Virginia Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer
Delegate Barry Knight
Delegate Sal Iaquinto
Paul Fraim of Norfolk
James Holley of Portsmouth
Alan Krasnoff of Chesapeake
And Meyera Oberndorf, former Mayor of Virginia Beach
Vice Mayor Louis Jones
Virginia Beach City Council Members:
And, Commissioner of Revenue Phil Kellam
It is not unusual for a newly-elected leader, upon taking office, to claim that a "new day" has arrived. Well, it is a new day in Virginia Beach.
But these are precarious days, as well. Now I don’t need to recount the bad news, but we must be mindful of the challenges we face. We must be even more resourceful as we develop our vision, plan for our future and nurture our strengths. And let me assure you, we have many, many strengths.
We must be prepared to move forward boldly. To act, not react. We must plan strategically, with a focused vision, to improve the lives of our citizens and the quality of our city.
And we must take advantage of every opportunity, and build on our many successes.
Virginia Beach may be a city largely built on sand, but it is nevertheless a city with a rock-solid foundation. A foundation able to weather economic downturns – even prosper through them – thanks to our unique and diverse strengths such as the military, tourism, agriculture, a vibrant business community, and a truly involved and engaged citizenry.
Taken together, perhaps no other American city has such Powerful Forces At Work. And it’s why I say: What makes Virginia Beach great, is exactly what will make Virginia Beach better.
So here’s where we are, today. And I’ll start with this key point: Our ability to attract and retain jobs in Virginia Beach is paramount to our success. And we’re doing a great job.
Despite a worsening economy, the Virginia Beach Metropolitan area has proven to be among the most resilient regions in the country, and Virginia Beach has remained the strongest city in the region, economically. And, we were named one of the top 20 cities to start a business.
Amerigroup, headquartered in Virginia Beach, is just one of our many success stories. A "Fortune 600" company, Amerigroup focuses on providing leadership and offering healthcare services to our financially vulnerable citizens, seniors, people with disabilities, and children. We all thank you for the work you do and the quality jobs you have created for the citizens of our community. Welcome Jeff Stredler, senior vice president with Amerigroup.
Our workforce development initiatives attract high tech companies and provide our employers with a rich and talented labor pool. And for the future growth of Virginia Beach, workforce readiness will become our most important asset for continuing to bring business and industry to our city.
In 2008, Virginia Beach’s economic development efforts created 1,119 new jobs with 18 new business locations and a total of $114 million in capital investment.
Even in tough times, we prosper. We were named "one of the 10 best places to ride out the recession" by Forbes magazine.
We also have the lowest unemployment and lowest real estate tax rate among cities in South Hampton Roads.
And as we bring more businesses to the city, we will further reduce the tax pressure on our citizens.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had an opportunity to hold small business roundtables and meet with the major employers in the city to gauge the economic climate. In spite of the national economy, the people I’ve met with are extremely positive, and all agree that great things are happening here.
We want to acknowledge that 80% of our growth comes from small businesses, and we thank those entrepreneurs for their role in our success.
We have also embraced the importance of the global economy, and because of our outreach efforts, we have some exciting economic development announcements today.
These are international companies choosing to locate or expand their businesses in Virginia Beach. These companies represent high performance manufacturing, one of our identified target industries that bring high paying, high-tech jobs to the city.
First, STIHL, Inc., an outstanding partner since 1974, with its North American headquarters near Lynnhaven Mall, will continue to invest in its Virginia Beach facility in 2009. This expansion will bring new machinery and tools for replacement models that will be introduced in 2010. This expansion follows the 2007 expansion of a 60,000-square-foot guide bar production plant. They’ve come a long way since 1974, when they had fewer than 50 employees in a 20,000-square-foot warehouse in Airport Industrial Park. Today, STIHL occupies more than 1 million square feet in Oceana West Corporate Park and employs 2,100 in Virginia Beach. We’re proud of their continued faith in our city – which we work hard to earn – and I would like to sincerely thank Fred Whyte, president of STIHL, Inc. and welcome Karl Angler, Chief Financial Officer.
