Virginia Beach’s YesOceana Wins 2016 CEDA Award

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

YesOceana, Virginia Beach Economic Development’s innovative program to protect and preserve Naval Air Station Oceana, is co-winner in its category for the 2016 Community Economic Development Awards (CEDA). The award was presented on Friday at the Virginia Economic Developers Association spring conference in Williamsburg.

“This award and previous accolades underscore the effectiveness of creativity and ingenuity in economic development strategies,” said Warren D. Harris, director of Virginia Beach Economic Development. “We were determined to develop a program that would protect this vital economic engine and also enhance our ability to attract new business and sound development.”

In 2005, Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana, for the first time ever, was included in the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission’s list of recommended base closures. In order to preserve the base and its enormous contributions to the community, the City of Virginia Beach developed an unprecedented plan to roll back encroachment in the area surrounding NAS Oceana, known as Accident Potential Zone 1 (APZ-1) and the Clear Zone.

The City launched YesOceana, an aggressive incentive program geared specifically for commercial business. The goal of the program is to recruit and retain conforming businesses, such as wholesale trade, distribution and manufacturing operations in APZ-1, and relocate nonconforming businesses from APZ-1 to other areas of the City.

“With the support of other City departments and City leadership, we developed a program that serves as a vital economic development tool and strengthens our relationship with the Navy,” stated Michelle B. Chapleau, APZ-1 business development manager.

Incentives include a 90 percent rebate of the business licenses tax and/or real estate tax abatement for nonconforming properties that are rehabilitated, renovated or improved to a conforming use and Economic Development Investment Program grant funds. Conforming businesses may also be reimbursed for fees associated with building permits, site plan applications and water and sewer connections.

Through fiscal year 2015, 53 nonconforming commercial properties have been eliminated, and the City has committed a total of $2.4 million to 31 businesses to promote compatible uses within the district. That total includes $2.1 million in Economic Development Investment Program grants for projects under YesOceana, leveraging more than $27 million in new private investment. Enhanced building and site design features are required to qualify for the incentives. By providing financial encouragement, Virginia Beach is able to spur economic development in a way that is compatible with the mission of the base.

YesOceana is the only program of its kind in the United States. This innovative strategy has been acknowledged by the U.S. Navy and other economic development organizations as an extremely effective tool and a complete success.

Virginia Beach received the 2014 Gold Excellence Award for Real Estate Redevelopment & Reuse from the International Economic Development Council. Mayor William D. Sessoms was named the 2012 Elected Official of the Year by the Association of Defense Communities (ADC). And, Virginia Beach was named the Active Base Community of the Year by the ADC in 2010.

YesOceana is now a catalyst for redevelopment of several major corridors in Virginia Beach. The program has become so successful that Hampton and Chesapeake are in the process of establishing programs modeled after YesOceana to help with similar issues around Langley Air Force Base and Fentress Landing Field, respectively. Virginia Beach split last year’s funds from the Commonwealth with Chesapeake to support its program.

Since 1982, the Virginia Economic Developers Association has been increasing the effectiveness of those who practice economic, industrial, and community development in Virginia. The Virginia Economic Developers Association is the voice in Virginia for shaping economic development public policy and a primary source of strong and effective education and networking for economic development professionals.

The mission of the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development is to attract and retain national and international businesses to stimulate capital investment and create jobs. Virginia Beach is the most populous city in Virginia with a population of 450,000, and it is the 37th largest in the United States. It is recognized as one of the Best Run Cities in America by 24/7 Wall St. The Department of Economic Development received re-accreditation through the International Economic Development Council in 2012 and is one of only 29 economic development organizations in the world to have this recognition. It is listed among the Top Five Overall Mid-sized American Cities of the Future, Top 10 for Economic Potential and Top Five for Infrastructure by fDi magazine. ranked Virginia Beach as the Easiest Place to Start a Business and the 2nd Most Business-Friendly City in the country. For more information, visit

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