel to go home. And on the road the cataracts turned oncoming headlights into blinding flashes.
Jackson had health insurance through her job but says doctors told her the cataracts were not severe enough for insurance to cover.
Worries about causing an accident led Jackson to take early retirement two years ago, at age 62. She now gets $924 a month in Social Security. Had she held on and retired at 66 as she had planned, she says, she would be receiving more than twice that.
When Jackson left her job, she also joined the 13% of Danville residents and 10% of Virginians without medical insurance. She resigned herself to limited vision. Her other health issues, such as diabetes, went largely untreated.
Then, this year, Medicaid expansion came to Virginia. Jackson was among the first in the state to enroll. Earlier this year, doctors removed her cataracts.
“It’s a whole new day,” she exults.
Jackson’s recovered vision is the sort of outcome proponents of Medicaid expansion had in mind when they argued that Virginia could not afford to continue its longstanding policy of offering Medicaid only to a few thousand of its poorest citizens.
But as the state’s businesses and workers forge ahead into this new world of public health, a lot of questions remain in Medicaid expansion’s first year. Will hospitals and health-care organizations see the benefits they and many economists projected? Will the state create a healthier, more productive workforce?
Under the expansion passed by the General Assembly last year, people can enroll in Medicaid if they earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level — $17,236 for individuals (roughly equivalent to working full time at $8.62 an hour) and $29,435 for a family of three. Virginia had been operating under one of the nation’s most restrictive Medicaid systems, ranking 46th in per-capita Medicaid spending by states in 2018, according to a study by the state Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC).
The commonwealth’s Medicaid expansion law took effect Jan. 1. As of late July, more than 300,000 of the estimated 400,000 adult Virginians eligible for Medicaid expansion had enrolled, according to the state Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS). (Another 330,000 uninsured Virginians are not eligible for Medicaid, even with the expansion.)
Economists say it’s too early to tell the overall impact of Medicaid expansion. “It would likely take a few years of data before [the impact] could be fully evaluated,” says Terance J. Rephann, a regional economist with the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, who has studied Medicaid expansion.
Nonetheless, the potential for a better bottom line seems to be inspiring the state’s leading hospital chains to go on a building spree.
In recent years Virginia’s hospitals have been working on tight margins. A February analysis by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association found 48% of Virginia hospitals had operating profit margins in 2017 at or below 4%, and 22% operated at a deficit. The issue was particularly acute among Virginia’s rural hospitals, with 57% operating in the red.
Virginia’s acute-care hospitals provided about $1.1 billion in uncompensated care in 2017, according to a report prepared for DMAS and released this July by the Health Behavior and Policy division of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine. That came to 5.9% of total operating costs, compared with about 4% for hospitals nationally.
Using other states’ experience with Medicaid expansion as models, the VCU study’s authors calculate that Virginia hospitals could see uncompensated costs decline after Medicaid expansion by $290 million to $480 million — a 26% to 43% reduction.
In a separate report, Virginia Health Information, the state agency tracking health-care data, said Virginia’s 73 acute-care hospitals valued their uncompensated charity care at $2.56 billion. The agency calculated the actual cost of that care to hospitals at $736 million.
However it’s figured, uncompensated care “obviously puts a lot of financial pressure” on hospitals, says Donald B. Halliwill, CFO of Carilion Clinic. The Roanoke-based nonprofit operates more than 200 clinics, hospitals and other medical offices in Southwest Virginia.
Changing financial picture
In Virginia, Medicaid will reimburse hospitals for 71% of enrollees’ care in the first phase of expansion, rising to 88% soon after.
That change in financial realities has given Carilion confidence to forge ahead with a $300 million expansion to Roanoke Memorial Hospital, Halliwill says. The project is part of Carilion’s planned $1 billion investment in capital improvements.
While it’s not the only driver, “Medicaid expansion and the positive impact from that … has allowed us to feel more comfortable that we can make those reinvestments,” Halliwill adds.
Similarly, Inova Health System, based in Fairfax, is pushing forward with a
$300 million upgrade to its Loudoun County hospital. In June, Inova announced an agreement with Optima Health to increase access to its network by Medicaid patients, whom the companies say total 274,000 in Northern Virginia.
Under the expansion plan brokered last year by state legislators and hospital chains, which falls under the federal Affordable Care Act, the U.S. government will pay 90% of the cost of health care for those Virginians insured under Medicaid, or about $2.4 billion. Virginia’s 10% share will be covered by new assessment fees — a tax, essentially — on hospital revenues.
In the expansion deal, 69 private acute-care hospitals are footing the bill for the state government’s share of Medicaid (specialized hospitals such as children’s, psychiatric and rehabilitation-care centers are exempt; so are medical centers operated by Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia).
This year, the assessed hospitals will pay the state an estimated $281 million. In 2021 the assessments will come to $763 million.
Even with that extra cost, expansion will bring hospitals $2 in additional revenue for every dollar they pay the state under the assessment plan, DMAS Director Jennifer Lee told the state Senate Finance Committee in May. After paying the state assessments in 2021, the hospitals will record a net increase of $1.6 billion in Medicaid reimbursements, Lee said.
Last year Bon Secours Virginia Health System, which operates seven hospitals in the commonwealth, treated 44,000 nonpaying patients at a cost of $200 million, says Rhodes B. Ritenour, the nonprofit’s vice president for external and regulatory affairs.
“It was unsustainable in the long term,” Ritenour says. “Now we are going to be reimbursed for a lot of that care.”
Building on expansion
While he cautions that “it’s too early to tell” what impact the change in reimbursements will have, Ritenour notes that having a way to offset at least some expenses for charitable care has encouraged Bon Secours to invest $77 million in a new 75,000-square-foot hospital and health complex in Suffolk.
In February, Bon Secours announced plans to spend $119 million expanding its St. Francis Medical Center in Chesterfield County, adding 55 patient beds. It’s also proposed building a new emergency care and imaging center on the campus of John Tyler Community College in Chesterfield.
With Medicaid funds now available, expansions and upgrades are easier for the organization to pursue, Ritenour says. “It gives us leeway.”
The Health Wagon, which runs stationary and mobile free clinics in Southwest Virginia, recently opened a new clinic just for Medicaid-enrolled patients in Coeburn, a town in Wise County.
Community health centers in Southern and Southwest Virginia are able to expand their operations because they have more paying patients, says Deborah Oswalt, executive director of the Virginia Health Care Foundation. More insurance providers are entering these regions, which had the highest rates of uninsured adults in the state, because it’s now financially viable, she adds.
As for Jean Jackson, now that she can see clearly again, she is not planning on going back to the Nestlé plant. Instead she is throwing herself into volunteering with Mothers Stronger Twogether, a group she helped found to combat gun violence. Danville has one of the highest per-capita crime rates in Virginia, and murder claimed the lives of Jackson’s son, grandson, sister and nephew.
With her cataracts gone, Jackson says she is more able to do the group’s work such as helping calm crowds at crime scenes. “I can get up,” she explains, “and go.”2019-09-02T22:44:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/health_wagon_grant_CROP.jpg
The Health Wagon receives $1M grant
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/the-health-wagon-receives-1m-grant#When:18:30:00ZThe Health Wagon in Wise County has been awarded a three-year, $1 million grant from the United Health Foundation, allowing the clinic to provide more specialty and diagnostic treatment to patients in six Southwest Virginia counties.
“It’s really one of the most awesome things that has ever happened to the Health Wagon. It’s a gamechanger for us,” says Dr. Teresa Gardner Tyson, executive director of the nonprofit free health care provider.
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner attended the grant presentation ceremony Thursday in Wise, along with Tyson and United Health Foundation President Tracy Malone. Started by Minnesota-based health care insurer UnitedHealth Group in 1999, the United Health Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to improving health and health care.
“For nearly four decades, The Health Wagon has provided critical health care for Virginians,” Warner said in a statement. “This new partnership with the United Health Foundation will increase the reach and scope of the work The Health Wagon is doing to make sure people in Southwest Virginia are getting the care they need.”
The three-year grant will allow The Health Wagon to purchase new tools to provide mammograms, ultrasounds, X-rays and dental services to patients throughout the region.
A nurse practitioner, Tyson encounters many people with chronic illnesses and potential cancers, but without proper diagnostic tools on-site, she and her team can’t quickly confirm their suspicions. With funding from UHF and other partners, The Health Wagon will be able to provide additional mobile screenings, she says. It’s also considering the purchase of a mobile catheterization lab, which would make it easier to diagnose coronary artery disease, a prevalent health problem in Southwest Virginia, Tyson notes. The grant will also help The Health Wagon acquire transvaginal ultrasound equipment that will help clinicians diagnose and treat ovarian cancer more quickly.
“It’s a horrific, painful death,” Tyson says of ovarian cancer, which also occurs frequently in the region. Doctors who volunteer at the annual free clinic in Wise, she adds, were “shocked at the pathology they found,” comparing the high rates of heart disease and cancer to conditions in developing countries.
According to the 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment report by Norton Community Hospital, Wise recorded 310.6 cardiovascular deaths per 100,000 people in one year, in contrast to the state average of 155.9, and Wise County is ranked among the least healthy localities in the state, according to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings released last March.
Although this is The Health Wagon’s first partnership with United Health Foundation, some of the foundation’s clinicians have volunteered at the free Wise clinic held annually at the county fairgrounds.
“We’re very proud to partner with The Health Wagon,” Malone says. “They identified a need to expand their capability for cancer diagnostic care. We’re really taking those basic services to the next level and improving outcomes.”
Started in 1980, The Health Wagon provides a range of free health care services to residents of Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell, Lee, Scott and Wise counties and the city of Norton. It operates two mobile units, two stationary clinics and several pop-up free clinics.
The Health Wagon received an ultrasound machine in March via a joint donation from Netherlands-based health care nonprofit Philips Foundation, New Jersey health care provider network Barnabas Health and Maryland-based RAD-AID, a nonprofit group providing access to radiology treatment.
Beginning in summer 2020, the Health Wagon will take over operations of the annual July clinic at the Wise County fairgrounds, which has treated more than 100,000 patients for free since 1999. Formerly run by Tennessee-based Remote Area Medical (RAM) the clinic is being rebranded as Move Mountains Medical Mission and will offer most of the same services as before, including vision and dental care.
IMAGE COURTESY THE HEALTH WAGON: (L TO R) Health Wagon Medical Director Dr. Joseph Smiddy, Clinical Director Paula Hill, Executive Director Dr. Teresa Gardner Tyson, United Health Foundation President Tracy Malone, Sen. Mark Warner and Health Wagon founder Sister Bernie Kenny. Credit: Tim Cox2019-08-29T18:30:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/RVA_blues_armory_crop.jpgRichmond Blues Armory building
Richmond officials showcase Blues Armory renovation plans
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/richmond-officials-showcase-blues-armory-renovation-plans#When:21:18:00ZIn a media hard-hat tour of the former Sixth Street Marketplace on Wednesday, Richmond officials and the master planner of the proposed $1.5 billion mixed-use Navy Hill project spoke in hopeful terms of a vibrant, active downtown — while standing amid neglected structures that held similar promise decades ago.
