2021 State of the City

Mayor Robert M. "Bobby" Dyer
2021 State of the City Address
Virtually Presented from the Virginia Beach Convention Center 
March 17​, 2021



Thank you, Buffy. Hi everyone—I just wrapped up another virtual meeting. It hasn't been easy adjusting to life in this new environment, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it's how to improvise, adapt and overcome. That's the unofficial motto of the Marines, which I took to heart when I was a young Marine back in the day. And it fits Virginia Beach, too. How we dealt with the challenges of 2020, especially with COVID-19, are examples of this.  

Today, we're underway with vaccine clinics, which is a welcome relief. And while Virginia Beach has fared better than many communities around the country, that doesn't erase the devastation the pandemic has caused….  We've lost friends and family to the terrible virus. Businesses have struggled and some have had to close. People have lost jobs. Parents have had to figure out how to work from home while also being teachers. Teachers have had to reinvent the learning experience. Many of our oldest and youngest residents have been unable to see each other for nearly a year.

No question — it's been one of the most difficult periods we've faced in a long time. Today, I want to share with you some of the things we have been doing to help reduce the impacts, and talk about what's ahead for our great city.

Since we can't host this State of the City event in person like we normally do, I thought I'd do things a little differently. I'm going to take you on a virtual tour between now and when I arrive at the Convention Center.  First stop is Human Services.


While the COVID 19 outbreak has affected us all, some members of our community have been especially hard hit. I wanted to start here at Human Services because this department bears much of the responsibility for ensuring our most vulnerable citizens get the help they need. 

Aileen L. Smith, Director of Human Services: Welcome to Human Services, Mayor Dyer.

Mayor: Aileen, talk about what you've seen happen with the pandemic and how your team here adapted so you could continue to provide services.

Aileen L. Smith: Happy to do that, Mayor. Human Services focuses on …. So closing even temporarily just isn't an option. We had to find a different way. 

  • Telehealth visits
  • Virtual visits
  • Social Services site checks via WebEx teams and Zoom
  • Etc.

Thank you for that update, Aileen.

Time to head to my next stop (Economic Development).


Sustaining our economic vitality well into the future is a major focus of our work. And it might surprise some to know that even during the pandemic, Virginia Beach saw some businesses expand and others move operations here, adding  jobs and increasing our tax base.  In fact, last year, businesses across all our major industry sectors created more than 1,700 new jobs and invested close to $228 million to support their operations. Through increased tax revenues, the City estimates a 20-year economic return of $55.8 million.

Now, we know the pandemic has been extremely difficult for our tourism-related businesses, which is why it was especially encouraging to learn that, among the top 25 tourist destinations in the country, Virginia Beach achieved the highest hotel occupancy for 18 weeks straight. That's a testament to changes our hotel and restaurant industry businesses made, and the support the City provided to ensure safety and cleanliness was always top of mind.

In the face of an aggressive pandemic, your City Council was progressive, approving many financial relief programs designed to assist small businesses, arts and cultural organizations and individual families.

Like no other municipality in our region, City leaders adopted programs to help our businesses and residents make ends meet through the pandemic, including

  • implementing a meals tax holiday;
  • deferring tax payments and delaying tax filings;
  • providing real estate and personal property tax relief for senior and disabled citizens; and
  • providing fi­nancial assistance to qualifying city services customers experiencing hardship due to COVID-19, and suspending service disconnections
  • Assisting people in paying their mortgages
  • Delivering $1.7 million to support 19 different Hampton Roads-based nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, and 20 community organizations. 

We partnered with the United Way of South Hampton Roads, the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council and LISC Hampton Roads to help Virginia Beach residents and small businesses financially impacted by the pandemic.

 Improvising, adapting and overcoming is what our nonprofits are doing, it's what our residents are doing. And it's what our businesses are doing as well, which you'll see at my next stop.


The Premium PPE story is just one example of many that shows how people adapt in the face of adversity.

I'm here at the corporate headquarters of Premium PPE, which I had the chance to visit last year when the company announced its expansion and plans to add 180 jobs to support its manufacturing operations.

Brent Dillie:  Welcome, Mayor, good to see you again.

Mayor Dyer:  Thank you, Brent. When I was here last year, you were looking at investing more than $5 million to expand. You weren't always making masks and face shields.

Brent:  That's true, we………..

Mayor:  Thank you, Brent. This is a great example of the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that despite the pandemic, is alive and well in Virginia Beach. Now, I'm off to my next stop (Public Works).

Resilience – the ability to bounce back or recover.  Thanks to beach replenishments, resilient is a word we would use to describe our shoreline.  We've replenished almost all our beaches over a two-year period with more than 3 million cubic yards of sand.

Phillip — tell us why this work is so important?

Phillip Koetter: Beach replenishment is critical because…

Mayor Dyer:  Replenishing our beaches is one way we address coastal flooding.  But there are other areas — mostly inland areas — where flooding is a major problem. What are we doing to tackle this?