Busch Manufacturing, a German company that is one of the largest manufacturers of vacuum pumps, blowers and compressors in the world, also has plans to expand its manufacturing operations. This company has been in Virginia Beach for 18 years and has grown to occupy more than 200,000 square feet of manufacturing and administrative space. Busch recently purchased one of the last parcels in Oceana West for a projected 50,000-square-foot facility. This expansion would represent a $10 million capital investment and the creation of more than 50 jobs. The company’s outlook for continued growth is good news in many ways. We’d like to thank David Gulick, vice president of Busch Manufacturing.
I am also very pleased to report that Carraro Group, a multi-national leader in power transmission systems based in Padova, Italy, will locate its new North American headquarters in Virginia Beach. As part of the move, Gear World, which is a division of Carraro Group and also based in Italy, will invest $10 million in its current facility. Gear World plans to expand its product line that manufactures material handling equipment and will create 35 new jobs at Oceana West Corporate Park.
And there’s even more good news from Carraro Group – the company also has plans to produce components for the alternative energy field in Virginia Beach. These components will be used to make efficient and environmentally-friendly products for the wind energy, solar power and hybrid technology industries, creating a set of new green industry job opportunities and capital investment for Virginia Beach. Welcome Tiziana Votta, senior vice president, worldwide marketing & sales for Carraro Group and thank you.
As a city, we must support efforts to tap into our offshore wind to create alternative sources of energy. Virginia Beach has been identified as having the best conditions for wind energy on the East Coast so we need to capitalize on this strength and move forward with this initiative.
Earlier today I announced with great pleasure the agreement in which Virginia Beach will buy the Norfolk Southern right of way – the most likely path for light rail through Virginia Beach. This is the culmination of years and years of effort. But finally, we have completed this necessary step, and I couldn’t be prouder. Light rail provides tremendous growth opportunities for the city and the occasion to participate in a larger regional discussion. This is a major breakthrough for this extremely important regional project.
I would like to thank Wick Moorman and Norfolk Southern for their work on this initiative and welcome Deb Butler, executive vice president for planning and chief information officer.
We also need to thank Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer, Senator Ken Stolle and Michael Townes, President/CEO with HRT for their tremendous efforts to make this regional initiative possible.
So, what will the future look like?
For fiscal 2010, we are looking at a budget gap of more than $100 million – city and schools combined. This will require some tough choices.
It means that we must be incredibly resourceful and efficient. We must also be boldly proactive and innovative – If we stand still, we lose ground.
For planning, the city has identified 13 Strategic Growth Areas that align our vision for the future and keep us focused on our goals. These are well-thought out plans designed to grow our tax base…. help businesses expand. . . and create jobs.
These Strategic Growth Areas have been developed with the expertise of skilled urban planners, along with significant public input. They address the city’s need for planned growth with an eye towards the future.
Many of these Growth Areas are directly affected by Light Rail, which is potentially the backbone of our future business growth.
The Northampton/Burton Station and Newtown Road Growth Areas also provide great opportunities to collaborate with Norfolk to implement these plans and benefit every citizen and business in those areas. It is in our best interest to work together as a region, and I look forward to enhancing every opportunity we have.
We have already seen success in several of these Strategic Growth Areas.
Consider Princess Anne Commons, with its fast-growing athletic, academic and medical villages. This life science complex fits perfectly with our biomedical target industry strategy, which seeks to leverage opportunities in this growing field. We look forward to the joint venture with Sentara and Bon Secours to build a 200-bed state-of-the-art hospital.
That development will join Operation Smiles’ world headquarters, LifeNet headquarters, TCC’s regional health professions center, and the Advanced Technology Center, which is a vital piece of our workforce development arsenal. We also look forward to expanding our relationship with Old Dominion University and providing additional higher education opportunities for our residents.
At the same time, right there in Princess Anne Commons and elsewhere, our Sports Marketing efforts have hit the ball out of the park. The Commons is becoming a real sports mecca.
Not only do we have year-round athletic tournaments bringing children and groups from all over the country for competitions, we have exciting development news as well.
One is the 7 Cities project at Princess Anne Commons started by four major league baseball stars from the region. The project will bring a first-class athletic training facility across from the Sportsplex in the Athletic Village.
Another is a huge indoor sports facility appropriately called the Virginia Beach Field House, to be built next to the Sportsplex. It will include indoor artificial turf fields for soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and courts for volleyball and basketball. Built by a private company on city land – it is a true public-private partnership. And the demand for this kind of venue is huge. In addition, another company will make more than $1 million worth of improvements into the Sportsplex and adjacent field hockey training center, at its own expense, and will assume management of the facilities. Another great public-private partnership.
