Virginia to Offer Foreign Direct Investment Expertise

Friday, 24 March 2017 09:51 by Info@YesVirginia.org

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership will attend the German American Trade Association’s U.S. Entry Meeting in Stuttgart, Germany on March 29.

The German American Trade Association is a nonprofit organization that offers seminars and advice on site selection, funding, customs affairs, and finding agents and distributors for companies looking to do business with the U.S.

Ryland Potter, a member of VEDP’s Business Investment division, will serve as a foreign direct investment expert and speak on subsidies and grants available to German companies looking to expand into the U.S. market.

Virginia is a leading gateway to successful business in North America, with more than 550 internationally-owned companies choosing to call the Commonwealth home.

"Companies thinking about establishing a subsidiary in the U.S. attend GATA meetings to get the most up-to-date information in order to assess their potential,” said Luisa Blumfeld, GATA’s Marketing Director.

VEDP values its partnership with the German American Trade Association and the opportunity to meet with companies directly to showcase Virginia as a location to do business.

International companies have invested more than $8.3 billion over the past 10 years. To learn why so many companies choose to invest in Virginia, click here.

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Virginia Rises to Second in Atlantic Region in Annual Workforce Development Rankings

Wednesday, 1 February 2017 14:25 by Info@YesVirginia.org

Virginia rose from fourth to second in the Atlantic region in a recent analysis of state workforce development activities conducted by Site Selection Magazine.

Site Selection’s third annual state workforce development rankings provide a general sense of which states, in a given region, are devoting sufficient or superior resources to preparing their workforces for current and future employment. The analysis looked at states’ commitment to skills development as measured by their spending on workforce development, K-12 preparation and the number of working-age adults deemed “career-ready.”

Among the eight ranked states, Virginia scored ahead of highly competitive states like Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware, and tied with South Carolina.

“Virginia’s improved ranking is further evidence that we’re making significant progress toward building a 21st century workforce,” said Governor McAuliffe. “We know that workforce is the number one factor companies evaluate when making a decision to locate a new facility or expand their existing business.  We’re pleased to see our position improve relative to our regional competitors and will continue our efforts to assure our position as a leader in workforce development and education.”

Virginia offers customized recruiting and training services through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP). To learn more about this economic development incentive, click here.

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Virginia Economic Developers Recognized in National Ranking

Wednesday, 25 January 2017 14:20 by Info@YesVirginia.org

Five of Virginia’s top economic developers were recognized on Consultant Connect’s 2017 list of North America’s Top 50 Economic Developers last week.

Consultant Connect, an agency designed to bridge the gap between economic developers and site consultants, announced its annual list of leaders in the industry. The recognized economic development professionals were nominated by their colleagues in both the economic development industry and the site consultant community for excellent practices and innovation and success in building the communities they serve.

Virginia tied for the second most appearances of any state on the list of top economic developers. We are thrilled to congratulate:

    - Pandy Brazeau, Virginia Economic Development Partnership

·         - Carrie Chenery, Shenandoah Valley Partnership

·         - Beth Doughty, Roanoke Regional Partnership

·         - Megan Lucas, Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance

·         - Buddy Rizer, Loudoun County Department of Economic Development

This recognition is a testament to Virginia’s dedicated economic development team at the state, regional and local levels. VEDP is proud to work with such a committed team, and we are thrilled to have so many colleagues recognized on this list.

 

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Staying Focused on What Really Matters

Friday, 16 December 2016 14:39 by Info@YesVirginia.org

As 2016 comes to a close, we want to recognize the economic development profession throughout Virginia that works tirelessly for the common good, and in particular, to the dedicated employees of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority (VEDP).

As leaders of the Board of Directors of VEDP—which by anyone’s measure, just experienced its most difficult year of operation since its formation in 1995—we are wrestling with deep problems facing VEDP, the economy and some systemic ones woven into the very fabric of how our Commonwealth approaches economic development. We are, however, optimistic because we know that economic development partners across the state are taking actions necessary to fortify Virginia’s future.

For our part, the VEDP Board is engaged. In 2014, Don Seale, then Chairman of the VEDP Board of Directors, realized that fundamental changes were needed inside the organization.  Don called for the creation of a Chief Operating Officer position and recruited Dan Gundersen to help reset VEDP. Dan’s initial focus was on strategic direction, creative programming, engaging employees, and assuring greater management control and accountability procedures.

We began to peel back the layers of VEDP. Dan Gundersen produced for the Board a first-ever Strategic Review that serves today as the guidepost for a 3-5 year action strategy for VEDP. A new compensation plan was adopted which provided pay equity across positions. We evaluated funding models for 49 other states’ economic development entities, produced new top-line metrics, put in place a robust communications strategy for the external partners and encouraged new avenues for employee input and engagement.   