Phillip Koetter: Providing resilience entails a number of things, such as….

Thank you, Phillip.

The City Council is considering whether to ask Virginia Beach voters to approve a bond referendum to invest in essential stormwater projects.

Among the most important responsibilities we have in City government is to ensure we are good stewards of the tax dollars entrusted to us, and that we deliver quality services. I have some good reports on this. 

The pandemic hit just as we were considering a new City budget. We had to go back to the drawing board to figure out the impact on revenues and expenditures. It was painful, but we put numerous big-ticket projects on hold. With so much uncertainty about the impacts of the pandemic, it was the right thing to do.

The good news is that we ended up closing in on our revenue estimates for fiscal year 2020.  By October, we felt good about the positive financial results of the first quarter, and we resumed work on the new City Hall and two other items. Last month, we were able to give the green light to 14 improvement projects valued at $22 million — projects that enhance our infrastructure and augment our public safety, parks and recreation, economic development, and tourism programs.

These are in addition to projects taking shape in every district of our City.

  • $17 million in street improvements in the Resort Area
  • Centerville Turnpike road improvements
  • Woodstock Skate Park
  • The Historic Kempsville project to help preserve and enhance the historic character of this area
  • New Showers, Changing Stations and Restrooms at the Oceanfront, so you can go from a day on the beach to a night on the town.
  • Flood Mitigation Projects for Windsor Woods, Princess Anne Plaza and The Lakes
  • Sandbridge Bridge
  • Pump Stations that collect and pump large amounts of water away from an area to prevent flooding

There's more good news….

Our high credit rating gave us the ability to refinance and save taxpayers more than $12 million dollars last fall.

For the third consecutive year, 100% of schools tested in Virginia Beach earned full accreditation from the Commonwealth of Virginia. In addition, the On-Time Graduation rate in Virginia Beach schools reached a record-high for the 12th consecutive year.

Accolades poured in — lots of them. [Video Video]

From our tourism industry to our strong military presence, from our schools to our emerging bioscience industry, and from our agricultural production to our growing information technology and energy production capabilities, Virginia Beach is so fortunate to have many assets that contribute to our sound economy and high quality of life.

One area of economic activity that has been consistently strong for Virginia Beach is sports tourism and last year, we brought an asset online to help cement our position.

Let's check out the Virginia Beach Sports Center.


Good to see you, Nancy. Please talk about economics of sports tourism, the difference the Sports Center makes, and the big announcements we've had, including hosting the NCAA tournaments for which, but for the sports center, we would not have been competitive.

[Nancy Helman responds.] 

The Sports Center has really brought some new excitement. Thanks Nancy!

As much as I've enjoyed highlighting these people and places with you, I must head across the street.

Let me take a moment to show you something special. This is the vaccination clinic the City is operating alongside the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health. We are averaging about 5 to 6 thousand vaccinations a week here.  And we couldn't make it work without all of the volunteers and re-deployed City staff.

Imagine – just a year ago, the world was taking the first steps to deal with the pandemic.  Events and gatherings were canceled across the board, and we took meetings and services virtual.

In fact, staff figured out how to take most of our municipal services virtual.  Let me highlight just a few examples:

  • Our Planning Department pivoted to using Zoom for some inspections.
  • Libraries provided more services digitally, like Storytimes, book clubs, and support groups for blind and visually impaired people.
  • Parks & Rec offered virtual fitness classes.
  • The Virginia Aquarium introduced measures to keep people and animals safe, including timed tickets and one-way paths throughout the facility and the grounds.
  • Sandler Center performances went virtual.

We developed a Beach Ambassadors program designed to welcome residents and visitors to our beautiful shores, educating them on how to enjoy the beach safely.  Our Beach reopening initiative became a model for other coastal communities. 

Our Oceanfront is a major economic center for our city, and as we look ahead to a brighter 2021, we're expanding on the ambassador concept with new "Block-by-Block" outreach and hospitality services.  This new Resort Ambassador program will augment our public safety team, and assist with homeless outreach, visitor services and new Clean Teams along Atlantic Avenue.  We are also planning for new entertainment options that will always provide our residents and visitors with something fun to do. The new Resort Management Office will focus on providing the coordination and services necessary to make sure that residents, visitors, and businesses have a great day — every day — at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.

The pandemic and resulting economic challenges were not the only ones 2020 brought.  Issues of racial equality and police reforms came to the forefront following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.  Like many communities across the nation, we had dozens of protests and marches here.  People came together to voice their fears, raise concerns and call for changes to systems that treat people of color unfairly and unjustly.

I listened to hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the last 10 months who shared their perspectives and suggestions.  I took all of that and shaped it into an IDEA I'll talk about in a few minutes.

Right now, I need to head to the Ballroom.


