Around The Region: January – March 2020


U.S. House lawmakers passed a bill to extend the Chesapeake Bay Program which will provide $90 million in 2020, followed by a $500,000 annual increase over the next five years. The bill boosts funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program in order to assist Virginia’s cleanup and restoration plans which have a 2025 deadline. The Chesapeake Bay Program was allocated $73 million in the 2019 fiscal year and has now been allocated $85 million for the 2020 fiscal year.

The Chesapeake based company, INIT Innovations in Transportation, has launched an app designed to make public transit more accessible for those with visual, hearing, and mobility impairments. The app is currently only available in Singapore, but other countries such as Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Europe, including Verona, Italy have taken an interest in the app. The app can be configured based on individual specifications or country requirements.

Chesapeake Regional Healthcare (CRH) has been awarded a $100,000 grant from North Carolina’s Golden LEAF Foundation which will assist in funding medical and IT equipment as they expand their local practice, Internal Medicine of Elizabeth City. CRH will soon begin upgrades on their North Carolina office which will include improvements on patient exam rooms, electrical improvements, the addition of a lab draw center and imaging capabilities. The expansion will create seven new jobs which include two nurse practitioners, two medical assistants, a service representative, an office coordinator, and an X-ray technician.

In early March, the City of Chesapeake announced a new state-of-the-art Amazon facility to be built in their Western Branch Business District. It is one of two new buildings in the Hampton Roads region. The building will be 650,000 square feet and employ 500 full-time employees. Read more here.


After Virginia successfully competed with North Carolina, Franklin announced that a manufacturer and sourcing agent of medical disposable products for the healthcare industry, called GMAX, will invest $10.5 million to create a manufacturing and distribution operation. GMAX will be in Pretlow Industrial Park and will create 40 new jobs for the area. Read more here.


NASA Langley Research Center is playing a key role in researching and developing new composites and advanced material suitable for deep space exploration in the upcoming lunar and mars missions. NASA’s presence in Hampton Roads has had an economic impact of more than $111 million for small businesses that have been able to access NASA innovations in the public domain.


The Isle of Wight School Board has approved the creation of a year-long schedule which allows students to spend one week in their Career and Technical Education (CTE) Career Academy course, while alternating with one week of core classes. The pilot program will launch in the 2020-2021 school year. Programs included are: Agriculture, Building Trades, Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, Nurse Aid, and Welding. An emphasis has been placed on developing high quality internships and apprenticeships with area business partners. Many businesses have been supportive of this initiative indicating that traditional high school schedules are not conducive to authentic work-based experiences.


The City of Newport News hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Brooks Crossing Innovation and Opportunity Center (BCIOC) in which guest speakers: Old Dominion University President John R. Broderick, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Governor Ralph Northam, Newport News Mayor McKinley L. Price and Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin were in attendance. BCIOC is a collaboration between Newport News Shipbuilding, Old Dominion University, and the City of Newport News. The center brings together shipyard workers, STEM Outreach and Workforce Development. BCIOC is a hub that offers training, job seeking opportunities, and collaboration.


Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings (“S&P”) raised Norfolk’s credit rating to AAA on its long-term General Obligation Bonds. With this upgrade Norfolk is one of 16 municipalities in Virginia with this highest credit rating from S&P. S&P highlighted that the higher rating represents Norfolk’s “strong economy,” its “very strong management, with strong financial policies and practices” and “very strong budgetary flexibility, strong budgetary performance, as well as very strong liquidity.” S&P also applauded the City’s efforts to address sustainability, climate change, and sea level risk in its long term financial and capital planning efforts.

In early March, an announcement was made about lawmakers striking a deal to bring five casinos to Virginia cities in order to aid their local economies. Norfolk is one of those localities and if the bill is signed by Governor Ralph Northam it will then be up to voters as the bill requires a local referendum.


The City of Portsmouth has announced they are one of the 15 enterprise zones that have been renewed for another five years. The VEZ program is a partnership between state and local governments that provides job creation and private investment through Enterprise Zones and two grant-based incentives. The state has generated more than $1.5 billion in investment and 50,000 jobs since 2015 with the zones.


Southampton County announced that Bon Bon Farms, LLC will be investing $8.5 million and creating 162 new jobs in Boykins, VA. At first, the LLC will grow hemp plugs and supply them to farms throughout Virginia and the Southeast, then in about two or three years they plan to produce CBD oil and related products.


Suffolk announced that an olive oil manufacturer, Acesur, will invest $11 million to establish its first US production facility in the City of Suffolk. Acesur is headquartered in Dos Hermanas, Seville Spain and has been producing olive oil since 1840 to more than 90 countries. The company will bring in 29 manufacturing positions at the Suffolk location with an overall economic impact of $20 million. Overall, it will create a total of 60 new jobs across Hampton Roads. Read more here.

Additionally, in March, Amazon announced it will invest $200 million to build a 3.8 million sq. foot, multi-story robotics fulfillment center, creating 1,000 new jobs. The new 90-feet tall facility will be the largest industrial building in Virginia. Read more here.


Virginia Beach announced that they have secured a location for the VABeachBio Accelerator Program which was created more than four years ago. City officials have awaited a lab in order to attract more biomedical and life sciences companies to the area. The location near Town Center will offer a temporary office and lab space for startup and growing companies. The city is leasing 5,706 square feet of space which will be located at the Convergence II office building off Independence Boulevard.

Luxury motor coach service provider, Rapid Overland Xpress (ROX), has been awarded an Economic Development Incentive Program grant of $110,000 by the Virginia Beach Development Authority. The ROX will provide luxury roundtrip transportation between Virginia Beach and Northern Virginia/Washington D.C. with two daily non-stop roundtrips. The company will create 50 new jobs with average salaries, exclusive of benefits, of $50,000. The EDIP grant was based on the company’s capital investment of $3,275,000 and the job creation.


The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) announced in January that 14 companies from across the Commonwealth, including DESMI, Inc. in the City of Chesapeake and Instant Systems Inc in the City of Norfolk, have graduated from its Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET) Program. The program, which now has 304 graduates, assists Virginia exporters that have firmly established their domestic operations and are committed to international exporting as a growth strategy.

VEDP also announced that O’Connor Brewing Company in the City of Norfolk, INIT Innovations in Transportation Inc., in the City of Chesapeake, and Dilon Technologies, Inc. and ivWatch, LLC., both in the City of Newport News were accepted into the VALET program.

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