The public-private partnership, proposed by a group of corporate heavy hitters led by Dominion Energy CEO Thomas F. Farrell II under the nonprofit NH District Corp., would redevelop 10 blocks of the city into a new neighborhood, Navy Hill. The plan would replace the aging, now-shuttered Richmond Coliseum with a $235 million, 17,500-seat arena, the state's largest entertainment venue. It would also include more than 1 million square feet of commercial and office space, plus 2,500 apartments and a 541-room hotel.
Wednesday’s tour focused on the proposed renovation of the 110-year-old Blues Armory building, which once housed the Richmond Light Infantry Blues military unit and served as a market and dancehall at various points in its history. Its first floor was part of Richmond’s now-defunct Sixth Street Marketplace, a 1980s shopping mall that closed quietly in 2002. Under the proposed $10 million renovation, the armory would house a first-floor food market, a second-floor live-music venue and a third-floor ballroom; the second and third floors would be accessible through a luxury hotel that would adjoin the armory.
NH District Corp. master planner Michael Hallmark, an architect and urban developer from the Los Angeles-based Future Cities firm, said if the project is approved and all goes according to schedule, the renovated armory, hotel and arena should be completed by mid-2022.
“This right here is the gem of the entire thing,” said Bobby Vincent Jr., the city’s public works director, who led the press tour. It may take a bit of imagination to envision it, he acknowledged, but the ballroom, which has not been accessible to the public for decades, would look out onto a pedestrian walkway and the new arena, if the plan is approved by Richmond City Council. An advisory commission is being assembled in September, and it will present its findings to council members after a 90-day study.
Hallmark called the neglect of the armory an “embarrassment,” but as master planner for NH District Corp., he said that the historic building was the “most interesting, most exciting part of the development.”
Jim Nolan, press secretary for Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, said the Blues Armory renovation would be entirely privately funded but remain a city property, and the party leasing the building would be responsible for its maintenance. The armory is registered as a Virginia Historic Landmark, so it cannot be demolished.
Hallmark said that NH District Corp. intends to respect the history of the 1910 building, but would not seek historic tax credits in order to have more design flexibility. 2019-08-28T21:18:00+00:00
Altria in talks to merge with Philip Morris International
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/altria-in-talks-to-merge-with-philip-morris-international#When:14:17:00ZHenrico County-based Altria Group Inc. announced Tuesday that it's discussing an all-stock "merger of equals" with spinoff company Philip Morris International Inc.
"There can be no assurance that any agreement or transaction will result from these discussions," the company said in a press release. "Additionally, there can be no assurance that if an agreement is reached, that a transaction will be completed. Any transaction would be subject to the approval of the two companies's boards and shareholders, and regulators, as well as other conditions."
A longtime Fortune 500 company listed among the S&P 500, Altria is the parent company of Richmond-based tobacco products manufacturer Philip Morris USA, best known for its Marlboro cigarettes brand. Altria holds significant minority stakes in Belgian international beer brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, as well as San Francisco-based e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs and Canadian cannabis company The Cronos Group.
Altria spun off Philip Morris International into an independent company in 2008. Based in New York, Philip Morris International is also a Fortune 500 company and manufactures Marlboro cigarettes and other tobacco products and brands for sale in more than 180 nations outside the United States.2019-08-27T14:17:00+00:00
Governor launches workforce development listening tour
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/governor-launches-workforce-development-listening-tour#When:21:37:00ZVirginia Gov. Ralph Northam embarked on the first leg of an eight-stop workforce development listening tour Monday in Roanoke.
The tour coincides wtih National Workforce Development Month in September. The talks are intended to provide workers, employers and local leaders a forum to provide suggestions and feedback to Northam on how to address employment challenges and strengthen Virginia's workforce.
"Virginia was recently named the best state to do business in America, and that recognition is the result of our ongoing and targeted investments to build a diverse and highly-skilled talent pipeline,” Northam said in a statement Monday. “Over the next month, I look forward to visiting every region of the commonwealth to hear directly from the people of Virginia about the business, workforce and education challenges they face. These conversations will help us better understand how we can address their needs as we work to develop policies and programs aimed at expanding economic opportunity for all Virginians.”
"With unemployment at record lows, businesses are struggling to find the talent they need," Megan Healy, the state's chief workforce development advisor, said in a press release. "We know the innovative solutions to some of the commonwealth's largest hiring challenges will come from people in our communities closest to the these issues."
The sessions are scheduled as follows:
Aug. 26: Roanoke
Aug. 27: Harrisonburg
Sept. 4: Danville
Sept. 10: Northern Virginia
Sept. 17: Norfolk
Sept. 20: Richmond
Sept. 23: Richlands
Glen Allen firm buys Virginia Beach apartment complex for $48.6 million
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/glen-allen-firm-buys-virginia-beach-apartment-complex-for-48.6-million#When:21:15:00ZGlen Allen-based real estate investment firm Capital Square 1031 has purchased a Virginia Beach apartment community for $48.6 million from The Runnymede Corp., a commercial real estate development and management firm in Virginia Beach.
The Aug. 22 sale of Saltmeadow Bay, a 229-unit development on 24 wooded acres a mile from the ocean, was handled by Colliers International Mid-Atlantic Multifamily Advisory Group.
“Located less than one mile from the Virginia Beach boardwalk and less than 20 minutes from the largest naval station in the world, Saltmeadow Bay Apartments is an exceptional multifamily community that benefits from outstanding demographics,” said Louis Rogers, founder and chief executive officer of Capital Square 1031, in a press release. “There is also a significant opportunity to improve operations at this high-end property and enhance value through active management.”
Built in 2006, Saltmeadow Bay is a group of four four-story buildings with one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments featuring granite countertops, walk-in closets, washer/dryers and fireplaces. The property also has a dog park, clubhouse, swimming pool and 24-hour fitness center and is within a three-mile radius of 4.1 million square feet of retail businesses, including a Whole Foods grocery store and The Shops at Hilltop, as well as the renovated Cavalier Hotel and the Virginia Beach Museum of Fine Art.
“Saltmeadow Bay was considered a highly prized, core asset for us," Don Frederick, vice president and CEO of The Runnymede Corporation, said in a statement. "TWe had owned the land for this site since the 1940s and it truly cannot be replicated. The Colliers team convinced our ownership that the market was right for this transaction and worked with our management and staff along every step in the process. We are deeply grateful for their professionalism and assistance closing this deal.”
Named one of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Fantastic 50 businesses in 2019, Capital Square 1031 has purchased more than $1.5 billion in tax-advantaged real estate offerings. The firm announced in a press release that it seeks to raise up to $24 million in total equity for Saltmeadow Bay from accredited investors. The property was financed with a Fannie Mae acquisition loan with a 3.49% fixed rate for 10 years.2019-08-26T21:15:00+00:00
Construction leaders’ confidence dipped in June
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/construction-leaders-confidence-dipped-in-june#When:14:35:00ZIn June, the U.S. construction industry expressed a small drop in confidence about near-term prospects for nonresidential construction but contractors remain reasonably upbeat, according to the results of the most recent Construction Confidence Indiex survey released by the Associated Builders and Contractors.
Contractors were slightly less optimistic about sales expectations, profit margins and staffing levels than in the prior month, according to a statement from the national construction industry trade association, which represents 21,000 members in 69 chapters nationwide.
Overall, 67% of contractors survyed in the June report said they expect sales to rise in the next six months, while 59% predict staffing increases and 54% expect profit margins to grow. Responses above 50% in the index indicate industry growth.
Although "economists near and far are searching for signs of the next economic downturn," the contractors' outlook shows that nonresidential construction is still positioned as a driver for economic growth, ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu said in a press release.
"What is perhaps most impressive is the expectation that profit margins will continue to rise," Basu said. "This is an indication that contractors continue to enjoy pricing power, helping to offset the impacts of rising wage pressures. Even with wages rising, more contractors expect to add people than to subtract them, another reason to believe that, for now, the U.S. expansion remains firmly in place. This is further supported by indications that sales of nonresidential construction services continue to expand."
2019-08-26T14:35:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/Virginia_Tech_Innovation_Campus_Birdseye_Rendering_2019-06-06.pngVirginia Tech’s $1.1 billion Innovation Campus’ first building will be complete in 2024. Rendering courtesy Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech Innovation Campus gets early start
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/virginia-tech-innovation-campus-gets-early-start#When:04:00:00ZVirginia Tech will launch its new Innovation Campus in Alexandria earlier than expected by opening a temporary space next year in an Alexandria strip mall near the campus’s future permanent location in Potomac Yard.
One of the reasons Amazon cited in locating its $5 billion HQ2 East Coast headquarters in Virginia is the state’s tech-talent pipeline initiative, of which the $1 billion Innovation Campus will be the centerpiece. The campus, which will be part of a 65-acre mixed-use development in National Landing, is set to open in about 10 years, the university says. In the meantime, Tech wants to get started enrolling students to attend classes in the temporary facility next fall.
“We are planning for about 150 full-time Innovation Campus students and 65 part-time students in the fall of 2020,” says Virginia Tech Media Relations Director Michael Stowe.
The Virginia Tech Foundation filed for a special-use permit to operate classroom, marketing and laboratory space in the Potomac Yard Center on U.S. Route 1, according to the zoning permit filed with the city. The initial 17,400-square-foot start-up space is the site of a Rack Room Shoes and a former Dress Barn, and there is room to expand, says Karl Moritz, Alexandria’s director of planning and zoning. “Spaces are vacant or soon to be vacant.”
The seven-member Alexandria Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing about the permit application for Sept. 3.
Ultimately, Moritz says, the new 1-million-square-foot Innovation Campus will be built behind the shopping center, on land that is now occupied by a movie theater. In August, 175 architectural firms attended the RFP meeting to design the campus’ first building, a 300,000-square-foot academic facility expected to be complete in 2024. Stowe says the university expects to operate in the startup space until then.
The future campus site has been long marked for renovation. The new Potomac Yard Metro station is being developed on the Yellow/Blue lines at the south end of the property, which will provide mass transit service about a quarter-mile from the Innovation Campus. Amazon HQ2, with 25,000 jobs expected by 2030, will be two stops away.2019-08-26T04:00:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/_DSC7168.pngFreightCar America is closing its Roanoke shops, laying off 200 workers. Photo by Don Petersen
FreightCar America leaving Roanoke
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/freightcar-america-leaving-roanoke#When:04:00:00ZRoanoke Mayor Sherman Lea was surprised to receive a WARN notice announcing that FreightCar America is closing its Roanoke shops.