You may also have read the announcement last month about the new 230,000-square-foot athletic training facility being developed by DLH Sports on Baker Road. The initiative creates 69 jobs that will offer high-quality training in football, track, basketball, soccer, swimming and other sports along with sports medicine. We welcome this development, one that supports Virginia Beach being named "one of the fittest cities in the United States" by Men’s Fitness magazine. This project serves as the initial $20 million investment in the Northampton Blvd. corridor and is indicative of the level of interest in this section of the city. With it brings talent like Dre’ Bly and LeShawn Merritt, our current Olympic Gold Medalist in the 400, who will train at this facility.
Of course, we all know the success of Town Center, which has generated more than $17 million in taxes to the city’s general fund. We are now moving into Phase Four of the project that will bring a new office tower, a third hotel, meeting space, additional apartments and more retail space like the much sought after Anthropologie – which, I might add, Bev and my daughters are looking forward to with great anticipation.
Did you know every year Town Center brings $5 million in taxes to the general fund for everyday services like fire and police protection, schools, parks and libraries? With Phase Four, that number will rise to $7 million a year.
At the oceanfront, the first part of the Laskin Road Gateway was completed last year, setting the stage for the next phase, which will further transform the 31 Ocean district into a bustling, attractive mixed-use destination of retail shops, outdoor cafes, and a residential area that will be friendly for bicyclists and pedestrians. We need to be aware of the significant revenue generated by visitors to our city, but also listen to our residents who support these businesses every day of the year.
We are also exploring how to leverage the success of the Convention Center and the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront as we develop the resort area. The plan for the Dome site calls for an entertainment district that will not only appeal to vacationers, but also to Virginia Beach residents and those from surrounding communities.
And, we are working to bring a headquarters hotel to the Convention Center site that will drive groups and conferences to our city and to the award-winning Convention Center.
It is with this same forward-looking vision and community input that we will address updating our transportation system.
All of us must work together to improve transportation right here, as well as improve our accessibility to transportation systems beyond the region to ensure our economic future.
The region has a transportation plan, and we’ve done a good job of working together to develop it. We support the regional plan wholeheartedly.
Now we need funding. Our legislators must hear us, and act, because we will lose business, and our quality of life will diminish, if this plan does not get implemented.
Even though the Commonwealth has eliminated funding for the urban road program that comes to the city, we may be receiving economic stimulus funding to somewhat make up for the first-year cut in road construction. We need to widen Witchduck and Princess Anne Roads and complete the Lynnhaven Parkway. Right now, our staff is coordinating with state agencies so our shovel-ready projects can be funded once money starts to flow.
I said earlier that what makes Virginia Beach great is also what will make us better. Here are some major efforts I will support to make that happen:
First, we need to create more good-paying jobs that keep our children here and expand our tax base. And, we need to offer our citizens affordable housing so they can live in the city where they work.
We need to protect our relationship with the military, our city’s largest employer.
Over the past two years, the city, in partnership with the Commonwealth, has invested $33 million to buy 47 acres in the Accident Potential Zone at Oceana and 150 acres between Oceana and Fentress Field (I’d like to recognize Capt. Mark Rich, the new commanding officer at Oceana.)
Our BRAC plan has been recognized nationally as a model for other localities working with encroachment issues.
We need to support the Outlying Landing Field. This is not only imperative for the city and region, but also for national security.
We need to support Little Creek, which is slated to experience tremendous growth over the next 10 years. (I’d like to recognize Capt. Bill Crowe, commanding officer at Little Creek and Commander Michael Dewitt, executive officer.)
I also want to thank retired Rear Admiral Dick Dunleavy for chairing our new Military Economic Development Advisory Committee, which is helping us bring military-related jobs to Virginia Beach.
And I want to say Thank You to all members of our armed forces for your service to our country and our city.
We need to be Green to ensure a healthy and prosperous future
The Governor declared Virginia Beach the first Green destination with more than 46 locations or events that are Green certified.
And I further look forward to the day all Virginia Beach hotels are energy star-rated.
