2022 State of the City

"Recover, Reinvest and Reimagine"
2022 State of the City Address
Virginia Beach Convention Center
March 16 , 2022


MAYOR DYER

Top of the afternoon to you! Thank you all for being here today. It is SO nice to see you all in person once again!

I don't think any of us imagined that two years later, we'd still be dealing with the aftermath of a pandemic but, here we are. As challenging as it has been to adjust to life over these last couple of years, our City has undeniably demonstrated tenacity and resilience that we've never known and we're coming through this period stronger and more steadfast in our commitments to our residents each and every day.

Due in large part to the pandemic, 2021 was truly a year for us all in the City organization to work together to:

Recover from the impacts of the pandemic,

Reinvest back into our communities, and

Reimagine what the future looks like for Virginia Beach.

None of our successful recovery efforts could have happened without all of us working together. As we all know, no one can do it alone. And that's why this year, I'm delivering this State of the City address alongside our City Manager, Patrick Duhaney.

Patrick came to us from Cincinnati, Ohio in 2020, when we were only a few months into the pandemic. And since then, his intelligent leadership has help to shepherd the City through these unique circumstances.

CITY MANAGER DUHANEY

Thank you Mayor, and you are absolutely right. None of our successful recovery initiatives would have been possible without the hard work of City Council, staff, and everyone involved.

We've made tremendous strides throughout this recovery and we're continuing to take steps to ensure long-term sustainability for residents and businesses in Virginia Beach.

 MAYOR DYER

It's hard to believe that at my last State of the City address, our Vaccinate VB initiative was in full force and had been underway since the beginning of 2021. More than 124,000 vaccines were administered at Station 8 and the mass vaccination clinic which was stood up right here at the Convention Center.

CITY MANAGER DUHANEY

In April 2021, we transitioned to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the Virginia Department of Health assuming all functions of the vaccination efforts.

Weekly vaccination clinics and testing sites were operated at public schools, churches and other community centers across Virginia Beach and, the Virginia Department of Health currently reports that more than 311 thousand people in Virginia Beach are now fully vaccinated and over 128 thousand people have received a booster or third dose of the vaccine.

Knowing that vaccines remain our best defense to reduce the spread and diminish serious illness and hospitalization, we continue to support the Department of Health in the efforts to protect the community by providing access to tests and vaccinations to whoever wants them.  

 CITY MANAGER DUHANEY

Our Medical Reserve Corps played a key role in the mass vaccination clinic, but that's not the only presence they've had. During 2021, the number of actively serving Medical Reserve Corps members grew from just over 300 to nearly 900 volunteers. These hard-working members logged more than 52,000 hours supporting 400 events, and ultimately saving the city more than $1 million dollars.

And throughout the year, the City maintained its extraordinary record of volunteerism in other ways as well. Throughout the city organization, more than 9,000 volunteers served nearly 778,000 hours, which equates to more than $22 million dollars in service provided.

Virginia Beach's recovery efforts have been steadily bolstered by the many dedicated volunteers who invest their time and energy to support the city in a variety of capacities. Volunteers help to provide services to the community year-round and Virginia Beach would not be the amazing city that it is without them.

Let's please take a moment to recognize all of our City volunteers, EMS, Fire Department, Department of Health, Medical Reserve Corps, and Community Emergency Response Team members – all of whom helped keep our mass vaccination clinic running and who serve in many other roles for this city. 

MAYOR DYER

While we're speaking of so many of our medically trained volunteer and staff members, we'd also like to recognize someone who had been a leader in the healthcare community in Hampton Roads for 42 years – Howard P. Kern, President and CEO of Sentara Healthcare.

Howard has announced his planned retirement for later this year. But for more than four decades, Howard Kern has used his expertise in healthcare growth strategies, integrated delivery networks, and improved patient experience to help build Sentara Healthcare into the largest health system and the second-largest private employer in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Throughout the current pandemic, Howard's commitment to patients and staff was evident with Sentara being:

  • the first health system in Virginia to offer drive-through COVID-19 testing,
  • the first to create an in-house COVID-19 test lab, and
  • a leader in providing free COVID-19 testing in underserved communities and rolling out COVID-19 vaccines.