“We thought things were going well and they said they were,” Lea says. “We did not see it coming.”
Chicago-based FreightCar was talking about expanding operations there as recently as last year, searching for a site with rail access and room for 1 million square feet of manufacturing space. Now the company plans to close its Roanoke shops, shifting production of the rail cars to its Cherokee, Alabama, plant. More than 200 people will lose their jobs in phases, from September through November. That’s just over 1% of the Roanoke Valley’s manufacturing jobs.
“It’s not transformational,” Roanoke Regional Partnership Executive Director Beth Doughty says of the closure’s effect on the local economy. “It’s transformational for those 200 people.”
According to Roanoke Economic Development Director Robert Ledger, “The fortunate thing is these workers are amazing, hard-working, super-skilled people, and we have other manufacturers in the area that could reap the benefits of FreightCar America leaving.”
FreightCar America’s Roanoke plant has had several rounds of layoffs since the company took over the facility in 2005. Each time, Ledger says, laid-off FreightCar America workers had little trouble finding work.
“They have such in-demand skills in the community — welding, machinists, etc., that they are snapped up rather quickly,” Ledger says.
The median salary for Roanoke Valley welders is $42,580, according to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Machinists’ median pay is $44,359, and the city’s median household income is $41,483.
Even while announcing the closing, Jim Meyer, FreightCar America’s president and CEO, praised Roanoke workers, saying some will be offered other FreightCar America jobs. “Our people at Roanoke have consistently performed above all expectations,” Meyer said in a news release. “We are extremely thankful for everything they have given the company.”
That performance could not overcome the company’s desire to cut costs, however. FreightCar America expects to save about $5 million annually with the consolidation.
“It’s a new world out there now,” Lea says. “We’ve got to recognize that corporate decisions are being made daily and to be ready for these types of events.”
City and state officials got busy as soon as the WARN notice arrived, Lea says, and “we’re going to try to do what we can to find them work.”2019-08-26T04:00:00+00:00
Smithfield Foods’ foundation donates to support homeless vets
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/smithfield-foods-foundation-donates-to-support-homeless-vets#When:21:15:00ZThe charitable arm of Virginia-based global food company Smithfield Foods Inc. donated $150,000 to support Virginia programs for homeless military veterans and their families during a ceremony held in Richmond Thursday with Gov. Ralph Northam and other state dignitaries.
The donation from The Smithfield Foundation to the Virginia Veterans Service Foundation, a state agency, will support the Homeless Veteran Fund, which provides gap assistance to homeless vets and those on the brink of homelessness. Smithfield previously donated $68,000 to held establish the fund in 2016. The Homeless Veteran Fund was established by the Virginia Veteran and Family Support Program, which is operated by the Virginia Department of Veteran Services (DVS), and the Virginia Veterans Service Foundation, which seeks donations and grants to provide supplement funding for Virginia veterans programs.
“At Smithfield, our ongoing commitment to support veterans directly aligns with the mission of the DVS Homeless Veteran Fund and we are pleased to provide resources to ensure the continued success of this program right here in our home state of Virginia,” said Kenneth M. Sullivan, president and CEO of Smithfield Foods. “We are honored to give back to our nation’s veterans through this unique and successful public-private partnership, in honor of their service and sacrifice to all of us.”
In a statement released Thursday, Northam said, “With nearly one in 10 Virginians having worn a uniform, our commonwealth is home to one of the largest veteran populations in the country, and we owe it to our Virginia veterans to ensure they have a safe place to live. We are grateful for our ongoing partnerships with federal, state, and local agencies, and the financial support of generous donors like Smithfield Foods that enables us to meet the needs of the more than 730,000 veterans living in Virginia and make sure that veteran homelessness in our commonwealth is rare, brief and non-recurring.”
Smithfield Foods is the world's largest pork processor and hog producer.
Image courtesy Smithfield Foods Inc.2019-08-22T21:15:00+00:00
Richmond nonprofit incubator’s first cohort is ready for takeoff
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/richmond-nonprofit-incubator-takes-off#When:20:41:00ZTwo Richmond entrepreneurs and Virginia Commonwealth University are helping boost the fortunes of three small nonprofit organizations, named the first cohort of NPO Launchpad, a new incubator for charities started this summer.
The three Richmond-based organizations announced Thursday will receive work space at VCU’s da Vinci Center, mentoring from local business and nonprofit leaders, and an opportunity to pitch area philanthropists at a December fundraising gala that will conclude the three-month accelerator program, which starts Sept. 4. The three organizations won’t receive direct funding but will meet with fundraising and marketing experts to give them the tools to expand.
The cohort includes Beyond Boundaries, a group that offers outdoor activities for people with disabilities; Shood, which collects running shoes that are reconditioned and given to people in poverty; and VET Fund, which helps financially strapped pet owners afford life-saving veterinary treatments.
NPO Launchpad’s co-founders — Pat Hull, who started and sold lucrative web-based businesses GetLoaded.com and FreightCheck, and fellow entrepreneur Jeff Palumbo — have collaborated on several business projects, and both have considerable experience with startup incubators and philanthropic causes. The Hull Foundation, which Hull started a decade ago for philanthropic causes, funds NPO Launchpad, although Palumbo says they hope to win grants and funding from other sources in the future.
The two came up with the idea of a nonprofit incubator when they were talking in June, Palumbo says. “Needs for early-stage nonprofits are nearly identical to needs for early-stage startups,” he says, and by the time they parted, the partners had come up with a name and a plan.
By mid-August, Hull and Palumbo had 29 cohort applicants and 13 mentors on board, including Techead CEO Phil Conein, Richmond Symphony Director of Advancement Scott Dodson and Charles P. Ajemian, president of Social Enterprise Alliance Virginia. The co-founders and mentors voted on the applicants, choosing the three winners.
Palumbo says they plan to expand the number in the next cohort, starting in 2020, although he doesn’t have a specific number to announce yet. To qualify, an organization must be based in the Richmond region, have 501(c)3 status and earn less than $100,000 in revenue annually. Although the three winners this fall have local missions, Palumbo says nonprofits with global or national focuses can apply, too.
In addition to the accelerator curriculum, NPO Launchpad also will host half-day and full-day workshops for nonprofits that weren’t accepted into the cohort, providing tools and resources.
“I subscribe to a ‘no man left behind’ ideology,” Palumbo says. “We want to create a whole ecosystem.”2019-08-22T20:41:00+00:00
State on track for record $1.6 billion in reserves
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/state-on-track-for-1.6-billion-record-surplus#When:20:41:00ZThe state is on track to have a record $1.6 billion in reserves in 2021, Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday. He also stated that his administration has brought in more than $20 billion in investments just a year and a half into his term, surpassing previous governors’ full terms.
“This is a record,” he said Tuesday in prepared remarks delivered before a joint meeting of the Senate Finance, House Appropriations and House Finance committees. “The $20 billion of investment is more than any previous administration has announced in a full four-year term, and we have achieved this significant milestone in less than half that time.”
The state was in good financial shape at the close of fiscal year 2019, with a surplus of $797 million, much of which is going toward taxpayer relief and water quality after depositing $344.4 million in surplus, the governor said.
The 378 new economic development projects secured during his term — notably skewed by Amazon’s $5 billion East Coast HQ2 headquarters under construction in Arlington — will create more than 51,000 new jobs across Virginia, including more than 8,700 in distressed communities, Northam added.
“We worked together to attract new business to the state — notably Amazon, which is ahead of schedule in hiring, and has submitted its development plans for its National Landing campus,” he said.
One goal of his administration, Northam added, is to put 8% of the state’s revenues into reserves, “and we’re on the path to do so.”
Employers continue to add jobs, he added, and the state’s unemployment rate is at 2.9%, but job growth has slowed because Virginia is close to full employment.
Northam noted that the state has maintained its triple-A bond rating, approved transportation funding for Interstate 81 and other projects, gave teachers their largest single-year pay raise in 15 years and enrolled more than 306,000 Virginians in Medicaid expansion over the last year.2019-08-20T20:41:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/Building_One_crop.jpgBuilding One @ Tech Center Research Park (Courtesy W.M. Jordan Co.)
Building One opens at Tech Center Research Park
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/building-one-opens-at-tech-center-research-park#When:20:36:00ZBuilding One @ Tech Center Research Park, the first of 10 buildings planned for the 50-acre Newport News research park, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark its official opening, according to an announcement by developer W.M. Jordan Co.
The 81,600-square-foot building has been under construction since August 2017. The $450 million, 850,000-square-foot Tech Center Research Park, which is being developed by W.M. Jordan, Virginia Tech and the city of Newport News, is part of larger, mixed-use campus that will include Marketplace at Tech Center, a 250,000-square-foot project with retail and restaurants, and Venture Apartments Tech Center, a 300,000-square-foot multifamily residential community.
"Building One symbolizes the beginning of what will be an innovation powerhouse in Newport News," Newport News Mayor McKinley Price said in a statement. "New and emerging companies will thrive in an environment backed by the strength of Virginia Tech, Jefferson Lab and their network of entrepreneurial services."
Building One is 94% leased, according to a press release issued Friday, and its major tenants include coworking firm Gather, which will occupy 27,000 square feet on the first and second floors. Newport News-based iWatch, a medical biosensor technology company, is leasing 25,000 square feet on the first and third floors. ITA International and its subsidiary ITA Data Analytics Center, which provide integrated support services, will be leasing more than 14,000 feet in the facility.
The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center and Virginia Tech Outreach and International Affairs division will also occupy 5,000 square feet in the building, serving to promote collaboration with entrepreneurs, professional service providers, research and development firms and science and technology companies. It will also encourage economic development of new and expanding science and tech firms as well as supporting and complementing research-related activites at the adjacent Jefferson Lab, a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory.
Colliers International is handling leasing for the research park.2019-08-16T20:36:00+00:00
Two warehouses under construction in Prince William
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/two-warehouses-under-construction-in-prince-william#When:18:58:00ZBaltimore-based Merritt Properties has begun construction on two industrial buildings in the I-66 Business Park in Prince William County.
When completed, the business park, located at the intersection of Balls Ford and Groveton roads, will include six buildings with a total of 596,900 square feet.
Construction on the first three buildings was completed in January. Their overall occupancy reached 91% in July.
Merritt Construction Services now is building two warehouses, one with 97,200 square feet and a second with 137,350 square feet.
The buildings are expected to open in December.
