Virginia Beach’s YesOceana Wins 2016 CEDA Award From Southern Economic Development Council

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

​YesOceana, Virginia Beach Economic Development's innovative program to protect and preserve Naval Air Station Oceana, is the winner in its population category for the 2016 Community Economic Development Awards (CEDA) issued by the Southern Economic Development Council (SEDC). The award was presented in Kansas City on Aug. 2. This program won the state level CEDA award and has now progressed to the regional level.

"This recognition further demonstrates the effectiveness of creative economic development strategies," said Virginia Beach Economic Development Director Warren D. Harris. "We have a proven formula that protects this vital economic engine and enhances our ability to attract 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.

"This program is successful because of the level of collaboration between the City, the business community and the U.S. Navy," said Michelle B. Chapleau, APZ-1 business development manager. "We've been able to provide incentives that promote new private investment in a way that is compatible with NAS Oceana's mission. The transformation is remarkable."

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 2015-2016, a total of 53 non-conforming commercial properties have been eliminated in Accident Potential Zone 1 (APZ-1) and the City has committed a total of $2.7 million to 36 businesses to promote compatible uses within the APZ-1 district. Included in that total, the Development Authority has awarded $2.3 million in Economic Development Investment Program grants for projects, leveraging more than $40 million in new private investment.

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, Jr. 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.

The Southern Economic Development Council supports its members by providing a network for economic developers, tools and resources to enhance programs and access to timely information. Founded in 1946, SEDC is the oldest and largest regional economic development organization in North America. The network includes more than 1,000 economic development professionals operating in 17 states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. For more information, visit

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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