The city’s recently updated Outdoors Plan recommends that we preserve 1,300 additional acres to protect our natural resources and waterways.
And as previously mentioned, I applaud Carraro’s plans to produce components for the alternative energy field and I support opportunities on the horizon for embracing our offshore wind to create alternative sources of energy.
We need to continue to invest in our schools and provide the best educational experience possible.
Six of our high schools were named among the nation’s best in 2008 by Newsweek – Congratulations to Cox, First Colonial, Kempsville, Landstown, Ocean Lakes and Princess Anne.
And, Virginia Beach led the way in the region on the Standards of Learning with 82 schools fully accredited.
Last year, four older elementary schools were replaced by state-of-the-art facilities and three more are in the works including Virginia Beach Middle and the Renaissance Academy.
Virginia Beach is known, both locally and nationally, for its highly skilled labor force. One reason is the military, of course. But we’ve also been working with area schools to prepare our students in 13 skill areas through our groundbreaking work force readiness program.
Thank you to Dan Edwards, chairman, and to all members of the Virginia Beach School Board. We also want to thank Dr. Jim Merrill, superintendent, his leadership team, and all of the principals and teachers who make our schools and students so successful.
We need to continue investing in our libraries, which served nearly 2 million people in 2008, an 11 percent increase from the previous year.
Over the past nine years, the City Council has spent $30 million on new and renovated libraries in Virginia Beach
Next up is the innovative public and academic joint-use library, planned with Tidewater Community College. This is a $53 million project with the city donating $11 million in land and cash. It's currently in the design stage, but we already know it will be a third larger than the Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library, with resources for everyone from graduate students to youngsters just learning to read. This month, we will start going to the public for input on this project. These joint-use libraries are the wave of the future, an efficient use of City and State resources, and it's exciting that we will be a model for Virginia and the nation. Look for it to open in early 2012.
We need to keep our community safe.
We must build on our reputation as one of the safest cities of our size in the U.S.
In 2008, we saw the lowest overall crime rate in 40 years.
The Virginia Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad opened a new EMS station in Great Neck, which enhances response time and service.
We need to offer rich cultural and recreational opportunities.
The Sandler Center for the Performing Arts kicked off its first year with 72,000 people attending more than 128 events.
The Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Virginia Beach has been nominated for Venue of the Year by the Academy of Country Music – one of only five nominated venues in the country.
And, last year, city park attendance totaled 2.9 million and our recreation center participation totaled 1.6 million.
We need to invite people to experience Virginia Beach and live the life!
We need to continue to encourage our convention delegates and tourists to enjoy all the amenities that Virginia Beach has to offer
But, I also want to encourage locals to experience the resort. Remember there’s nothing like a day at the beach - no matter what time of year.
Last year, this stunning Virginia Beach Convention Center, where we are today, hosted 407 events. It was busy with events and meetings roughly 27 days of every month. Congratulations for an outstanding effort that has exceeded all projections.
We need to continue to work together as a community
We support coordinated efforts through the Office of Volunteer Resources, which continues to save the city more than $13 million a year through 1 million volunteer hours.
We need to leverage public money with private investment
It’s not just a good idea – this practice is already paying dividends for us here in Virginia Beach. Consider the success of such public/private initiatives as Town Center, 31 Ocean, Princess Anne Commons and Lynnhaven Mall. Let’s add a lot more to that list.
We need to end homelessness.
The city has a 10-year plan to eliminate homelessness. We opened Cloverleaf apartments on Military Highway for people who were once on the streets. This is a cooperative project with our neighboring cities. In fact, Cloverleaf and the Gosnold Apartments in Norfolk are part of the first regional cooperative homeless project in the United States. We will continue to work with our surrounding cities on this vital initiative.
We need to run lean and efficient government services and be responsible stewards of our finances, especially today with declining budgets
We need to provide excellent customer service.
And, I’ve heard concerns about the permitting process loud and clear. We will work to streamline planning and permitting to make it easier for businesses wanting to expand.
As you can see, we have a lot of work to do. But our strength is In our strengths. We have the vision, we have the commitment, and we have the resources – both natural and human – to achieve these goals. We’ll get there through hard work, inclusion and regional cooperation.
Virginia Beach is already a world-class city. With your help, we will get through these challenging times and emerge even stronger than we are today.