Merritt Properties, whose Virginia office is in Ashburn, is a full-service commercial real estate company with nearly 16 million square feet of space in Virginia and Maryland.2019-08-16T18:58:00+00:00
Virginia unemployment stays at 2.9%
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/virginia-unemployment-stays-at-2.9-percent#When:17:24:00ZVirginia’s unemployment rate was unchanged in July, but its labor force continued to expand.
The commonwealth’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate remained at 2.9% for the second consecutive month. Seasonally adjusted data take into account seasonal fluctuations in the labor force.
In releasing the July figures, the governor’s office noted that Virginia had the lowest unemployment rate among Southeastern states and tied for fifth lowest nationally with four other states — Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts and South Dakota.
Meanwhile, Virginia’s labor force expanded in July for the thirteenth consecutive month by 12,345 workers to set a new record high of 4,389,783.
Virginia’s jobless rate also was 2.9% in July 2018. The U.S. unemployment rate last month was 3.7%, the same as June.
In July, the private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 29,600 jobs, while employment in the public sector decreased by 6,600 jobs.2019-08-16T17:24:00+00:00
Board awards nearly $22 million to Virginia airports
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/board-awards-nearly-22-million-to-virginia-airports#When:15:27:00ZThe Virginia Aviation Board has awarded nearly $22 million to 66 public-use airports in the commonwealth.
Public-use airports are available for use by the general public without requiring prior approval by an airport owner or operator.
The funding total includes $13.95 million awarded to commercial airports accommodating at least 2,500 passenger boardings a year.
Another $3.23 million was awarded to air carrier-reliever airports, which are designated by the FAA to relieve congestion at commercial airports.
General aviation airports, which do not have scheduled service or have fewer than 2,500 annual passenger boardings, received $4.1 million in funding.
The governor’s office said aviation annually contributes $23 billion to the Virginia economy, transporting more than 8.3 million tourists a year to the commonwealth.2019-08-16T15:27:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/Nor_south_execs.jpgVanessa Allen Sutherland and Michael Farrell (Courtesy Norfolk Southern)
Norfolk Southern executives take on new responsibilities
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/norfolk-southern-executives-take-on-new-responsibilities#When:13:45:00ZNorfolk-based Norfolk Southern has given new responsibilities to two company executives, Michael Farrell and Vanessa Allen Sutherland.
Effective Aug. 16, Farrell will be senior vice president operations and mechanical, and Sutherland will be senior vice president government relations and chief legal officer.
In his new role, Farrell assumes responsibility for both transportation and mechanical functions.
As senior vice president government relations and chief legal officer, Sutherland assumes responsibility for government relations and legal issues.
Farrell joined Norfolk Southern last year as senior vice president transportation.
Sutherland joined Norfolk Southern last year vice president law. She was named senior vice president and chief legal officer in April.2019-08-15T13:45:00+00:00
Virginia Tech raises record $181.9 million in fiscal 2019
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/virginia-tech-raises-record-181.9-million-in-fiscal-2019#When:12:48:00ZVirginia Tech announced today that it received a record $181.9 million in donations and commitments during fiscal year 2019, an 18% increase from the previous year. It marks the third consecutive year that donations to the university have exceeded $150 million, with $120.3 million of that raised in cash.
The $50 million gift from the Horace G. Fralin Charitable Trust and Heywood and Cynthia Fralin — the largest in the university's history — for the renamed Fralin Biomedical Research Institute accounted for more than 27% of the total raised.
Nearly 36,300 donors — including individuals, corporations and foundations — contributed to Tech during the fiscal year that ended June 30. The university's previous fundraising record was set two years ago, when the university raised $162.3 million.
More than 22,800 alumni contributed in fiscal year 2019, up 5% from the previosy year.
“Our alumni, friends, faculty, staff, parents, and students have shown how much they value Virginia Tech and are committed to its future,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said in a statement. “We are profoundly grateful for their record-setting generosity. With their support, we can change communities, the commonwealth, and the world through research and education. Thank you, Hokie Nation, for your strength and incredibly generous spirit.”2019-08-15T12:48:00+00:00
Virginia is second in nation with most Top 50 Best Colleges
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/virginia-is-second-in-nation-with-most-top-50-best-colleges#When:21:18:00ZVirginia is second only to California as the state with the most colleges in the top 50 on Money magazine's 2019 Best Colleges in America list.
The University of Virginia was ranked 10th in the annual list, the highest for any Virginia university. Money points out that U.Va. has the highest graduation rate of any public university in the country.
Four other Virginia universities made the list's top 50: Washington & Lee (26); Virginia Tech (34); William & Mary (45); and Virginia Military Institute (49).
California has 14 universities on the list, topped by University of California-Irvine, which was ranked No. 1.2019-08-14T21:18:00+00:00
295 Virginia companies make Inc. 5000 list
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/295-virginia-companies-make-inc.-5000-list#When:17:50:00ZNearly 300 Virginia companies are ranked on the most recent list of the nation’s fastest-growing, privately held companies.
Leading 295 Virginia firms on the 2019 Inc. 5000 ranking is Mechanicsville-based Connected Solutions Group. It was No. 8 overall, with a three-year revenue growth rate of 12,701%.
Connected Solutions also was Inc.’s highest-ranked telecommunications company. Headed by Michael Pittman, the 4-year-old firm had revenue of $23.3 million in 2018.
Virginia ranks fifth among the states in numbers of companies it has on this year's Inc. 5000 list, behind California with 712 firms; Texas, 467; Florida, 385; and New York, 300.
Among Old Dominion's neighboring states, North Carolina has 135 companies on the list while Maryland has 130; Tennessee, 84; the District of Columbia, 43; Kentucky, 34; and West Virginia, 7.
Other Old Dominion companies ranked among the top 100 firms on the list included:
No. 12: Urgently, a Vienna-based logistics and transportation company with a growth rate of 11,633% and 2018 revenue of $30.3 million.
No. 27: FITT Scientific, a Colonial Heights-based government services firm, 7,329% growth, $15.8 million in revenue.
No, 65: West Creek Financial, a Glen Allen-based financial services company, 4,405% growth, $89.7 million in revenue.
No. 67: Associated Veterans, an Arlington-based government services firm, 4,346% growth, $12.8 million in revenue.
No. 91: Capitol Bridge, also an Arlington-based government services company, 3,469%, $6.4 million in revenue.
Richmond-based CapTech Ventures, a 22-year-old IT management firm, is on the Inc. list for the 13th time. It was No. 3838 this year with a three-year growth rate of 86% and 2018 revenue of $192.4 million. CapTech made the list for the first time in 2002 when it was No. 40.
George C. Marshall Foundation names new president
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/george-c.-marshall-foundation-names-new-president#When:17:18:00ZPaul A. Levengood has been named president of the Lexington-based George C. Marshall Foundation, which owns and operates the National George C. Marshall Museum & Library.
Currently vice president for development at the Virginia War Memorial Foundation in Richmond, he will join the foundation on Sept. 9.
Levengood previously was president and CEO of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, formerly known as the Virginia Historical Society.
Levengood has been a member of the editorial advisory board of the Encyclopedia Virginia since its inception and has served on several committees of the American Association of State and Local Histor,y as well as on the steering committee of the Future of Richmond's Past.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Davidson College and earned his master’s and doctorate from Rice University.2019-08-14T17:18:00+00:00
Torc Robotics expanding its Blacksburg headquarters
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/torc-robotics-expanding-its-blacksburg-headquarters#When:21:12:00ZBlacksburg-based self-driving vehicle company Torc Robotics is adding 15,800 square feet to its headquarters, an expansion that will double its existing space.
The two-story building, which will include offices, community rooms and garage bays, is expected to be complete by March. Including offices, community rooms, garage bays and parking, the new structure is being built to accommodate a surge of new employees anticipated from Torc's pending acquisition by Daimler Trucks.
Torc and Daimler Trucks, a division of the Daimler Group, plan to commercialize highly automated trucks on U.S. roads.
After the acquisition, Torc will be part of the newly established Autonomous Technology Group — part of Daimler Trucks’ push to put highly automated trucks onto the roads within a decade.
Torc will remain a separate entity within the group. It will retain its name, existing customer base and facilities in Blacksburg.
Torc’s current job openings include positions in active sensing and information fusion, self-driving behaviors, path planning, systems engineering, vehicle safety and testing, senior-level management, planning and operations.
New president named at Virginia Beach hospital
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/new-president-named-at-virginia-beach-hospital#When:20:54:00ZPaul Gaden has been named president of Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach.
He will begin helming the 174-bed facility on Aug. 26.
Gaden previously was CEO of Bon Secours Maryview in Portsmouth and Bon Secours DePaul Medical Centers in Norfolk.
At Sentara Princess Anne Hospital, Gaden replaces Dr. Thomas Thames, who recently retired.2019-08-13T20:54:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/Chrylser_hires.jpgAllison M. Taylor (left) and Heather Sherwin / Chrysler Museum of Art
Chrysler Museum hires new directors
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/chrysler-museum-hires-new-directors#When:20:17:00ZThe Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk has named Allison M. Taylor its director of education and Heather Sherwin its director of development.
Taylor was the head of education and community engagement at Washington University's Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis. She holds a master’s degree in liberal studies with a concentration in museum studies from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a bachelor’s degree in art history from Winthrop University.
Sherwin previously served as vice president of advancement at the Central Carolina Community for seven years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Boston University.2019-08-13T20:17:00+00:00
Virginia ranks high in internet-speed survey
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/virginia-ranks-high-in-internet-speed-survey#When:19:30:00ZVirginia ranks fifth nationally in average internet speed, according to a recent survey.
HighSpeedInternet.com ranked the states using data from more than a million speed tests completed by consumers on its website.
Virginia’s average internet speed was 55.98 megabits per second (Mbps).
States ranking ahead of Virginia were:
Maryland — 65.02 Mbps
New Jersey — 59.58 Mbps
Delaware — 59.08 Mbps
Rhode Island — 56.77 Mbps
HighSpeedInternet said the national average in its survey was 42.42 Mbps.
The five states with the slowest average internet speeds were:
Alaska — 17.03 Mbps
Mississippi — 24.77 Mbps
Idaho — 25.30 Mbps
Montana — 25.70 Mbps
Maine — 26.05 Mbps2019-08-13T19:30:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/ABC_Brian_Moran_crop.jpgVirginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran
Virginia ABC tops $1 billion in revenues
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/virginia-abc-tops-1-billion-in-revenues#When:16:12:00ZThe Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) broke its gross revenue record in fiscal year 2019, surpassing $1 billion for the first time ever, CEO Travis Hill announced Tuesday. The state agency’s profits of $499.5 million, an increase of $34.8 million over last year, will go to the state’s General Fund.
