January 2024

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Monthly News from Hampton Roads

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Note from the President

Doug Smith, Alliance President & CEO

Happy New Year! I am thrilled to share with you the highlights of recent activities and developments in our region. We started the year with a remarkable investor event on January 11 with a bipartisan panel discussion featuring three former Virginia governors: George Allen, Bob McDonnell, and Ralph Northam. The event was one of the largest investor events in recent years and offered valuable insights into Virginia's economic landscape.

The Governors engaged in thoughtful conversations about their respective tenures, shedding light on the significant economic development events and initiatives that shaped the state. Attendees gained a deeper understanding of Virginia's economic journey, with a focus on job creation and overall economic growth. The panel addressed a series of thought-provoking questions that delved into the past, present, and future of Virginia's economic development including discussion on some of the most significant economic development events during their tenures and how these initiatives have influenced the state's current economic landscape. The Governors, drawing from their rich experience, closed with valuable advice for our regional leaders in regarding economic development in Hampton Roads.

All three governors decided to call Hampton Roads home after they left office, a testament to the quality of life in our region. We extend our sincere appreciation to Amazon, our presenting sponsor, and Old Dominion University for graciously hosting this impactful session. Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to making this event a success.


The Governors panel set the stage for our annual meeting where Bruce Katz, author of The New Localism and the Founding Director of the Novak Metro Finance lab at Drexel University will be our featured speaker. Katz has been studying and writing about the new regional economic order that is evolving and is driven by a series of transnational challenges that are forcing radical changes in how societies redesign complex systems. Katz maintains that the regions poised for success in this new order are those that excel as military metros, technology epicenters, climate first movers, and trading powerhouses. This foresight bodes particularly well for Hampton Roads, with our strategic military presence, burgeoning tech industry (Jefferson Lab), proactive climate initiatives and focus on clean energy, and our robust trading infrastructure at the Port of Virginia. Our strengths align seamlessly with the characteristics of these thriving future regions.


I look forward to sharing the details of our record performance in 2023 at the Alliance’s annual meeting with our investors on February 29th at Hampton University. We look forward to continuing our efforts with you all to promote economic development and collaboration in the Hampton Roads region in 2024.

Your ally in economic development,

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Seeing the Sites:

Hampton Roads Aims for Industrial Development Wins

Last year, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s Virginia Business Ready Sites Program awarded $90 million in matching grants to 21 sites statewide with at least 100 contiguous, developable acres (or at least 50 acres in western Virginia). Three Hampton Roads sites made the list: Chesapeake’s Coastal Virginia Commerce Park, Fairwinds Landing in Norfolk and Hazelwood Farms in James City County.

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Global Specialty Chemicals Producer to Expand in Virginia

Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that Solenis, a leading global producer of specialty chemicals for water-intensive industries, will invest $193 million to expand its operation in the City of Suffolk. The company will build a new 80,000-square-foot production facility, packaging facility, and tank farm, and add a new rail spur to accommodate production of polyvinylamine polymer products, which are used in paper and cardboard manufacturing. This new facility will be used to grow the existing polymer product line and add additional capacity of this critical monomer to the existing supplier. Virginia successfully competed with Georgia and Texas for the project, which will create 34 new jobs. 

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Column: GO Virginia invests in the Hampton Roads “portfolio of assets”

For much of the past decade, Virginia has fallen behind other states in competing for economic development because we failed to make critical investments in our workforce, site development and entrepreneurship. Further, our localities often competed with each other instead of collaborating to lift up the entire Hampton Roads region. The Virginia Initiative for Growth & Opportunity (GO Virginia), created through a business-led, bipartisan effort in 2015, is reversing that trend.

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How Cities Can Thrive in the New Industrial Era

Fueled by macro dynamics and unprecedented federal investments, the reshoring of advanced manufacturing is happening at a pace and scale that would have been inconceivable even three years ago. As a result, in many respects the hierarchy of American metros is being reset. If the decade between the Great Recession and the pandemic seemed to be all about “superstar” tech cities, many of the winners in the remote-work era are going to be places that make tangible things.

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The Defense Dividend and What it Means for Cities

For the past 30 years, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the notion of a “peace dividend” took hold in the United States. To use an old metaphor, less funding for guns meant more resources for butter. Times have changed. The world has, once again, become a dangerous, polarized place. Since the start of our republic, national defense investments have had profound local implications. If history is any guide, a subset of US cities and metros will experience a substantial defense dividend from the current level of spending.

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Chesapeake’s Summit Pointe Expanding Restaurant, Entertainment Offerings

A huge mixed-use development project in Chesapeake’s Greenbrier neighborhood has attracted more than a dozen open and soon-to-open restaurants, retailers and other businesses, including a combination golfing simulator business and sports bar. Several new and expanding Hampton Roads businesses recently have opened or are close to opening in the Summit Pointe development, including: Cork & Bull Chophouse, Union Taco, iHeartMedia, and X-Golf.

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Free Hampton Roads Service Connects Military Spouses & Veterans with Job Opportunities

According to the Department of Defense, the unemployment rate for military spouses is around 21%. There are many reasons for the higher than the national average jobless rate. One reason: some employers just aren't willing to take a chance on hiring a military spouse. It's Sultan Camp's job to change their minds. He's the director of the Hampton Roads Veterans Employment Center, part of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council.

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'4 Major Projects' Could Break Ground at Norfolk International Airport in 2024: CEO

From the return of the moving sidewalk...to major additions to the Departures terminal, the first of $650 million in construction projects at Norfolk International Airport will break ground in 2024. It comes as the airport is celebrating its busiest year ever for passengers — 4.5 million in 2023, an increase of about ten percent from 2022 — and new, direct service to San Diego.