To simply say that Howard Kern has devoted his professional life to advancing modern healthcare would truly be an understatement.

Please recognize Howard P. Kern for his successful tenure at Sentara and for his dedication to quality healthcare for the Hampton Roads community!

MAYOR DYER

The work of Sentara and our healthcare providers had a huge impact on the city's recovery. And our recovery has occurred in other ways too…

Understanding that the crisis of the pandemic would affect nearly every aspect of life for our residents, City Council got to work and put in place city relief programs that provided financial assistance to residents for taxes, utility bills and grants for nonprofit, cultural and community organizations.

 CITY MANAGER DUHANEY

One of the largest sources of relief was through the Virginia Beach Pandemic Relief Partnership. VBRelief provided essential resources to residents and businesses through more than $20 million dollars of funding approved by our City Council.

It was a collaboration of United Way of South Hampton Roads, the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, and LISC Hampton Roads.

Through this partnership, financial assistance was provided to more than 4,200 households in Virginia Beach.

Our Human Services department partnered with the Foodbank to host four drive-thru food pantries where 400,000 pounds of food was distributed to more than 6,300 households. That's enough for more than 338,000 nutritious meals that families across Virginia Beach and beyond were able to enjoy at no cost.

The VBRelief partnership enabled hundreds of residents to enroll in workforce training programs and funded more than 900 grants to local nonprofit organizations and small- women- and minority-owned businesses.

The success of VBRelief laid the foundation for a new grant from the City of Virginia Beach with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. $15 million dollars over the next three years will be used to provide business relief in partnership with LISC Hampton Roads and to launch VBThrive, a holistic approach to move families to permanent self-sufficiency.

VBThrive will build upon the successful outcomes of VBRelief by making further inroads toward long-term recovery by providing support to the 50,000 families in Virginia Beach who are struggling to make ends meet.

VBThrive will work with a variety of partners to support these individuals and families with mentoring, housing, workforce readiness and wraparound services including in-depth coaching to guide participants on their path to self-sufficiency. 

MAYOR DYER

Michele Anderson, President & CEO of United Way of South Hampton Roads had this to say about Virginia Beach:

"Thank you for setting the tone and providing a relief model for not only our region but our nation. It was an honor to deliver on such a critical project for the Virginia Beach community under your leadership. As always, we are proud to be your partner, and look forward to building on the foundation of VBRelief and using the insights we gained to launch VBThrive."

This major reinvestment into the community allows us to meet citizens where they are to provide the assistance that they need. Helping families move from surviving to thriving, and helping businesses and nonprofits continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic and set themselves up for a more successful future is key to maintaining this City's long-term recovery.

There's no doubt that, like most other cities around the country, Virginia Beach has experienced its share of difficulties in recent years. But our resilience has helped to see us through.

And you will not find a more ideal example of personal tenacity and resilience than this next young man that we'd like to recognize here today – Adonis Lattimore.

Adonis is a senior at Landstown High School and an amazingly skilled wrestler who had dreamed of being a state champion in the sport all through high school. A year after the pandemic forced the cancellation of high school wrestling, Adonis' dream came true in historic fashion.

Just last month, right across the way in front of a hometown crowd at the Virginia Beach Sports Center, Adonis, who was born without a right leg and with a partial left leg, achieved his amazing dream and defeated a very tough opponent to become the Virginia State Class 6 wrestling champion in the 106-pound weight class!

Adonis' strong athletic abilities, coupled with his determination and resolve to win, is an inspiration to us all for what can be accomplished when you focus on your dreams.

Since his win, Adonis' story has gone viral and the video of his championship-wining match has appeared on several national and international media outlets including ESPN, CNN, CBS Sports and USA Today.

Let's all please take a moment to recognize Adonis Lattimore for being such an incredible athlete and a true sportsman, and to celebrate him on his stunning victory!