The ABC’s profits reflect $223 million in retail taxes, $196.7 million in sales and $79.8 million collected from wine and beer taxes. Retail sales in its 380 stores grew by 7.1% and sales of licenses to restaurants went up 6.3% during fiscal year 2019, which ended July 31. The ABC added seven new stores in the last year, generating nearly $8 million in additional sales.
“We are celebrating today, but we are doing so responsibly,” joked Hill at the morning press conference held at the authority’s Hermitage Road headquarters in Richmond. He attributed the rise in revenue — up $71.8 million from fiscal year 2018 — to changes in adults’ drinking habits and a shift in the ABC’s marketing mindset.
Retail hours on Sundays and increases in online sales, plus basing inventory stocking decisions on regional preferences have helped sales, he said. Also, nationwide and in the commonwealth, drinkers are consuming distilled spirits in greater numbers than in previous years, Hill added, as well as buying higher premium products with larger price tags.
The liquors showing the most growth in Virginia are Irish whiskey, tequila and straight bourbon, he said. Tito’s Handmade Vodka remains the No. 1 brand, sold with a leap from $33.5 million to $42.1 million in statewide sales this year, a 26% increase.
ABC is expected to open eight new stores in the next six months — two in Norfolk, two in Fairfax County and one each in Alexandria and Henrico, Prince William and Rockingham counties.
Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran, who oversees the ABC, congratulated the authority’s nearly 4,000 employees, who work in sales, distribution, licensing and enforcement.
“This is substantial revenue to the commonwealth’s General Fund,” he said. The state legislature allocates 40.2% of the General Fund to education, 31.6% to health and human resources, 13.7% to general government, 9.5% to public safety and 5.1% to other expenses.
In coming months, the agency plans to open eight new stores, introduce new licensing and point-of-sales systems as well as preparing for the 2021 relocation of its headquarters to eastern Hanover County.
The agency closed this summer on a $8 million, 40-acre plot in Mechanicsville, where a new ABC headquarters and warehouse are expected to be completed in the first half of 2021.
Plans for expansion started in earnest five years ago, Hill said, because the ABC’s aging headquarters and warehouse near Richmond’s Diamond baseball stadium were close to capacity for staff and inventory. Today, “we are bursting at the seams,” he said, prompting the agency to lease additional nearby warehouse space.
As for the ABC’s Hermitage Road property, which could figure into a replacement baseball stadium for the Richmond Flying Squirrels and an athletic village for Virginia Commonwealth University, VCU has “first call” on purchasing the land, Hill said.2019-08-13T16:12:00+00:00
New housing and revitalization coordinator named for Martinsville-Henry County
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/new-housing-and-revitalization-coordinator-named-for-martinsville-henry-cou#When:21:00:00ZRichmond native Jeffrey Sadler has been hired as the new housing and revitalization coordinator for the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.
Sadler formerly worked as associate director of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development's Community Revitalization Office. He is also the principal and lead consultant for Complete Community Economies LLC, which specializes in comprehensive revitalization plans for transitioning localities, including housing options, business development efforts and tax-base renewal and strengthening.
“Having a point of contact, someone with access to all of the relevant information, and resources available to the community, greatly streamlines the process and demonstrates the serious effort being applied to moving housing and revitalization-related projects forward in our community,” Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki said in a statement.
Henry County Administrator Tim Hall added, “This community has done and continues to do a good job of providing job opportunities for our residents. The logical next step is enhanced residential space because the workers need a place to live. Buying or renting a home really is the fabric of a great community, and we are excited that someone with Jeff Sadler’s experience and talent will help us move forward.”
Funding for the position will be supported by The Harvest Foundation, which has worked since December 2018 to convene stakeholders and other officials in a community conversation about housing.
Mark Heath, president and CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., said, “We are excited to have Jeff come on board at this important stage in our overall development efforts. Martinsville-Henry County’s success in increasing the tax base and recruiting new jobs has led to the realization that we need updated apartment and housing stock across multiple income levels. Jeff’s expertise will greatly enhance the [economic development corporation's] talent development efforts.”2019-08-12T21:00:00+00:00
VCU wins grant for nuclear engineering scholarships
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/vcu-wins-grant-for-nuclear-engineering-scholarships#When:20:49:00ZThe U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Engineering just under $200,000 to fund scholarships to attract and retain students in the nuclear engineering program.
The NRC has provided the program with funding before, including $197,865 in scholarships in 2017. VCU partners with Dominion, whose nuclear stations provide about a third of the state’s power, to offer both undergraduate and graduate programs in the field.
“Once again, VCU shows itself as an outstanding university receiving recognition from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin said in a statement Monday. “These funds will allow VCU to continue to attract the best and the brightest and to prepare students for a future in which nuclear knowledge may be imperative.”2019-08-12T20:49:00+00:00
Judge dismisses LeClairRyan malpractice suit
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/judge-dismisses-leclairryan-malpractice-suit#When:19:38:00ZUpdated Aug. 13
A Richmond Circuit Court judge has dismissed a $603 million malpractice lawsuit against embattled Richmond law firm LeClairRyan, which recently announced that it is going out of business.
On Thursday, Richmond Chief Circuit Court Judge Clarence Jenkins dismissed the 2017 lawsuit filed by former Health Diagnostic Laboratory (HDL) Inc. CEO Tonya Mallory, who had alleged that LeClairRyan provided poor legal advice that led to the bankruptcy and closure of her once-booming blood-testing business and an $111 million federal judgment against her and two other executives.
Mallory’s lawsuit alleged that LeClairRyan had “repeatedly advised” her that HDL’s practice of paying processing and handling fees to physicians who ordered its blood tests didn’t violate federal anti-kickbacks laws. LeClairRyan settled a similar malpractice complaint brought by HDL’s bankruptcy trustee for $20.3 million. Mallory herself paid a $10 million settlement to the liquidating trustee.
In his opinion, Jenkins wrote that a federal district court “has already determined that plaintiff [Mallory] knowingly engaged in the conduct complained of. Consequently, plaintiff is at least partially responsible for the injuries she sustained. Therefore, plaintiff’s claim for recovery is barred.”
In a statement issued to a legal trade magazine The American Lawyer, Lori Thompson, the firm’s general counsel, said the firm was “very pleased” with Jenkins’ decision and with the representation of its outside counsel, Richmond-based Christian & Barton LLP.
Mallory says she intends to appeal the decision, saying she believes the judge based his decision on an incorrect interpretation of a 2018 federal trial in South Carolina in which a jury found her and two other defendants liable for more than $111 million in damages and penalties under the federal False Claims Act for Medicare fraud.
“The judge has it wrong,” Mallory says firmly. She adds that the amount she was seeking from LeClairRyan had been adjusted to $150 million, not $603 million, as listed in the lawsuit's initial filing.
At its peak, HDL was bringing in $420 million in annual revenue and employed 750 people at its downtown Richmond headquarters. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2015 after paying a $47 million settlement to the federal government, which had alleged that she and HDL had conspired to violate federal law by using the reimbursement scheme to entice doctors to order expensive and medically unnecessary tests for federally insured Medicare and Tricare patients.
LeClairRyan still faces other lawsuits, however, including a pending gender discrimination lawsuit by a former employee who alleges the firm had a widespread practice of gender-based pay disparities.
According to The American Lawyer, the Richmond firm is also close to resolving a malpractice suit brought against it in Chicago federal court by RF Technologies, a manufacturer of fast-food industry components. RF Technologies alleges that LeClairRyan was negligent in the representation it provided the company in a patent infringement case.
LeClairRyan announced earlier this month that it was taking steps to dissolve its practice. Once the state’s fifth-largest law firm, it employed more than 350 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide at its height. During the last few years, the firm’s gross revenues have steadily declined, sinking from $163 million in 2015 to $122.5 million last year.2019-08-12T19:38:00+00:00
Virginia ranks No. 2 in business friendliness survey
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/virginia-ranks-no.-2-in-business-friendliness-survey#When:19:32:00ZVirginia ranked second in the nation in recently released survey of business friendliness.
The survey by San Francisco-based Thumbtack, a website and app for hiring project workers, ranked the best and worst cities and states for doing business, based on factors including licensing requirements, tax regulations, and labor and hiring regulations.
For the 2019 survey, the company’s eighth, Thumbtack interviewed 5,000 small business owners in 49 states and 44 cities.
Virginia’s highest grade, A+, was awarded for overall business friendliness.
Its lowest grade, B+, was given for ease of starting a business in the commonwealth.
The top 10 states in the survey were:
1. Arkansas (overall grade: A+)
2. Virginia (A+)
3. Mississippi (A+)
4. Georgia (A+)
5. Maine (A+)
6. Delaware (A+)
7. Utah (A+)
8. Montana (A)
9. Maryland (A)
10. Florida (A)
The five lowest-ranked states were:
49. West Virginia (F)
48. Connecticut (F)
47. New York (D)
46. Kansas (D)
45. Hawaii (D)2019-08-12T19:32:00+00:00
New tenants announced for Virginia Beach shopping center
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/new-tenants-announced-for-virginia-beach-shopping-center#When:14:52:00ZEfforts are underway to reposition a Virginia Beach shopping center.
Colliers International’s Norfolk office said it has been working with Orlando-based Mishorim Gold VAB LP, the owners of the Lynnhaven North Shopping Center, on a new lineup of tenants since Mishorim Gold acquired the property in January.
The Colliers leasing team has brought 17 new tenants to the shopping center including two entertainment anchors, Surge Adventure Park and SK8 House VB.
The Lynnhaven North site will be the 14th location of Surge Adventure Park. Its 41,262-square-foot space at the shopping center will house an indoor trampoline and adventure park with zipline courses, climbing walls, obstacle courses and foam pits.
SK8 House VB is building two roller rinks in its 27,000-square-foot space. The larger 10,000-square-foot rink is designed for free skating, and a smaller rink will be used for training and child skaters.
The shopping center, which was built in 1985, has 173,191 square feet of retail space. Mishorim Gold has made a multi-million investment to improve the shopping façade and parking areas.2019-08-12T14:52:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/Colliers_VPs_crop.jpg(L to R) Harrison Hall and Peter Vick / Colliers International Retail Services
Colliers hires senior vice presidents in Richmond
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/colliers-hires-senior-vice-presidents-in-richmond#When:14:41:00ZHarrison Hall and Peter Vick have joined the Colliers International Retail Services team as senior vice presidents in the Richmond office.
Hall has 16 years of commercial real estate experience. He previously was senior vice president of Divaris Real Estate in Richmond and specializes in retail site selection, landlord and tenant representation, land assemblage, land sales and investment sales.
Vick has 10 years of commercial real estate experience. He also was a senior vice president with Divaris in Richmond and specializes in site selection, tenant and landlord representation, land sales and investment sales.