We (Chris Lumsden and Dan Clemente) succeeded Don Seale as Chairman and Vice-Chairman respectively and the first thing we decided to do was to hear from our stakeholders. We conducted a Listening Tour that involved over 150 economic development professionals, public officials, and business interests in all regions of Virginia and more than 80 counties. We learned that over several years’ time, VEDP’s approach to marketing and deals had alienated many of its stakeholders and contributed to a crisis of confidence.

In March of this year, we asked Dan Gundersen to serve as Interim President and CEO, as well as COO, to help turn around VEDP. He demonstrated great courage and collaborative leadership skills in managing VEDP during a period of serious political stress and organizational crisis. Working with the Board’s Finance and Audit Committee, the VEDP team put in place solid due diligence procedures for discretionary grants, cleaned up twenty years of Governor Opportunity Fund records, and delved into data integrity and integration issues. VEDP also moved its 55,000 square-foot headquarters to new space that saved the Commonwealth over $1.8 million. The new headquarters is designed with open spaces and glass offices and, quite literally, sends a clear message to all that VEDP is a transparent organization that is reinventing itself for the next generation of economic development.   

By mid-summer, again with direct involvement of key Board leaders, input from the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission (JLARC) team and independent management consultants, VEDP was prepared to roll out a reorganization. Dan Gundersen successfully led VEDP through the difficult reorganization process, with input from a core planning group, cross-functional work teams, and facilitated focus groups of employees throughout the organization. Three new market-facing divisions were established: Business Investment, Competitive Initiatives and Workforce Development. They operate alongside VEDP’s International Trade team to support businesses.

New management in key spots has infused new energy and determination to have VEDP become recognized as the very best economic development organization in the country. We are pleased that Stephen Moret will join us at the helm in January.

Our work is not over—far from it. But we have laid a solid foundation on which to build a bright future for economic growth in Virginia. This would not have happened without the active support of Virginia’s economic development professionals. We thank you and look forward to continuing to work closely with you as we enter into the new year with renewed confidence and enthusiasm.

Sincerely,

Dan Clemente, Chairman of the Board
Vince Mastracco, Vice-Chairman of the Board
Chris Lumsden, previous Chairman of the Board

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Getting to Know: New River Valley

Thursday, 1 September 2016 16:30 by Info@YesVirginia.org

Throughout the year, VEDP embarks on regional familiarization trips, or FAM tours. In August, Charlie Jewell of the New River Valley Alliance lead a small group from VEDP on a tour around the New River Valley (NRV), which included 20 visits to local businesses.

The NRV covers more than 200 square miles and is home to Giles County, Pulaski County, Floyd County, Montgomery County, the City of Radford and Towns of Blacksburg and Christiansburg. With a growing population of 183,000, the NRV has an incredibly diverse and robust economy for its size.

In 2015, the region had the second highest job growth rate in Virginia, and this year, Area Development Magazine listed the NRV as having the fourth best workforce in the nation. The Valley is also a constant recipient of quality of life accolades thanks to the area’s beautiful mountainous setting and charming small town atmosphere. The NRV is also bolstered by their esteemed universities, including Virginia Tech and Radford, in addition to the New River Valley Community College.

On the tour, VEDP visited a wide array of business including Red Sun Farms, Jackson Park Inn, Floyd Commerce Park, Rackspace, Virginia Tech’s Corporate Research Center and the Riverbend Facility.

To learn more about Virginia’s wide variety of communities, click here.


Members from VEDP tour available building space in the New River Valley.

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Virginia’s Woodworking Industry Provides Solid Foundation

Friday, 26 August 2016 14:31 by Info@YesVirginia.org

This week, VEDP is attending the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta, Georgia. We had the opportunity to partner with our state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Department of Forestry to promote Virginia and its forest products, emphasizing the importance of the industry in the Commonwealth.

More than 31,000 people were employed by over 900 companies in Virginia’s wood products industry in 2015, which had a direct economic output of $10.3 billion and supported an additional output of $7.1 billion.

Virginia’s strategic mid-Atlantic location and superior transportation network provide access to 43 percent of the U.S. population located within a one-day (10 hour) drive. These assets combined with access to the Port of Virginia and a direct connection to over 100 foreign ports make an ideal location for wood industry companies.

Virginia’s higher education system provides education and training programs to bolster the Commonwealth’s workforce and therefore Virginia businesses. Virginia Tech’s Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation is home to the following research centers: Conservation Management Institute, Center for Geospatial Information Technology and Virginia Water Resources Research Center. Virginia State University partners with Virginia Tech to run the Virginia Cooperative Extension to offer programs such as the Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program and the Virginia SHARP Logger Program. Blue Ridge Community College has a Die Cutting and Packaging program to generate skilled technicians for the paperboard packaging industry.

