January 2023

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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! Our team at the Alliance enters 2023 better than ever and with the determination to bring more jobs and investment to Hampton Roads than ever before. In 2022 the Alliance assisted with seven announcements which resulted in over $330 million in capital investment while simultaneously expanding our services to meet the needs of our public and private investors. We look forward to reflecting more on our collective accomplishments and sharing what’s next in the coming weeks.


The Alliance continues to evolve its mission and team to best leverage the incredible assets of this region. I’m pleased to announce the hiring of two outstanding new team members this month: Olivia O’Bry as Director of Operations and Ethan Crouson as Director of Business Intelligence. Please read the full press release in the story below and be sure to give Olivia and Ethan a warm welcome.

For the Alliance, a new year also means a new address: we have moved into the TowneBank building in Downtown Norfolk. Please be sure to update your contact information with our new address (3 Commercial Place, Suite 1320, Norfolk, VA 23510) and we hope to host many of you in the coming weeks and months.


2023 is shaping up to be another great year with a robust travel calendar, new and innovative connections to our existing businesses and greater collaboration with our locality partners and investors. As always, thank you for being our ally in economic development.

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MSI to Establish East Coast Distribution Facility in Virginia

Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that MS International, Inc., the leading supplier of flooring, countertops, wall tile, and hardscaping products in North America, will invest $61.6 million to establish its East Coast distribution facility in the City of Suffolk.

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Williamsburg City Council Swears In New Member, Re-ups Pons For Mayor

In the low-ceiling Courthouse of 1770 within Colonial Williamsburg, a small but enthusiastic assembly watched from wooden benches as Stacy Kern-Scheerer, a College of William and Mary law professor, became the newest member of the Williamsburg City Council on January 6. The political neophyte was sworn in by the Honorable Holly B. Smith, the presiding judge of the Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court.

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2023 Regional Legislative Updates

The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization present and endorse the 2023 Regional Legislative Priorities for the Hampton Roads region.

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Virginia Beach Company to Operate Southside Hampton Roads Fiber-Optic Ring

A Virginia Beach technology company will help operate a fiber-optic network ring that aims to bring ultrafast internet to Southside Hampton Roads, the Southside Network Authority announced. The authority said it reached an interim public-private partnership agreement with Global Technical Systems for the operations, maintenance and marketing of the 119-mile, 288-strand fiber ring.

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Four Trends Reshaping the SMB Economic Outlook for 2023

As 2023 began, Economists at Gusto, the people platform serving over 200,000 businesses across the country, took a look at the data and found four significant developments that shaped 2022. From the slowdown in the Technology sector – a pandemic superstar industry – to the plateau in remote work, these are the trends that marked the past year – and will shape the start of 2023.

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VEDA: State Association Recognizes Williamsburg Assistant City Manager

The Virginia Economic Developers Association has awarded its most prestigious honor to longtime economic development leader, and Williamsburg Assistant City Manager, Michele DeWitt. The Cardinal Award recognizes leadership in economic development, outstanding professional accomplishments and exceptional service to VEDA.

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Ten Virginia Companies Expand into Global Markets through Commonwealth’s Trade Accelerator Program

Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that 10 companies across the Commonwealth have graduated from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s Virginia Leaders in Export Trade program. VALET, which now has more than 350 graduated companies, assists Virginia exporters that have firmly established domestic operations and are committed to international exporting as a growth strategy. Congratulations to Hampton Roads the VALET graduates, American K9 Interdiction, LLC of Isle of Wight, Embody, Inc. of Norfolk, and Morphix Technologies, Inc of Virginia Beach!

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New VA Medical Clinic Approved for Former Cinemark Site in Western Branch

A new Veterans Administration medical clinic is coming to the former site of a movie theater in Western Branch. Chesapeake City Council unanimously approved the VA’s plan for a 27,100-square-foot Community-Based Outpatient Clinic off Chesapeake Square Ring Road, just across from the street from Chesapeake Square Mall’s former Sears.

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Twelve Companies Selected to Participate in Virginia Leaders in Export Trade Program

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership announced the acceptance of 12 companies into its two-year Virginia Leaders in Export Trade program, including MATBOCK, LLC of Virginia Beach. To participate, each business must meet both quantitative and qualitative selection criteria, and participating firms are chosen based on their dedication to growing export sales. To date, 415 Virginia companies have been accepted to participate in the VALET program.

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‘Let Us In!’ Hampton Roads’ 1st Casino — and Virginia’s 1st Permanent One — Opens Doors

Hundreds of people braved windy, cold weather for hours Monday morning as they eagerly waited to step inside and spend some money at Hampton Roads’ first casino — and the state’s first permanent facility. After an estimated $340 million investment and a little more than a year of construction, Rivers Casino Portsmouth officially opened its doors, which will remain open 24 hours per day year-round.