Together, they have been involved in the leasing of more than 2 million square feet of commercial space and the disposition/acquisition of over $100 million in sales.2019-08-12T14:41:00+00:00
Restaurant building sold in King George
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/restaurant-building-sold-in-king-george#When:14:33:00ZA restaurant property in King George County has sold for $1.7 million.
The commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer said the 4,587-square-foot building at 16361 Gateway Lane was sold as a net-leased investment to Gateway Holdings LLC.
Gateway Hospitality LLC was the seller.
The building was constructed in 2018 for an IHOP restaurant.
It is located in the King George Gateway retail center, which is anchored by a Walmart store.
Wilson H. Greenlaw of Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer handled the sale negotiations on behalf of the purchaser.2019-08-12T14:33:00+00:00
Norfolk building sells for $1.4 million
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/norfolk-building-sells-for-1.4-million#When:14:27:00ZA Norfolk retail building has sold for $1.4 million.
The commercial real estate firm S.L. Nusbaum said that Vibe Holdings LLC bought the 7,242-square-foot building located at 5700 and 5718 E. Virginia Beach Boulevard.
The seller of the structure, which sits on 2.7 acres, was the Spencer Family LLC.
Michael Myers of S.L. Nusbaum handled the transaction.
In addition, Dollar Tree Stores has leased space at Dam Neck Square Shopping Center in Virginia Beach.
The 12,390-square-foot store is located at 1577 General Booth Boulevard.
Mike Zarpas, Martin Murden, Matthew Nusbaum and Sam Rapoport of S.L. Nusbaum represented the landlord.2019-08-12T14:27:00+00:00
Historic Richmond church building to be sold
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/historic-richmond-church-building-to-be-sold#When:13:56:00ZA 109-year-old Richmond church building is up for sale.
Richmond-based SVN/Motleys, in conjunction with KW Dudley Resources, will conduct the accelerated sale of Community Church of God in Christ at 1801 Park Ave. in the city’s Fan District.
The building, which sits at the corner of Park and North Allen avenues, has been assessed at more than $3.6 million. It once housed Park Avenue Methodist Church and, before that, Monument Methodist Church, which was almost destroyed by a five-alarm fire in late 1950.
The building has been certified by the city has a historic structure, and it appears in the National Register of Historic Places.
Built in 1910, the building contains more than 25,000 square feet, with a basement and two floors above grade level. It may be eligible for a fourth-floor addition.
Offers are due by 3 p.m. on Sept. 12. More information is available at svnmotleys.com.2019-08-12T13:56:00+00:00
Former astronaut named to Accenture Federal Services board
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/former-astronaut-named-to-accenture-federal-services-board#When:19:51:00ZKathryn Sullivan, an astronaut and former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has been named to the board of managers of Arlington-based Accenture Federal Services board of managers.
Sullivan will provide strategic insight and perspective on the vision, innovation and growth of Accenture Federal Services, which provides a wide-range of consulting and technology-related services to U.S. government agencies.
Accenture Federal Services is a subsidiary of Accenture LLP, a multinational professional services company headquartered in Dublin, Ireland.
The first American woman to walk in space, Sullivan flew on three space shuttle missions during her 15-year NASA career, including the 1990 mission that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope.
After leaving NASA in 1993, she held a variety of senior executive positions, including a presidential appointment as chief scientist of the National Science Board. In 2011, she was named assistant secretary of commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction and deputy administrator for NOAA. In 2013 she was appointed acting administrator of NOAA and, in 2014, was confirmed by the Senate as undersecretary of commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and as NOAA administrator.
After leaving NOAA in 2017, Sullivan was designated as the 2017 Charles A. Lindbergh Chair of Aerospace History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum and also served as a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.
Sullivan holds a bachelor’s degree in earth sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a doctoral degree in geology from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.2019-08-09T19:51:00+00:00
Public Interest Registry names CFO
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/public-interest-registry-names-cfo#When:18:44:00ZThe Reston-based Public Interest Registry (PIR) has hired Laurie Tarpey as its chief financial officer.
PIR, a nonprofit corporation, operates the .ORG top-level internet domain. It is one of the world's largest generic domains with more than 10 million names registered worldwide.
Tarpey has more than 20 years of experience developing and executing financial strategies.
At PIR, she will help oversee financial strategy and operational procedures, lead the procurement function and support the organization’s objectives alongside the broader executive team.
Tarpey previously was CFO at Raffa PC, a top-100 national accounting firm that specializes in serving nonprofits. Before that, she was CFO of Northern Virginia Family Service, a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged and underserved families and individuals.
Tarpey earned her bachelor’s degree in economics and accounting from College of the Holy Cross and has an MBA from Harvard Business School.2019-08-09T18:44:00+00:00
Bedford brewery to add hard-cider facility
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/bedford-brewery-to-add-hard-cider-facility#When:18:39:00ZLegacy Cider will invest $300,000 to establish a hard-cider production facility in Bedford County.
The facility will be located the same site as the owners’ craft brewery, Apocalypse Ale Works, in Forest. The expansion also will include improvements to the brewery’s existing taproom and beer garden.
During the next three years, Legacy Cider expects to create five new jobs and will purchase12,150 bushels of Virginia-grown apples, valued at $146,000.
In 2013, the John family opened Apocalypse Ale Works, the first craft beverage operation in Bedford County.
The brewery owners recently planted apple trees and acquired a Virginia Farm Winery license to establish Legacy Cider, which will produce products made entirely with Virginia apples.
Gov. Ralph Northam approved a $12,000 grant from the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund, which Bedford County will match with local funds.2019-08-09T18:39:00+00:00
Vaco acquires McLean-based MorganFranklin Consulting
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/vaco-acquires-mclean-based-morganfranklin-consulting#When:19:40:00ZNashville, Tennessee-based staffing firm Vaco has acquired McLean-based MorganFranklin Consulting, a finance and technology advisory firm.
Financial details about the deal were not disclosed.
Vaco says the addition of MorganFranklin will create a combined $750 million professional services firm involved in executive search, consulting, strategic staffing and permanent placement solutions.
“Vaco has always strived to be the most consultative talent & solutions firm in the industry, and with this union we can deliver an unparalleled complete spectrum of services,” Jerry Bostelman, founder and CEO of Vaco, said in a statement. “As with all things Vaco, our clients value the culture we bring as much as our capabilities. The chemistry we felt with the talented MorganFranklin team has only intensified with each conversation about how we will grow and serve together.”
As part of the acquisition, MorganFranklin Consulting will maintain its name and brand. Chris Mann will continue to serve as CEO and managing partner of MorganFranklin.
Vaco is a portfolio company of Olympus Partners. The transaction closed on July 31.
Kirkland & Ellis served as legal advisor to Olympus Partners and Vaco.2019-08-08T19:40:00+00:00
Work set to begin on IT company expansion
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/work-set-to-begin-on-it-company-expansion#When:19:07:00ZThe IT services company 1901 Group will break ground next week on a 45,000-square-foot operation center expansion in Blacksburg.
The Wednesday ceremony at Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center will also mark the company’s 10th anniversary.
When the project was announced in November, 1901 Group said it planned to invest $4 million to grow its operations center in Blacksburg and its corporate offices in Reston.
The expansion is expected to create 805 new jobs — 580 in Montgomery County and 225 in Fairfax County — during the next three years.
The new Blacksburg facility will house customer-facing software engineering, security and operations teams along with its Cloud Migration Factory that provides cloud services from discovery and assessment to cloud-managed services.
Meeting increasing demand for cloud migration services in the public sector, 1901 Group has started Cloud Pathways, a comprehensive program to develop IT professionals into cloud architects and engineers.
The company also is working with Virginia Tech and Radford University to develop cloud, security and operations engineering talent.2019-08-08T19:07:00+00:00
Six companies join Hampton Roads accelerator
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/six-companies-join-hampton-roads-accelerator#When:17:50:00ZHampton Roads business accelerator 757 Accelerate has selected six companies to participate in its second 12-week program for startups.
Begun last year, 757 Accelerate provides promising entrepreneurs $20,000 in capital without taking equity in the companies. The accelerator also provides startups with connections to mentors, investors and resources while helping to validate products and test business models.
The latest cohort of companies will begin the program on Aug. 26. The group includes ventures industries such as cosmetics, software, 3-D printing and furniture.The companies are:
Nuekie — Eunice Cofie, a Hampton chemist, combines her knowledge of traditional African medicine and modern chemistry to create health and beauty products for people of color.
Xperience Robotics — Ankit Shah, also from Hampton, is an aerospace engineer who has built an artificial intelligence-based software platform using wearable sensors to track patient’s movements for physical therapy and movement disorder treatments.
Forefront — Yulkendy Valdez and Josuel Plasencia, the founders of New York-based Forefront, have created a software platform to increase the reach of their diversity and inclusion training seminars for Fortune 500 companies such SAP, Accenture and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Metallum3D — Nelson Zambrana, founder of Charlottesville-based Metallum3D, invented a patented low-cost, high-performance 3-D printing process.
Redactable — Founder Amanda Levay of New York created a patented web application that permanently redacts data such as financial information quickly and easily from web browsers. Current software places black boxes over sensitive information, but it does not remove it.
Addison Weeks — Founded by Virginia Beach native Lee Addison Lesley and Kat Weeks Mulford, Addison Weeks manufactures creative furniture hardware.2019-08-08T17:50:00+00:00
LeClairRyan announces shutdown
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/leclairryan-announces-shutdown#When:20:34:00ZThe leadership of LeClairRyan has acknowledged that the 31-year-old firm, once the fifth-largest in Virginia, will be shutting down.
"On behalf of my colleagues, we are deeply saddened to make this announcement today," the firm's former CEO, C. Erik Gustafson, said in a press release. "Through our transition, we will continue to focus first and foremost on the success of our clients, as we always have done. I am thankful to all of the clients who have chosen to work with our team over the last 30 years, and I am grateful for the exceptional lawyers and professionals who continue to work with dedication and determination towards winding down the firm in an orderly fashion."
The firm's members voted on Wednesday to "commence an orderly wind-down of the firm's business," according to the release. "The firm, through its dissolution committee, is working in cooperation with its lender to ensure the continuity of client service until such time as the firm ceases to actively practice law and turns its attention to post-practice activities."
Co-founder, former CEO and name partner Gary LeClair raised eyebrows in late July when it was announced that he and two other LeClairRyan partners, David Lay and Andrew White, had joined the corporate law section at Williams Mullen, Virginia’s third-largest law firm. The day before the Williams Mullen announcement, news broke that 15 LeClairRyan aviation attorneys had deserted the firm for Philadelphia-based Fox Rothschild LLP. The exodus continued Tuesday with the announcement that LeClairRyan attorneys Jim Guy, Garland Carr and Cathy Zhang also have joined Williams Mullen.