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Column: Fostering Regionalism Through Collaboration in Coastal Virginia

Regionalism enhances and supports the work of organizations such as the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Hampton Roads Alliance and Hampton Roads Workforce Development Council. By building bridges with entities such as the new “4-Cities Collaborative,” regionalism helps facilitate useful connections between the Chesapeake Alliance, Greater Norfolk Corporation, Portsmouth Partnership and VBV.

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Column: FSEDI 2023 in Review

2023 was an exciting year for the Franklin Southampton economy. Despite predictions of a national recession, the U.S. and regional economy was generally good, and positive momentum appeared in Franklin Southampton as well.  Franklin Southampton Economic Development, Inc. was extremely active during 2023, working to create new business opportunities as well as additional possibilities to develop in future years.

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Breeze Airways Announces New Nonstop Route from Norfolk to San Diego

Budget airline Breeze Airways is adding another destination from Norfolk International Airport. The airline plans to begin nonstop flights to San Diego May 1.

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U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association and Foundation Announces 2024 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipients

The United States Naval Academy Alumni Association and Foundation announced the 2024 Distinguished Graduate Award recipients, who will be honored in a ceremony at the Naval Academy on Friday, 22 March 2024. Congratulations to all of the remarkable gentlemen being honored and a special recognition to Jerry Miller of Fairlead and The Miller Group, a Platinum Alliance investor and part of the partnership transforming Fairwinds Landing LLC in Norfolk.

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Big Four Accounting Firm Inks Deal at Armada Hoffler Tower in Virginia Beach

One of the largest audit, tax and advisory firms in the world is adding a new office in Hampton Roads after signing a lease with Armada Hoffler at its namesake tower in downtown Virginia Beach, Virginia. The company, considered one of the Big Four accounting firms along with Deloitte, Ernst & Young and PwC, occupies 13,044 square feet on the 15th floor of the building.

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David Ervin Promoted to President of MEB

David has been instrumental in MEB’s growth over the last 30 years. He is a 1993 Virginia Tech graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Building Construction. David will focus on growing MEB through strong relationships with Owners, Engineers, Teaming Partners, and Subcontractors. In addition, he will continue to provide executive oversight to the Project Management and Estimating teams.

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Port of Virginia Now Operating 100% from Clean Energy Sources

Hampton Roads cargo terminals are now operating entirely from clean energy sources, fulfilling a projection announced in 2023. The Port of Virginia began powering all of its regional terminals by renewable energy as of Jan. 1, according to a recent announcement. The designation means that the group now purchases all of its power used for port operations from renewable energy sources. The milestone is eight years ahead of an original goal of 2032 and made possible by a purchase agreement between the port and Dominion Energy, as well as a rider with Rappahannock Electric Cooperative.

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Robert Duvall, President of Virginia Natural Gas, Elected Chair of Virginia Chamber Board of Directors

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce elected Robert Duvall to serve as the 2024 Chair of the Board of Directors during the Chamber’s Annual Meeting held in Richmond, Virginia. Duvall joined the Chamber’s Board of Directors in 2016 and has served as a member of the Chamber’s Executive Committee since 2020. He has also served in several other leadership roles including an At Large Officer position on the Executive Committee and First Vice Chair. 

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Rivers Casino Portsmouth Celebrates One-Year Anniversary as Virginia’s First Permanent Casino

Rivers Casino Portsmouth marked its first year on Victory Boulevard as Virginia’s first permanent casino with a historic Time Capsule Ceremony.

The Saturday morning celebration featured remarks and time capsule presentations. The sealed time capsule, which will be buried until January 23, 2073, near the casino’s water feature, encapsulates significant artifacts, and mementos from the casino's first graduating class of table dealers made possible through its partnership with TCC.

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HRPDC Economic Monthly

Each month, the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) provides economic insights and informative articles to connect you with what changes are occurring in the local economy.

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Steve Harrison

Chief Operating Officer

Steve Harrison joined the Hampton Roads Alliance in June 2019. Steve previously served as Vice President of Business Intelligence & Communications and stepped into the role of Interim Chief Strategy Officer in June 2022. In September 2022, he began serving as the organization's Chief Operating Officer. In this role, Steve assists President & CEO Doug Smith with developing, communicating, executing, and sustaining strategic initiatives while also managing operations, marketing, and business intelligence efforts. 

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Steve previously served as Research Director for the Alliance from 2010-2012. Between that time and his return to the Alliance in 2019, he served as Business Development and Research Manager for Virginia Beach Economic Development. During his tenure with the city, he significantly enhanced the way Virginia Beach positioned itself as a business destination through the creation of a variety of new portals and documents, including the Virginia Beach Community Profile, websites, and a first-of-its-kind iPad App. His work garnered four International Economic Development Council (IEDC) awards. He also served as a creator and lead of the VABeachBio biomedical business development initiative and on the board of 757Accelerate.

Steve is a Hampton Roads native with extensive experience in Economic Development. He is a two-time graduate of The College of William & Mary, with both a Bachelor’s in Government and a Master’s in Public Policy. He is actively involved in the community and served as President of the Virginia Economic Developers Association (VEDA) in 2021. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Virginia Tech Center for Economic and Community Engagement and as a member of the Southern Economic Development Council (SEDC).

Steve was named among the Inside Business "Top 40 Under 40" in 2021. He and his husband, Phil, reside in Virginia Beach.

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