In the past decade, wood products companies in Virginia have announced projects worth $3.8 billion in pledged investment and more than 10,100 pledged jobs. To learn why companies choose Virginia click here.

VEDP, VDACS and VA Department of Forestry provide large Virginia presence at IWF 2016.

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Foreign Direct Investment Makes Massive Job Impact on Virginia

Thursday, 23 June 2016 09:48 by Info@YesVirginia.org

This week, VEDP attended the SelectUSA Investment Summit, a high-profile event in Washington, D.C. dedicated to promoting foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States. We had the opportunity to connect with companies all over the world to discuss the benefits of doing business in Virginia.

Governor Terry McAuliffe hosted a Virginia reception to showcase the Commonwealth’s assets and participated in a workforce development panel during the conference.

Global investment supports nearly 487,000 jobs in Virginia. These direct FDI and related supply chain jobs earn higher compensation than the overall state average.

During SelectUSA 2015, VEDP met ELDOR Corporation for the first time. Following the Summit, Governor McAuliffe traveled to ELDOR’s headquarters in Italy to meet with company leadership. Less than one year after first meeting at SelectUSA, ELDOR announced their plans to invest $75 million and create 350 new jobs at their North American regional headquarters in Botetourt County.

More than 700 internationally-owned companies call Virginia home, including Canon, Stihl and Rolls-Royce. Cost-effective operations, pro-business values, global logistics assets and easy access to the U.S. market are just a few of the unique resources that allow businesses to prosper here.

From 2009 to 2014, international companies announced more than 15,000 new jobs and $4.6 billion investment in the Commonwealth. To learn why companies choose Virginia for internal investment, click here.


Governor McAuliffe
participated in a workforce development panel during SelectUSA.

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Sumitomo Machinery Corporation Celebrates 50 Years in North America

Friday, 3 June 2016 11:40 by Info@YesVirginia.org

Sumitomo Machinery Corporation of America (SMCA) is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its North American headquarters, located in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Sumitomo Machinery Corporation of America is a subsidiary of Sumitomo Heavy Industries, one of the largest manufacturers of machinery in Japan and the global leader in power transmission knowledge and innovation. SMCA is the premiere power transmission and control solution provider and has customers across the U.S. and globally.

In 1987, Sumitomo relocated to Chesapeake from New Jersey and constructed a new manufacturing facility for the production of its cyclo drive technologies, speed reducers, speed variators, motors and related industrial gears.

Sumitomo has experienced consistent growth since joining the Commonwealth. In 2009, SMCA announced its first Engineering and Service Center would open in Chesapeake, and in 2012, they shared plans for the first phase of a three year investment strategy to transition their 250,000-square-foot facility from an assembly and distribution center to an assembly and manufacturing facility. 

In August 2013, the company announced a definitive merger agreement with Hansen Industrial Transmissions Inc., a leading provider of large size industrial gear drives, which operates at the HNA facility in Verona, Virginia.

Since locating to Virginia, Sumitomo has invested over $60 million in the Commonwealth and has 264 employees in Chesapeake, Suffolk and Verona.

Virginia’s strategic central location on the U.S. East Coast and access to the Port of Virginia has made an ideal home for Sumitomo.

To learn why more than 5,500 manufacturing companies like Sumitomo have chosen to locate in Virginia, click here.


Mayor of Chesapeake Alan Krasnoff and Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones recognize Sumitomo leadership during the anniversary event.

Georgia Pacific’s Big Island Mill Celebrates 125 Years in Virginia

Thursday, 26 May 2016 13:53 by Info@YesVirginia.org

Virginia is celebrating Business Appreciation Month by showcasing Georgia Pacific and the 125th anniversary of its Big Island paper mill in Bedford County, Virginia.

Georgia Pacific is one of the world’s leading manufacturers and distributors of tissue, pulp, paper, packaging, building products and related chemicals. Located just north of Lynchburg on the James River, Big Island mill is one of four Georgia Pacific locations in Virginia. The other facilities are located in Gladys, Emporia and Ridgeway.

The Big Island mill has been in continuous operation since 1891, when the first roll of paper was produced. The mill has faced ownership changes, fire, floods, and machinery and technological shifts during the past 125 years.

The paper mill’s most recent announcement in 2015 included a $50 million investment to improve reliability and environmental performance and upgrade technology.

To mark the mill’s 125 years of continual operation, Georgia-Pacific has launched a year-long commemoration throughout 2016 to honor the mill’s history, celebrate generations of employees and to thank the community for its enduring support.

The Big Island facility employs about 330 people and is Bedford County’s oldest business. The company credits its success to the community, which helped sustain and support Big Island and generations of families who continue to work at the mill for more than a century.