During the last few years, LeClairRyan has seen a steady decline in gross revenues, sinking from $163 million in 2015 to $122.5 million last year. Its staffing has decreased from a peak of more than 350 attorneys in 2015 to around 190 attorneys this year. LeClairRyan has 21 offices nationwide, stretching from Los Angeles to New York.
In recent weeks, the embattled firm has also faced legal actions, including a federal gender discrimination lawsuit filed last week in the Eastern District of Virginia, alleging that LeClairRyan’s female employees have systematically been paid less than their male counterparts. In early July, the landlord of the firm’s now-closed Williamsburg office sued LeClairRyan in James City County Circuit Court, seeking $374,000 in unpaid rent.
In June, the firm moved for a dismissal in a $150 million malpractice lawsuit filed against LeClairRyan by Tonya Mallory, the founder and former CEO of Health Diagnostic Laboratory (HDL). A decision in that case is still pending. Mallory’s lawsuit blames LeClairRyan’s legal advice on the “catastrophic results” that led to the closure of her once-highly successful company.
LeClairRyan previously paid a $20.375 million settlement to HDL’s bankruptcy estate in a similar dispute over legal services it provided to HDL. The medical-testing corporation went into bankruptcy following a federal investigation into its business practices, which included reimbursing physician’s offices for processing and handling blood samples.2019-08-07T20:34:00+00:00
Coworking space planned for Tech research center
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/coworking-space-planned-for-tech-research-center#When:18:54:00ZThe Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center soon will be the site of a coworking space.
The Blacksburg research center will house COgro, a flexible workspace designed to offer entrepreneurs, remote workers and small-business owners many of the amenities of a large business office.
Coworking sites have become a growing national trend, with many popping up in urban areas such as Northern Virginia, Richmond and Norfolk in recent years.
COgro’s grand opening is set for Oct. 1. It will house 64 coworking members in unreserved and reserved workstations and two-and four-person offices. Amenities will include free parking, Wi-Fi, 17 conference rooms and access to copy, print, fax and scan machines.
The HUBZone-designated site also will offer networking and training events.
Established in 1985, the 230-acre research center has more 185 companies with over 3,000 employees.
The center is owned and managed by the Virginia Tech Foundation.2019-08-07T18:54:00+00:00
Nestlé USA expands headquarters space
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/nestle-usa-expands-headquarters-space#When:18:06:00ZNestlé USA Inc. has expanded its corporate headquarters in Arlington’s Rosslyn area.
The real estate investment firm Monday Properties said Wednesday that the company, the U.S. division of Switzerland-based Nestlé S.A., now occupies 14 floors of 1812 North Moore in Rosslyn.
The Nestlé expansion has increased its space in the building owned by Monday Properties from 252,000 square feet to over 300,000 square feet.
The real estate firm said the expansion leaves the building with about 150,000 square feet of available contiguous office space.
The 35-floor, 390-foot-tall building, built in 2013, has a total of 537,000 square feet of office space.
One of the world's largest food and beverage companies, Nestlé announced its relocation from Glendale, California, to Arlington in 2017.
Besides Nestlé, other tenants in 1812 North Moore include Gerber and Cerner.
Eastman to expand operations in Henry County
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/eastman-to-expand-operations-in-henry-county#When:16:53:00ZEastman Chemical Co. is planning a $7.7 million expansion of its operations in Henry County.
The Kingsport, Tennessee-based specialty materials company, which now employs 776 people at its Henry County plant, said expansion will not immediately result in additional positions. Nonetheless, company officials said that future job growth is possible.
Eastman makes window and paint protection films in Henry County, where it began operations in 2013.
In its expansion project. Eastman will add capacity at its facilities at the Patriot Centre Industrial Park while also moving into a former furniture facility in the adjacent Bowles Industrial Park.
Eastman is eligible to receive state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone (VEZ) program, which is administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, as well as local enterprise zone benefits from Henry County.
VEZ provides grant-based incentives to encourage job creation and private investment.
Henry County also will contribute a $200,000 grant to Eastman to assist with site development.
As part of its recently announced incentive pool funding program, the Martinsville-based Harvest Foundation will provide the grant money to the county.2019-08-07T16:53:00+00:00
VisionBank founders join Old Dominion National
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/visionbank-founders-join-old-dominion-national#When:19:59:00ZTwo executives who were trying to create a new Northern Virginia bank instead have joined Tysons-based Old Dominion National Bank.
Old Dominion announced Tuesday that Melinda H. McClure has been named its executive vice president and chief strategy officer while Richard D. Horn will become executive vice president and general counsel.
McClure was chairman and CEO and Horn was chief operating officer and general counsel of McLean-based VisionBank, a financial institution that was in organization.
VisionBank has withdrawn previously submitted applications to bank regulators to become a Virginia chartered commercial bank.
Industry observers had expected VisionBank to become the first new bank to form in Virginia in a decade.
Old Dominion said the move by McClure and Horn was approved by the boards of both banks. The bank said it expects it will add other VisionBank founders to its board of directors and regional advisory board.
Old Dominion has $325 million in assets and more than $265 million in deposits.
The bank operates five full-service branches and employs nearly 70 people, many of whom came to Old Dominion after their banks were acquired by larger institutions.2019-08-06T19:59:00+00:00
VFP celebrates opening of new HQ in Roanoke
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/vfp-celebrates-opening-of-new-hq-in-roanoke#When:14:54:00ZVFP Inc. officially opened its new corporate headquarters in Roanoke last week.
The company’s grand opening on Tuesday included tours of the nearly 47,000-square-foot building at 5400 Fallowater Lane, which was built in 1994.
VFP bought the building late last year from Cox Communications for $4.45 million. Cox is leasing back 26,000 square feet.
VFP makes custom-designed enclosures used to protect critical infrastructure for telecommunications, public-safety radio, data-center and utility projects. Each enclosure is designed to withstand a wide range of environmental and physical extremes.
The units are made at VFP’s manufacturing facilities in Duffield, which occupy over 300,000 square feet. The company has delivered products to customers in all 50 states and 82 countries.2019-08-05T14:54:00+00:00
Alexandria shopping centers are part of $485 million deal
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/alexandria-shopping-centers-are-part-of-485-million-deal#When:14:26:00ZTwo Alexandria shopping centers were included in a recent $485 million deal involving grocery-anchored shopping centers acquired in Virginia and Maryland.
The commercial real estate firm JLL announced last week that Bradlee Shopping Center and Shoppes at Foxchase in Alexandria were two of the five properties sold by WashREIT to First Washington Realty. Bradlee Shopping Center is anchored by The Fresh Market and Shoppes at Foxchase is anchored by a Harris Teeter.
The Maryland shopping centers in the portfolio are Gateway Overlook in Columbia, Olney Village Center in Olney and Wheaton Park Shopping Center in Wheaton. Those properties' grocery-store anchors include Trader Joe's, Aldi, Giant and H Mart.
JLL said the entire portfolio includes 797,984 square feet of retail space, which is 97.7% leased.
Representing the seller were JLL’s Capital Markets team — including Daniel Finkle, Stephen Conley, John Owendoff, Jordan Lex and Kim Flores — along with JLL's M&A and Corporate Advisory team.2019-08-05T14:26:00+00:00
Multifamily properties obtain more than $100 million in financing
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/multifamily-properties-obtain-more-than-100-million-in-financing#When:14:16:00ZThe commercial real estate services firm Berkadia recently secured more than $100 million in financing for two multifamily properties in Virginia.
One deal was $92.7 million in financing for Woodbridge Station, a garden-style multifamily property in Woodbridge.
The seven-year, interest-only Fannie Mae loan has an interest rate of less than 3.5% and a 70% loan-to-value ratio.
Director Jonathan Pratt and Associate Director Rossana Bouchaya of Berkadia’s Washington, D.C., office secured the loan on behalf of Foulger-Pratt, a D.C.-based developer and operator.
Berkadia also secured financing for the third phase of Windigrove Apartments, a multifamily property to be built in Waynesboro.
Director Amy Gay of Berkadia’s Richmond office originated the $15.8 million construction-to-permanent loan through HUD.
The borrower was Virginia-based Pinnacle Construction & Development Corp.
The construction loan has a 4.13% interest rate and an 85% loan-to-cost ratio.
Both financing deals closed on July 31.
Berkadia, based in Ambler, Pennsylvania, is a joint venture of Berkshire Hathaway and Jefferies Financial Group.2019-08-05T14:16:00+00:00
Maryland developer enters Northern Virginia market
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/maryland-developer-enters-northern-virginia-market#When:14:12:00ZThe commercial real estate advisory firm Newmark Knight Frank said Minkoff bought five flex/industrial and office buildings in the Avion Business Park in Chantilly for $43.5 million.
The seller was Maguire Hayden Real Estate Co.
Based in Germantown, Maryland, family-owned Minkoff has been in business since 1972. It previously developed office and industrial properties in Montgomery and Prince Georges counties in Maryland.
Its Virginia portfolio includes: office buildings at 14500 Avion Parkway and 14520 Avion Parkway; and flex/industrial buildings at 14700 Avion Parkway, 3635 Concorde Parkway and 3650 Concorde Parkway.
Minkoff is adding a shared conference facility and tenant lounge with a micro-market at 14500 Avion Parkway.2019-08-05T14:12:00+00:00
LeClairRyan moving towards shutdown
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/leclairryan-moving-towards-shutdown#When:19:20:00ZUpdated Aug. 5
A wind-down committee has been formed to oversee the dissolution of Richmond-based LeClairRyan PLLC, the state’s fifth-largest law firm and one of the nation's top-200 highest-grossing firms, according to The American Lawyer.
Co-founder, former CEO and name partner Gary LeClair raised eyebrows in late July when it was announced that he and two other LeClairRyan partners, David Lay and Andrew White, had joined the corporate law section at Williams Mullen, Virginia’s third-largest law firm. The day before the Williams Mullen announcement, news broke that 15 LeClairRyan aviation attorneys had deserted the firm for Philadelphia-based Fox Rothschild LLP. The exodus continued Tuesday with the announcement that LeClairRyan attorneys Jim Guy, Garland Carr and Cathy Zhang also have joined Williams Mullen.
LeClairRyan CEO C. Erik Gustafson made no comment about the firm’s status to The American Lawyer, but the firm’s president, Elizabeth Acee, released a statement last week that the firm was “considering options” for the future.
Attorneys and staff members have been told to seek other jobs, according to American Lawyer, and some support staffers were laid off. Others told the legal magazine that partners who have quit the firm have not received compensation for capital contributions.
During the last few years, LeClairRyan has seen a steady decline in gross revenues, sinking from $163 million in 2015 to $122.5 million last year. Its staffing has decreased from a peak of more than 350 attorneys in 2015 to around 190 attorneys this year. LeClairRyan has 21 offices nationwide, stretching from Los Angeles to New York.
