Mayor William D. Sessoms, Jr.
2013 State of the City Address
Virginia Beach Convention Center
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Good afternoon. I would like to thank each of you for coming today. I would also like to thank the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and today’s sponsors for organizing and supporting this annual event… and my Towne Bank family, and my family at home — my lovely wife of more than 35 years, Bev; our three daughters, Mollie, Kate and Anne Douglas; and our sons-in-law, Kyle and Fred, for all the support and encouragement you give me on a daily basis. I couldn’t do what I do without you.
Last but not least, I’d like to thank the newest generation of The Sessoms Family — two-year-old Madie, and two-month-old Willie — in my opinion, the most beautiful little girls in the world.
This year, the City of Virginia Beach is celebrating its 50th anniversary. 50 years. 5 decades. One half a century. No matter how you look at it, we are a young City. In fact, many of us in this room are older than our City.
Yet let’s look at what this young City of ours has accomplished. We are now a City of more than 447,000 diverse individuals — TO LEAD VIRGINIA as the most populous City.
We’re the tourist attraction that continues to be the destination of choice — TO LEAD VIRGINIA.
Our schools and institutions of higher learning are the envy of education systems across the country as we continue TO LEAD VIRGINIA.
In just this past year alone Virginia Beach permanently set aside enough green space at Pleasure House Point, the Brown Farm and through our Agricultural Reserve Program to guess what? TO LEAD VIRGINIA.
For the third year in a row, we are still the only Hampton Roads city rated AAA by all three major bond-rating agencies. So as we turn the corner and are planning for the next 50 years, what do you think I want to see our city continue to do?
That’s right...TO LEAD VIRGINIA.
We congratulate LifeNet Health, which recently opened its new Institute of Regenerative Medicine in Princess Anne Commons right next door to its global headquarters building. Headquartered in Virginia Beach since 1982, LifeNet Health has been a formidable supporter of our health care and bio-sciences cluster within Princess Anne Commons. This is exactly what we have been working towards, and your council just again agreed to prioritize our commitment to research and development in the areas of medicine, transportation and energy.
Why? [TO LEAD VIRGINIA.] And to make sure that we have the good jobs so that our children can return from college and craft meaningful careers right here at home.
Speaking of jobs, it is my honor to announce today that the San Diego-based Green Flash Brewing Company will invest $20 million dollars to develop its East Coast brewing operations. The 58,000 square foot facility will be located on 9 acres in Corporate Landing and will employ 40 people.
I am happy that Mike and Lisa Hinkley, co-founders of Green Flash Brewing Company, are here today. Also, Brewmaster Chuck Silva and the full Board of Directors. Please stand.
This new facility will feature a public tasting room, outdoor beer garden, retail store, brewery tours and large event space.
Thank You for choosing Virginia Beach for your East Coast operations, and welcome!
In Western Bayside and in Green Run, City and School agencies are collaborating with faith-based and community organizations to make sure that our children are getting ready for a prosperous future. Thanks to everyone working with Enoch Baptist Church, Green Run Churches United and Green Run Youth Leaders for supporting our young people. Will all those working on these initiatives please stand?
You are priceless! This work will ensure that our children will be prepared to continue TO LEAD VIRGINIA. Thank you.
We are not oblivious or immune to the politics in Washington, D.C. In fact, we’re in near constant contact with our representatives in D.C. Together we are trying to mitigate the regional impacts of sequestration while we advocate for reasonable, predictable and sustainable economic policies.
But even during tough economic times, we are building and re-building roads with our own money. You simply do not see other municipal governments committing millions of dollars to self-improvement projects, but in Virginia Beach, you see it at Laskin Gateway, Princess Anne Road, Kempsville Road, Seaboard Road, Wesleyan Drive and Nimmo Parkway… and there’s more to come on Witchduck Road, along Shore Drive, and the Lesner Bridge.
Thanks to the extraordinary leadership of Governor McDonnell, Senator Frank Wagner, Delegate Chris Jones and virtually every member of the Hampton Roads delegation, we finally have a state-wide transportation funding plan.
Washington politicians could learn a thing or two about true bipartisan compromises as demonstrated by the Virginia legislature this session. This is great work and even better news.
Speaking of the state legislators, Virginia Beach will be losing two true advocates in the retirements of Bob Tata and Sal Iaquinto. Gentlemen, we will miss your leadership and hard work.
As one of the key industries in Virginia Beach, agriculture continues to play a vital role in our economy — with a yearly economic impact now exceeding $120 million dollars. That’s what I call a sustainable industry — one that supports our efforts to do what? [TO LEAD VIRGINIA.]
We’re replenishing the sand on our beaches. Hotels are renovating. The new Oceanaire Resort Hotel is open and more shops, luxury apartments, and the newest Class A office space at the Oceanfront will soon open at 31Ocean. The Hilton Garden Inn is under construction at 34th Street. Tourism remains a huge economic engine in Virginia Beach and in the Commonwealth as a whole. As a city, what do we want to continue to do? [TO LEAD VIRGINIA.]
That’s right, we want to remain the destination of choice.
It takes great leaders in order to lead. Fortunately, in Virginia Beach we have many examples of people providing great leadership day in and day out. Dr. James G. Merrill, our school superintendant, has been recognized as Virginia’s best last year.
Councilmember Bob Dyer was honored by the American Society for Public Administration for distinguished service.
Councilmember Rosemary Wilson just completed a term as president of the Virginia Municipal League — using Virginia Beach’s phenomenal volunteer program as a model for communities throughout the Commonwealth.
