A powerful history
Welcome to the fourth edition of the Virginia 500 — The 2023 Power List. Our hope is that you will find it to be an insightful and helpful guide to the commonwealth’s top leaders in business, government and higher education.
Virginia’s long reputation as a power center — producing eight U.S. presidents, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison — precedes us and continues to this day.
While a list of 500 leaders seems like it would allow us breathing room to recognize practically every significant leader in Virginia, it leaves only so much room in specific categories. For example, first and foremost, we want to make sure to include powerful leaders in the business community, which leaves less room for state government, academia and politics.
Overall, the Virginia 500 includes leaders across 20 categories, some broken into subcategories, with the number of listings in each category ranging from seven to more than 70. When we assembled the first edition of this list back in 2020, we had questions like, “How many people will be included in each category?” Well, that depends. There aren’t as many big players in an unquestionably important category like energy, while there are many more in other important categories such as banking or real estate. And given the commonwealth’s proximity to Dee Cee and the fact that four of the nation’s five largest defense contractors are headquartered in Northern Virginia, the federal contracting sector makes up our largest category.
Likewise, business density and proximity to the state and federal capitals means that there are more leaders featured from Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads than places like the Shenandoah Valley or Southern or Southwest Virginia. Still, we aim to capture a solid picture of the powerful people who get deals done across all regions of Virginia.
Similarly, diversity and inclusion are challenges. Virginia Business is purposefully conscious of the need to highlight the achievements of women and ethnically diverse communities in our coverage. Still, despite the increasing diversity of Virginia’s business community, C-suite leadership and power tends to stay a step behind the changing demographics of the commonwealth.
Yes, 500 is a big number, but we have no illusions that this Power List is comprehensive or captures every powerful person in the commonwealth. This publication is, however, an impressive reminder that Virginia remains a remarkable place for fostering power and leadership.