Hello, Bryan, Buffy, and everyone here.   It's nice to see you!

Thank you for allowing me to provide that little tour today.  I wanted to do something different with this State of the City presentation because it seemed like everything about 2020 was different.  We faced new challenges at the same time we were still trying to cope with the unspeakable loss we experienced on May 31st, 2019.

Someone once said, "Grief never ends.  But it changes.  It's a passage, not a place to stay.  Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor lack of faith. It's the price of love."  

Please join me in a moment of silence to honor the lives of the friends, colleagues and loved ones killed or injured on that day.


Thank you.  It's hard to believe it will soon be two years since that fateful day.  I remember it like it was yesterday and I know I have been able to persevere because of the incredible support from my lovely wife, Trish, and our two children as well as our four grandchildren.  

As we look ahead, we are focused on ensuring Virginia Beach has quality City services that contribute to our health, safety and education, infrastructure that enhances and protects our community, and a thriving economy.

One of the kickstarts to our economy is a project we've been talking about for a while now, and some of you may have wondered if it was really going to happen.  I'm happy to say, Yes, Virginia Beach, there will be Atlantic Park.  It's going to transform the Virginia Beach experience by bringing a state-of-the-art surf park and new businesses to our city.  And the 35-hundred-person entertainment venue will make sure music and entertainment are mainstays of the beach.  Here's a look at the NEW design.

That project would not be happening without a public-private partnership that allows us to do more together than we can on our own.  

That kind of collaboration is an essential ingredient in our collective successes, and I see that City government can play a role as a facilitator to bring together people from throughout our community and our region.

I have identified three specific areas in this collaboration that can take us to the next level and be a model for the rest of the nation:

  • Inclusion;
  • Technology; and
  • Clean Energy.

The new Virginia Beach IDEA Commission will represent every facet of our community as we examine issues, projects and initiatives through a lens of I.D.E.A.

  • Inclusion
  • Diversity
  • Equity
  • And Accessibility

I've asked Dr. Amelia Ross-Hammond to chair the IDEA Commission and help develop it as a coalition of faith-based and civic organizations, and minority and business groups.  These commissioners will reach out to people throughout Virginia Beach, facilitate conversations to help break down barriers, and develop actionable IDEAS in the areas of social justice, healthcare, housing, transportation, job creation, service delivery and more. 

The Task Force on Technology and Innovation is being chaired by Ben Davenport, Vice President of Strategic Development at Global Technical Systems.  This panel will examine our potential to attract high-end technology jobs and increase training opportunities to ensure we have the workforce required to fill those jobs.  This task force will also explore ways to enhance existing local industry and government operations.

Finally, this is St. Patrick's Day — arguably one of the greenest days of the year.  So today, it's only fitting that I announce the creation of the Virginia Beach Mayor's Commission for Offshore Wind and Clean Energy.

As bad as 2020 was on so many levels, something good happened 27 miles east of here....  Two five hundred and eighty-foot-high wind turbines came online — the first ever in federal waters of the United States.  They are now spinning and producing enough energy to power 3,000 homes onshore. Ultimately, we expect Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind will provide enough electricity to power more than 650,000 homes.

Dominion Energy erected them as a test before embarking on a much larger effort.  The company, in partnership with Avingrid, plans to build 188 turbines — each a hundred feet higher than the Westin Hotel.  Work right now is focused on securing all the necessary permits.  

The plan is for the electricity to come ashore near the Army National Guard base at Camp Pendleton, and be transported to a substation at Fentress Airfield in Chesapeake, a distance of about 18 miles.

The Wind is Blowing Our Way….

Virginia Beach is uniquely positioned to host this emerging industry.  Companies that manufacture blades and other equipment will be needed here to build and service the windmills.  And those companies will need skilled technicians.

That's why Virginia Beach has invested a million dollars at Tidewater Community College to purchase equipment to teach the skills necessary to support offshore wind.  And Virginia Beach Schools will be active in developing curriculum to support career pathways into this new industry.  

I can foresee our convention center hosting conferences and seminars on clean energy because together — with Old Dominion University, Tidewater Community College and others — our region can be the East Coast headquarters for clean energy.

Our Vice Mayor, Jim Wood, who has served 18 years on the City Council representing the Lynnhaven District, will chair this important body.  It will include members from key government agencies as well as representatives of private sector and workforce development organizations, environmental groups, public schools, the U.S. Navy and, of course, Dominion Energy, to name a few.

Virginia Beach will be at the forefront of emerging clean energy technologies so we can attract the most in-demand jobs for future generations.  With this focus, we can meet our ongoing commitment to ensure Virginia Beach is the place our kids will want to call HOME.

One thing we know for sure:  The people of Virginia Beach are the strength of Virginia Beach.  And TOGETHER, we will be the model for how a community can come together.  And now, it's is our time to rise and shine as a "Community of One."

Thank you.

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