As many of you know Aubrey Layne served as King Neptune last year. What many of you probably don’t know is that Aubrey has become “Mr. Transportation” in Virginia Beach, the region and the state. Aubrey serves as Chair of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Authority, is chairing the Route 460 project, and he represents the Beach as a senior member on the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
Most recently, Aubrey chaired the fundraising and advisory committee that worked with Light Rail Now to help get the Light Rail referendum passed. Thank you, Aubrey. Aubrey – I’m officially requesting that you expedite getting Light Rail to Virginia Beach.
I would also like to take a minute to recognize our City Manager Jim Spore. Jim, please stand. We’ve benefited greatly by his steady and consistent leadership. With sequestration and a challenging economic environment, his experience is more valuable than ever. Jim is now the longest-serving chief executive officer of a major city in the country. Thank you, Jim.
Admiral Bill Gortney now leads the U.S. Fleet Forces Command — bringing his vast experience in wartime fleet operations to serve and protect this great nation.
Admiral Gortney, please stand. I don’t envy the job that is facing you moving forward. Through no fault of yours, you and the Navy as a whole are facing unprecedented budget cuts. I want to state publicly that I am sympathetic to your realities, and the City of Virginia Beach and I stand ready to help you in all possible ways.
I feel certain that it is our long-standing partnership that resulted in my being honored as Elected Official of the Year by the Association of Defense Communities… Admiral, please feel free to put our partnership to the test going forward. Virginia Beach is prepared to stand by you and to help you any way we can.
We love and respect all the military here in Virginia Beach, and I ask that all active and retired military members please stand and be recognized for your dedicated service.
On a more somber note, we share the Navy’s pain and grief for the loss a few weeks ago of Navy Diver 1st Class, James Reyher and Navy Diver 2nd Class, Ryan Harris. We recognize how inherently dangerous military service can be. We owe the men and women who volunteer, and their families, so much for the sacrifices they make. Again, my sincere appreciation and all my heartfelt condolences.
This brings me to a proud moment, however.
Would everyone in this room who prepared for, and who so courageously responded to the F-18 crash last April 6th please stand. This was a team effort — one that involved citizens, 9-1-1, volunteer emergency medical services, state and local police, the sheriff’s office, the fire department, city staff, and the Navy itself.
Your actions kept a bad accident from becoming a horrible catastrophe. Your planning, your heroism and your compassion make us all proud. Thank you for all that you did. Thank you for all that you do every day.
This is the second year in a row our fire department has been awarded the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Fire Department Response. Speaking of firefighters, just last month, Virginia Beach firefighters Hope Scott and William Reynolds were at the White House to receive the Medal of Valor, the nation’s highest honor for bravery by a public official. Virginia Beach, our first responders are second to none!
Some of you here today may have heard that the City was exploring the very significant possibility of bringing an NBA team and a major entertainment facility to Virginia Beach. The idea generated a little bit of media coverage.
Over the years, both Norfolk and Virginia Beach have commissioned separate and independent economic feasibility studies. Every study, whether on Major League Basketball, Hockey, or Baseball, has confirmed that a Major League team can and would be supported by the market here.
And, as everybody in this room knows, we did everything possible to attract a professional sports team and arena to the Commonwealth and to our city. And we should continue to do so. A major league sports team and arena should be located in the region … in Virginia Beach. I assure you that we will stay focused on this most significant initiative.
Joining us today is Peter Luukko, President and Chief Operating Officer of Comcast-Spectacor Sports and Entertainment — owner of NBC UNIVERSAL, whose strong continuing interest speaks volumes about how our quality of life attracts world-class corporate citizens! Take a minute today and introduce yourself to Peter. Peter — please stand. I’m sure he would gladly share his perception of… and confidence in Virginia Beach becoming a huge sports and entertainment destination.
As a city and as a region we need to get over what I perceive to be an inferiority complex. We are no longer the city we were 50 years ago. Need proof? Remember the negativity surrounding the decision to build the Amphitheater? Today, economically, it’s music to our ears. And remember when people scoffed at the idea of creating Town Center?
Just this week, the Governor and I officially broke ground to expand Town Center even more…with a $105 million dollar, 15-story, mixed-use tower, including more offices, more retail, more luxury apartments, and a lot more parking.
This latest addition at The Town Center of Virginia Beach welcomes the headquarters of Clark Nexsen, one of the oldest and largest architecture and engineering firms in Virginia… and one of the top 50 firms of its type in the entire United States. I’d like to recognize Tom Winborne, president and CEO of Clark Nexsen. Tom, please stand.
We’re also close to signing a development agreement to bring in a new, 380,000-square-foot, family friendly, year-round entertainment destination to the former Dome Site, a project destined to transform the resort area — not just for tourists, but for all of us!
We are a region of 1.7 million people. Our city alone is approaching half-a-million. Our health care providers are nationally ranked. Our economy has historically been amazingly stable. And our buying power is recognized by virtually every national retailer.
Without a doubt, our future is bright, and that’s why the Virginia Beach City Council endorsed the Envision Virginia Beach 2040 committee’s bold plan to advance regionalism, early childhood education, and transportation… and appointed a “Vision to Action Community Coalition” to lead the way in making it happen.
As you leave here today, please remember this: We’re going to capitalize on all we have done, on the stage we have set, to continue the growth and the prosperity for this great city... and to continue TO LEAD VIRGINIA.
Thank you for re-electing me Mayor of Virginia Beach last November. I am proud and humbled by your confidence and dedicated to your service in the years ahead.
As we celebrate turning 50 years old throughout this year, I am happy to report that the state of the city is excellent. We have much to feel good about. After all, Virginia Beach is already the greatest city in the world. And our future looks brighter than ever.
While we may not have a crystal ball, we can be sure of two things moving forward.
There will be challenges.
And there will be opportunities.
Working together, we’ll lead the City of Virginia Beach.
And along with it, the great Commonwealth of Virginia.