In recent weeks, the embattled firm has also faced legal actions, including a federal gender discrimination lawsuit filed last week in the Eastern District of Virginia, alleging that LeClairRyan’s female employees have systematically been paid less than their male counterparts. In early July, the landlord of the firm’s now-closed Williamsburg office sued LeClairRyan in James City County Circuit Court, seeking $374,000 in unpaid rent.
In June, the firm moved for a dismissal in a $150 million malpractice lawsuit filed against LeClairRyan by Tonya Mallory, the founder and former CEO of Health Diagnostic Laboratory (HDL). A decision in that case is still pending. Mallory’s lawsuit blames LeClairRyan’s legal advice on the “catastrophic results” that led to the closure of her once-highly successful company.
LeClairRyan previously paid a $20.375 million settlement to HDL’s bankruptcy estate in a similar dispute over legal services it provided to HDL. The medical-testing corporation went into bankruptcy following a federal investigation into its business practices, which included reimbursing physician’s offices for processing and handling blood samples.2019-08-03T19:20:00+00:00http://www.virginiabusiness.com/uploads2/virginia-credit-union-logo.jpg
Banks battle Virginia Credit Union over medical society
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/banks-battle-virginia-credit-union-over-medical-society#When:21:43:00ZUpdated Aug. 8
The Virginia Credit Union has hit a roadblock in expanding its membership to include the Medical Society of Virginia’s 10,000 members — and the dispute could wind up being heard by the Virginia Supreme Court.
Seven small community banks and the Virginia Bankers Association (VBA) say the nonprofit credit union has taken a step too far by asking the state for permission to be able to offer membership to the large, statewide group of “highly educated and highly compensated” physicians and other medical professionals, taking away business from taxpaying banks with fewer assets than the credit union. Blue Ridge Bank, based in Luray, was added to the petition Aug. 5.
Virginia Credit Union Director of Public and Media Relations Glenn Birch said in a statement Thursday that the Medical Society of Virginia approached the credit union about joining and “saw membership … as an attractive benefit they could offer members located throughout Virginia and who may benefit from our products, services, access, technology and financial education resources.”
In a decision last week, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) put an immediate stay on the expansion’s approval, granted earlier in July by the state Bureau of Financial Institutions. Groups larger than 3,000 members must receive the BFI’s approval to join an existing state-chartered credit union under state law.
The state Bureau of Financial Institutions has approved "several" requests from existing state-chartered credit unions to extend membership to groups larger than 3,000 members since the legislation went into effect in 1999 but this is the first time a credit union in Virginia has sought to offer services to a group numbering more than 10,000 members, according to SCC spokesperson Kenneth Schrad.
The banks are opposed to the expansion, says VBA President and CEO Bruce Whitehurst, contending it would give the nonprofit credit union too great an advantage over community banks.
With more than $3.7 billion in assets, the Virginia Credit Union “is larger than most community banks in Virginia,” Whitehurst says. “Every one of those banks [involved in the appeal] is smaller, in some cases substantially smaller, than the Virginia Credit Union.”
The state and local governments also stand to lose tax revenue if too many people become members of non-taxpaying credit unions, he adds. (Credit unions are exempt from state and federal corporate income taxes and but they are subject to local real estate and personal property taxes and state-charted credit unions must also pay the state sales tax.)
Additionally, Whitehurst wrote in the filing, Medical Society of Virginia members already “possess copious volunteer and other resources that would enable them to establish and support a new single common-bond credit union.”
Rick Pillow, president of the Virginia Credit Union League, which supports the expansion effort, says it makes sense for the Medical Society of Virginia to seek membership in the Virginia Credit Union rather than establish its own credit union because "groups and businesses seeking to charter a new credit union face tremendous obstacles, including regulatory hurdles, the need to raise significant capital, technology costs and the fact a newly chartered credit union would be decades building a member base sufficient to offer the wide range of products and services demanded by today’s consumer."
The Virginia Bankers Association (VBA) and six Virginia community banks requested the stay last week, granted July 25 by the State Corporation Commission. The banks were appealing a state Bureau of Financial Institutions commissioner’s decision July 12 approving the expansion. The Virginia Credit Union has until the end of business Friday to file a response, which their legal counsel is working on, a spokesman says.
The seven community banks — including Abingdon-based First Bank & Trust Co., Altavista’s First National Bank, Danville’s American National Bank & Trust Co., Windsor’s Farmers Bank, Blue Ridge Bank, Chesapeake Bank and the Bank of Charlotte County — stand to lose business because they all have customers who are currently members of the Medical Society of Virginia, Whitehurst says.
“Credit unions are expanding on the uneven playing field they enjoy,” says Steve Yeakel, president and CEO of the Virginia Association of Community Banks, which has many of the same members as the VBA and supports the banks’ petition.
Not only do credit unions avoid taxes, but their regulatory burden is “significantly lighter,” Yeakel adds. “We love competition, but fair competition should be the ideal.”
Without the stay, the expansion would have taken effect July 26, according to documents filed with the SCC.
The SCC appeal arrives on the heels of the credit union’s purchase of the Henrico County real estate firm Joyner Fine Properties, announced Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the 46-year-old company employs more than 180 people at five local offices.
The VBA and the six banks have requested an appeal hearing at the end of August, which would ordinarily be heard by the SCC’s three-judge panel. However, Judge Mark Christie, who is in his third six-year term as a commissioner and the SCC’s current chairman, has recused himself, although Whitehurst said he didn’t know why. If either side decides to appeal the panel’s decision, the case would go to the Virginia Supreme Court.
When credit unions were signed into federal law in 1934, Whitehurst said, they were meant to serve people of “modest means” who weren’t welcomed at traditional banks. However, a loosening of the rules by the U.S. Congress in 1998 has allowed credit unions more latitude in expanding their charters and offering broader membership than before.
The Medical Society of Virginia’s CEO and executive vice president, Melina Davis-Martin, who could not be reached for comment, was listed as a nonvoting associate director on the Virginia Credit Union’s board in its 2018 annual report, which was released at the end of the year.
In the end, adds Birch, “approval of the application simply means that membership in Virginia Credit Union becomes an option that individual members of the [Medical Society of Virginia] would be free to consider, based on their own financial circumstances and convenience.”
Birch declined to comment on whether the credit union would pursue the case to the state’s high court, and Whitehurst said, “I’m not going to jump ahead. We’re very focused on this appeal.”2019-08-01T21:43:00+00:00Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
What does Fed rate cut mean for Virginia?
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/what-does-fed-rate-cut-mean-for-virginia#When:19:17:00ZFor the first time in 11 years, the Federal Reserve has cut interest rates, a preemptive move amid a global economic slowdown and tensions over U.S. trade with China, although the central bank’s assessment of the U.S. economy is generally positive.
With the reduction of rates from 2.5% to 2.25%, what does the Fed’s decision mean for Virginia?
Probably not much, particularly in terms of home sales, says Vinod Agarwal, deputy director of Old Dominion University’s Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy. At an average of 3.8%, mortgage rates are already very low in Virginia and the Fed’s cut will likely have little influence on long-term loan interest rates, Agarwal adds, those being far more affected by the U.S. 10-Year Treasury Note rate, listed this afternoon around 2%.
In Virginia, home sales decreased 6% between June 2018 and June 2019, according to the most recent Virginia Realtors home sales report, with Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia driving the slowdown. Demand remains high, though.
“Mortgage rates have remained consistently low for some time now, which is one factor that has led to brisk home sales in our region,” says Ryan T. Conrad, CEO of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. “While a potential reduction in the Fed rate could push mortgage rates slightly lower, it is hard to imagine that it would have a significant impact on our already robust housing market. Given our current limited supply of available homes for sale, coupled with high demand, a rate change isn’t likely to alter consumer behavior.”
The story is similar in Central Virginia, where “the challenge is inventory,” says Laura Lafayette, CEO of the Richmond Association of Realtors. Especially in neighborhoods with homes costing less than $250,000, sellers commonly receive multiple offers and get 99% of their asking price, she adds. “When you have a lack of supply of listings, you wonder what a quarter percentage is going to do.”
Nonetheless, the Fed decrease may provide a psychological boost for first-time homebuyers who need just a little nudge to enter the market, Lafayette says. The cut also could be good news for people with credit card debt and for businesses, which may be more inclined to create jobs or make other investments, Agarwal says.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported healthy job growth in Virginia, which added more than 31,700 new jobs between June 2018 and June 2019, with many in professional and technical services, leisure and hospitality, health and social assistance and manufacturing.
Francis E. Warnock, professor of business administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, suggests that the short-term effects of the rate cut could include slightly faster economic growth, as well as the possibility of a weaker dollar and higher inflation rates. “The rate cut is largely because the Fed is worried about future shocks such as trade wars negatively affecting sentiment and thus companies’ decisions to expand,” he says.
The last time the Fed cut rates was in December 2008, when the central bank lowered its benchmark rate virtually to zero in response to the burgeoning economic crisis. Six former leaders of the Federal Reserve, including former chairs Alan Greenspan and Janet Yellen, spoke in favor of a quarter-point cut this week, although not further reductions, according to a Washington Post report. Agarwal said that he would be watching inflation rates and wage growth for signs that the Fed may make another rate cut later this year.
Traders appeared to be more confident after Wednesday’s announcement that the Fed will cut rates again in September, as futures trading indicated a 79% chance of another quarter-point reduction, according to The Wall Street Journal.2019-07-31T19:17:00+00:00
Virginia sales tax holiday starts Friday
http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/virginia-sales-tax-holiday-starts-friday#When:20:59:00ZIf you need a chainsaw or a pencil case — or perhaps a new pair of shoes — you may want to wait for Virginia’s sales-tax holiday, starting at midnight Friday, Aug. 2, and ending at 11:59 p.m. the following Sunday, according to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.
The popular event offers tax-free purchases of items for the start of school and hurricane preparation, including portable generators, gas-powered chainsaws, school supplies, qualified clothing and footwear. Energy Star and WaterSense products for home or personal use are also included.
Qualified clothing and footwear goes beyond what you may normally think of for first-day-of-school wear and includes wedding apparel (yes, the veil counts), corsets, pajamas and rubber pants. For a detailed list, visit tax.virginia.gov/virginia-sales-tax-holiday
According to U.S. News & World Report, the first tax holiday dates back to 1980 in Ohio and Michigan, which offered exemptions on cars. This year, 16 states are having a tax holiday, with many landing in the back-to-school shopping days of August.
A 2018 study by the Tax Foundation found that sales tax holidays “do not promote economic growth or significantly increase consumer purchases,” and instead just “simply shift the timing” of purchases.2019-07-29T20:59:00+00:00