CITY MANAGER DUHANEY

What a great story that is about Adonis who is representing Virginia Beach in the best possible way!

One of our local businesses is also representing Virginia Beach and making a name for themselves on a national scale, and that's…DroneUp.

Drone Up, a Virginia Beach app developer and drone services provider, recently received an investment from one of the world's largest retailers – Walmart.

Walmart is now using DroneUp technology to develop the store's drone delivery service at three northwest Arkansas locations to start, with plans to eventually replicate the delivery system across multiple stores.

As a result, DroneUp will grow their number of employees from 100 to 600 by the end of this year, with 40% of the jobs residing in Hampton Roads.

Let's take an even closer look at DroneUp …

MAYOR DYER

What a fantastic success story that is with DroneUp! We love to see our local businesses find success and experience expansion to new heights.

Please recognize DroneUp's president, Tom Walker, and the chief operating officer Anthony Vittone, and all the DroneUp team members who are joining us here today.

In Virginia Beach, we aim to provide a foundation for local and growing businesses to reach that kind of national or even international success – whatever they may dream of for themselves.

 CITY MANAGER DUHANEY

We certainly do Mayor, and recently, we announced a new program created to support entrepreneurs and to help grow local small businesses – the Virginia Beach Small Business Capital Access Program.

This collaboration between the Department of Economic Development and LISC Hampton Roads has made $400,000 available to qualifying small businesses through zero-interest loans of $15,000 - $25,000 dollars each.

We know that these loans can make a huge difference for a small business and our investment in the success of all businesses in our city doesn't stop there.

In 2021, Virginia Beach opened three different facilities aimed at supporting businesses at every stage – whether just starting out, growing, or an existing business looking to establish a new presence in our City.

Last year we opened:

  • The Hive small business resource center
  • The Virginia Beach Bio Accelerator for companies within the biomedical and life sciences industry, and
  • An International Incubator, adjacent to our Economic Development offices to assist international companies with the resources to allow them set up in Virginia Beach and easily expand into the community.

Providing the services of these facilities shows how serious we are about our commitment to a thriving and diverse business community for Virginia Beach.

MAYOR DYER

That's right, and not even the pandemic could stop many of our determined business owners from opening or expanding their footprint in Virginia Beach.

Last year, I had the honor to take part in nearly 50 grand opening and ribbon cutting celebrations all across the city.  

From boutiques to banks, from medical facilities to a mobile food market, the variety of new businesses and community-based organizations makes me proud to call Virginia Beach my home.

These moments make my job as mayor just that much more rewarding and fun.

We whole-heartedly welcome all these new businesses into the fold and look forward to them becoming a big part of the reimagining of the future of Virginia Beach.

One organization's expansion that I had the great pleasure of participating in was  Operation Smile. As most of you already know, Operation Smile is a medical organization headquartered right here in Virginia Beach, which provides cleft palette surgery procedures to patients in countries around the world that unfortunately have under-resourced health systems.

In October, Operation Smile hosted the grand opening of the Anthony L. and Hideko [Ha-day-ko] S. Burgess Interactive Learning Center to educate students, the community, and visitors about culture, medicine, geography and leadership, as well the mission of Operation Smile.

Let's get a glimpse of the Interactive Learning Center…

Please join me in recognizing Operation Smile founders Dr. Bill Magee and Kathy Magee. Thank you both for your tremendous humanitarian efforts!

CITY MANAGER DUHANEY

The City is also using existing resources to expand how business is done and to remain forward thinking in our approach to long-term, sustainable business and economic opportunities.

In January, the Navy and the City of Virginia Beach Development Authority signed an Intergovernmental Support Agreement that will pave the way for Future Base Design at Naval Air Station Oceana.

Under the Future Base Design concept, NAS Oceana, in partnership with the City, has up to 11 hundred acres of underutilized land on the installation available to lease to private businesses. Future Base Design is intended to reduce the Navy's infrastructure costs and redirect savings toward its primary mission of increasing naval power.