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Governor Glenn Youngkin Announces $90 Million in Grants to Develop Industrial Sites Across Commonwealth

Governor Glenn Youngkin announced a total of $90 million in Virginia Business Ready Sites Program development grants for 21 sites across the Commonwealth. Administered by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, this discretionary program helps characterize and develop sites to enhance the Commonwealth’s infrastructure with more competitive project-ready sites, to attract new business and accelerate expansion in Virginia.

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An Inside Look at Drone Innovation: A Conversation With Tom Walker

Tom Walker is the founder and CEO of DroneUp, a provider of drone delivery and flight services that has operated out of Virginia Beach since its founding in 2016. VEDP President and CEO Jason El Koubi spoke with Walker about DroneUp’s delivery partnership with Walmart, its history and growth in Virginia, and the company’s work to grow the drone industry in Virginia through a unique educational partnership.

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TowneBank completes Farmers Bank acquisition

Suffolk-based TowneBank has completed its acquisition of Windsor-headquartered Farmers Bankshares Inc., the parent company of Farmers Bank. The $56 million deal created a combined company worth $17.5 billion in total assets, loans of $10.9 billion and $14.5 billion. It adds Isle of Wight and Southampton counties to TowneBank’s service area, as well as expanding revenues for Towne Insurance.

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Riverside Health System Has New CEO in 2023

Newport News-based Riverside Health System has started 2023 with a transition to a new CEO. Bill Downey has stepped down after 40 years with Riverside, the past 12 years of which he served as CEO. Riverside’s president and chief operating officer, Dr. Michael Dacey, took over as CEO on Jan. 1, 2023

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Number of the Week in Hampton Roads Business: 3.7 Million

3.7 million — That’s the equivalent number of 20-foot containers the Port of Virginia processed in 2022, making it the port’s most productive year on record at an increase of 5.1% from the year before.

General cargo tonnage increased 3.1% from 25.3 million to 26.2 million with 1,500 ship calls, down by 48 from 2021, according to Virginia Port Authority data.

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Crowley, ESVAGT to Build and Operate Service Operations Vessel for Siemens Gamesa at Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project

Crowley and Danish offshore maritime leader ESVAGT will jointly build and operate a service operations vessel under a long-term charter with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, enhancing service for the U.S. clean wind energy market.

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Virginia Natural Gas Opens New Virtual Call Center in Virginia Beach as Solution for Improving Customer Service Operations

Virginia Natural Gas celebrated the opening of its new Customer CARE Center, offering a local approach to customer-focused service and adds more than a dozen new jobs to the Virginia Beach area.

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Virginia Peninsula Chamber's

Inaugural First Citizen Gala

The Virginia Peninsula Chamber is hosting their Inaugural First Citizen Gala. The event is honoring William B. Downey & William R. Ermatinger, recognizing them as the 2022 "First Citizens". The event will be held in Newport News on March 11th.

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Alliance Hires New Operations Director

& Business Intelligence Director

The Alliance is pleased to announce the hiring of two outstanding new team members: Olivia O’Bry as Director of Operations and Ethan Crouson as Director of Business Intelligence. Read the full press release here.

Olivia O’Bry comes to the Alliance with more than two decades of experience working in economic development. A native of San Diego, California, for the past 22 years she has served in a variety of roles at Virginia Beach Economic Development, most recently as Executive Assistant. In 2015 the Virginia Beach Rotary Club named Olivia “City Employee of the Year” for her incredible work ethic and ability to serve the community. In her new role as Operations Director, Olivia will be responsible for assisting President & CEO Douglas L. Smith and overseeing the office management for both the Alliance and Offshore Wind Landing.

Ethan Crouson joins the Alliance after completing his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Old Dominion University. A native of Chesapeake, during Ethan’s time at ODU he served as a graduate assistant for the Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy; there he worked under the guidance of Dr. Robert McNab and assisted in writing the acclaimed “State of the Region” report. Prior to joining the Alliance, Ethan spent two years as an Economist for the Army Corps of Engineers. As Business Intelligence Director, Ethan will be responsible for providing data and analysis about the Hampton Roads business environment to prospective and existing companies as well as Alliance investors.


Electric Vehicle Ride and Drive Event

Learn More

Join the Hampton Roads Alliance and Lion Electric for an electric vehicle Ride and Drive event on February 1st at Military Circle Mall in Norfolk. Lion Electric will have their LION-6 truck and LION-C school bus at the event. Staff will be on hand to discuss charging infrastructure, maintenance, telematics, and grant funding opportunities, among other topics.

Building Bridges to Global Markets

February 28, 2023

8:30 am – 12:00 pm

MacArthur Memorial

198 Bank Street

Norfolk, VA 23510 

Building Bridges to Global Markets is a first-of-its-kind event series, as part of the U.S Commerce Service's Global Diversity Export Initiative. Designed to connect SMEs in underserved communities with global business opportunities, Building Bridges to Global Markets brings no-cost, in-person exporting expertise to local communities.

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