This concept will help drive economic and private business development by creating mutually beneficial partnership opportunities between the Navy and the private sector.

Rear Admiral Charles "Chip" Rock, Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic was quoted as saying, "This partnership is a great example of why the Navy is proud to call Virginia Beach and all of Hampton Roads home."

And likewise, we are so very proud to share our community with the Navy and our other U.S. military forces.

MAYOR DYER

As you heard earlier from Dominion Energy, another significant initiative for Virginia Beach is offshore wind.

Just a few short decades ago, some of us hadn't even heard of the term "renewable energy." But harnessing nature's power has been in use for thousands of years. Just think of the very early uses of waterwheels, windmills and solar power.

In 2020, the Virginia Clean Economy Act was signed into law, creating binding clean energy targets for the Commonwealth.

This law also paves the way for local governments and businesses to have the opportunity to collaborate with local utility companies to help accomplish the Commonwealth's clean energy goals.

CITY MANAGER DUHANEY

The Virginia Clean Economy Act helps to establish Virginia as a leader in clean energy and makes it the first southern state with a 100 percent clean energy standard.  

As the world moves toward cleaner and more cost-efficient energy sources, we are positioning Virginia Beach to become one of the main offshore wind energy hubs in the nation and are taking steps to prepare for the industry's success.

As you heard, the success of the two Dominion Energy wind turbines that are currently working off the Virginia Beach coast are exceeding expectations. 

And we are actively working with other companies that specialize in the development, construction, operations and maintenance of this renewable energy source. We anticipate future growth of a large group of these corporations that will accelerate offshore wind development right here in Virginia Beach.

Additionally, the City has partnered with Tidewater Community College and appropriated $1.9 million dollars to purchase offshore wind training equipment that will support the industry's workforce development. TCC has already acquired augmented reality stations and sea survival equipment and plans to launch their offshore wind-related training classes later this year.

Further workforce development efforts for the offshore wind industry include a Memorandum of Understanding the city has entered with the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership in the east of England, an area well-known for its advanced offshore wind industry. This MOU will facilitate the collaboration between academic institutions and training programs that will help build and sustain a skilled local workforce for the offshore wind industry in Virginia Beach.

We recognize the major role that renewable energy will play in the global economy of the future, and we are specifically poised to make the most of it while benefitting our communities as well.

 MAYOR DYER

Another major initiative the City has wasted no time getting to work on is the citywide Flood Protection Program, which voters overwhelmingly supported with their approval of the $567 million dollar bond referendum on last November's election ballot.

In Virginia Beach, flooding affects everyone in one way or another. This comprehensive program will provide fiscally sustainable, long-term flood protection by combating the effects of recurrent flooding in our communities.

 CITY MANAGER DUHANEY

And, we're in the process of completing construction of the place where future generations of Virginia Beach residents will attend council meetings and conduct other city business – our NEW City Hall building!

After years of planning, input from staff and members of the community, and the hard work and dedication of all the departments involved, we will move into the brand new, state-of-the-art facility that will be the new work location for me and the Mayor, City Council, and several other city departments.

The building has been outfitted to meet the current space and technology needs for staff and city leadership to enable them to deliver services to our citizens and to continue to govern our city the best that we possibly can.

This new building, just like our current one, will be the people's city hall. It will be a public space and we're planning a public, open house-style celebration to mark the beginning of a new era for our city government.

Look out for more details on that coming soon.

MAYOR DYER

Something else that's NEW in our City is our local election system which changes how residents will select locally elected leaders.

Virginia Beach's new election system is a 10-1 system, which creates 10 districts of approximately 46,000 residents. Under this system, each voter will be able to vote for the Mayor and the representative for their new Council district.

Precinct and polling location changes are currently still being determined, but the City is committed to providing residents with all the information they need to help transition to the new system.

 CITY MANAGER DUHANEY

The new City Hall building isn't the only big project under construction either. The City is hard at work on many projects taking place throughout Virginia Beach to shore up the city's infrastructure, upgrade utilities, and enhance our public safety, parks and recreation, and tourism programs. Here's just a few of them…

CITY MANAGER DUHANEY

For the 13th consecutive year, our public schools reached a record On-Time Graduation rate, and the lowest recorded dropout rate. These rates, along with Virginia Beach's pass rates on the Standards of Learning tests all outperformed the Commonwealth's averages in these areas.

With all the challenges that COVID has presented for our school system in particular, it's nothing short of amazing that they were able to maintain such a standard of excellence in education!

High-performing schools contribute to a good quality of life for our residents. Thank you for your dedication to ensuring the education of our children.

Let's all please recognize our school superintendent, school board members, our educators, school counselors and everyone in our public schools community.

MAYOR DYER

Despite the challenges we confronted during the pandemic, it's good to know that it hasn't diminished the fact that residents still feel that Virginia Beach is a great place to live.

Recent findings from Old Dominion University's 2021 Life in Hampton Roads Survey showed that nearly 90% of residents ranked both the quality of life in Virginia Beach and the quality of life in their neighborhood as good or excellent.

This survey also found that 98% of Virginia Beach residents have high trust in our police department.

We continuously work to maintain the trust of citizens and the high quality of life for those who live in Virginia Beach.

Last year, I announced the formation of the Virginia Beach IDEA Commission, chaired by Dr. Amelia Ross-Hammond, to represent every facet of our community as we examine projects and initiatives through a lens of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility.

More information on our first phase of work will be released in the coming months and we are actively seeking to engage the citizens of Virginia Beach in our efforts.

We know we have areas we need to improve; however…the high rankings that we receive reinforce what several national studies consistently show about Virginia Beach … that we are among the best in so many ways.

CITY MANAGER DUHANEY

Yes, the last year was all about how we continue to Recover from the impacts of COVID, Reinvest back into our communities, and Reimagine what the future looks like for Virginia Beach.

Part of that reimagining is to continue to bring new events to the city to help infuse fresh energy and excitement back into the environment, elevate our position as a world-class destination, and generate tourism revenue which is one of the key pillars of our city's economy.

And Mayor, I think you have a big announcement to make about a new event?

 MAYOR DYER

Yes I do Patrick, and it is an exciting one!

Virginia Beach, get ready for JACKALOPE!

Jackalope is a three-day action sports festival that features international-caliber competitions in skateboarding, base jumping, rock climbing, surfing and more.

It's the largest action sports event in Canada and has been a fixture in that country for 10 years. And now, this world-known festival is making its US debut right here in Virginia Beach in June 2023!

CITY MANAGER DUHANEY

Jackalope looks like an adrenaline junkie's dream!

This thrilling sports event will also feature graffiti art, music performances, food trucks and much more!

With our city's deep history of skate culture and other outdoor activities, this high-energy, action-packed festival is a great fit with Virginia Beach's outdoor sports culture and provides a unique opportunity to showcase the city in a way that has never been done before.

MAYOR DYER

And, we're happy to say that this year, after being cancelled or scaled back due to the pandemic, many of our signature events are back in full force including:

  • the Shamrock Marathon, which is celebrating their 50th anniversary this weekend!
  • the Naval Air Station Oceana Air Show
  • the Atlantic Coast Kite Fest
  • the Neptune Festival, and
  • the longest, continuously-running surf contest in the world – the East Coast Surfing Championship – will celebrate its 60th anniversary this year!

And, here's something else to look forward to for warm weather days… concerts at the amphitheater. We're thrilled to see the full return of these and many other fun events that Virginia Beach is known for.

Our goal is to be the template for the Commonwealth and our nation on how a city can come together with resilience and tenacity.

I can't name another city that made it through COVID like we did.

I tell ya, the future is here.

From drones to wind energy, to new action sports events and more, the future is in Virginia Beach.

CITY MANAGER DUHANEY

Let's all reimagine the future....

MAYOR DYER & PATRICK TOGETHER

TOGETHER.

Thank you. 

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