In addition to a strong manufacturing workforce, Virginia provides Georgia Pacific with a strategic location, offering easy access to the company’s customers. Located on the upper James River, the Big Island location offers employees a high quality of life with close proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains, scenic hiking and biking trails, and numerous national parks.

As we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation month, Georgia Pacific’s Big Island paper mill serves as a great example of how Virginia can offer long-term prosperity. To learn why companies like Georgia Pacific call Virginia home, click here.

An undated photo of a maintenance crew working at the Big Island paper mill.

Distribution Companies Deliver Big Investment to Virginia

Wednesday, 18 May 2016 14:53 by Info@YesVirginia.org

This week, for Business Appreciation Month, we’re highlighting Virginia’s distribution industry and celebrating the positive impact these companies bring to the Commonwealth.

Virginia's businesses provide services and manufactured goods to customers throughout the world. Our distribution base remains strong and continues to grow with companies like The Home Depot, Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, Ace Hardware and Amazon.com all delivering goods from the Commonwealth.

Increasingly, retailers and distributors are taking advantage of Virginia's proximity to Eastern U.S. and Midwest markets. Millions of square feet of new warehousing space have been added at new distribution centers around the state.

In the past decade, 365 global logistics industry projects have announced capital investment of more than $1.8 billion and the creation of over 16,500 new jobs.

The Commonwealth is within a one-day drive time of approximately 43 percent of the U.S. population and over 186,000 manufacturing establishments. With our central East Coast location, Virginia is an obvious choice for many companies looking to establish or expand distribution centers.

In 2012, The Vitamin Shoppe announced a $39.4 million investment to establish a distribution center and create 174 new jobs in Hanover County. The 312,000 square-foot facility has become the company’s flagship distribution center featuring a state-of-the-art conveyor and picking and packing systems to move products from storage shelves throughout the facility to shipping bays.

McLane Foodservice Distribution, located in Prince William County, services restaurants in the Mid-Atlantic region. With two expansions in the last 10 years, the 223,000 square foot facility has three different temperature controlled areas—freezer, refrigerated and dry—in addition to employing more than 160 people.

As part of Virginia Business Appreciation Month, the distribution and global logistics industry is a great example of success due to the Commonwealth’s premier location and business environment. To learn more about the distribution industry in Virginia, click here.


The Vitamin Shoppe distribution center in Hanover County, Virginia.

Cybersecurity Industry Surges Ahead in Virginia

Thursday, 12 May 2016 10:46 by Info@YesVirginia.org

It’s Business Appreciation Month in Virginia, and we’re celebrating by highlighting one of the Commonwealth’s top industries, cybersecurity.

With its close proximity to Washington, D.C., Virginia is part of the nation’s Cyber Capital. As the hub of leading-edge intelligence technology, Virginia serves as a fertile ground for the growing cybersecurity industry. Key federal agencies involved with cybersecurity along with the nation’s leading cyber companies, such as Booz Allen Hamilton, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman Corp. are located in Virginia.

The Commonwealth is at the center of the IT industry, with 70 percent of the world’s internet traffic passing through Virginia.

On the heels of California, Virginia has the second highest concentration of technology workers in the nation, with nearly 10 percent of the state’s workforce employed by the information technology sector, according to Cyberstates 2015. As a result, Virginia is home to the headquarters of nearly 40 of the Washington Technology Top 100 federal contracting companies.

Reston’s Carahsoft is one of the most successful, fastest growing technology solution providers in the U.S. Founded in 2004, Carahsoft helps government agencies find the best possible technology solution at the best possible value.

NCS Technologies, headquartered in Gainesville, designs, manufactures, distributes and supports its products from a single location for clients including federal agencies, healthcare and schools. Since its founding in 1996, NCS Technologies has become a leading domestic producer of computers, servers and storage systems.

As part of Virginia Business Appreciation Month, cybersecurity represents the high-growth and technological innovation that is alive and well in the Commonwealth. To learn why these companies have found success in Virginia, click here.

 

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Virginia Economic Development Partnership is the Best State for Business

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), a state authority created by the Virginia General Assembly to better serve those seeking a prime business location and increased trade opportunities, provides confidential site selection and international trade services. VEDP's mission: To enhance the quality of life and raise the standard of living for all Virginians, in collaboration with Virginia communities, through aggressive business recruitment, expansion assistance, and trade development, thereby expanding the tax base and creating higher-income employment opportunities.

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YesVirginia Business Blog | May 2015

Specialty’s Our Name — Expanding a Family Business Through the Generations

Friday, 29 May 2015 09:19 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Butch Harrison founded Specialty’s Our Name in 1990, a precision sheet metal fabrication and machine shop based in Ashland, Va. His three sons, Brandon, Utley and Kevin, worked in the shop since high school and each found their niche, whether it was handling the finances, managing customer relationships or processing orders...

Butch Harrison founded Specialty’s Our Name in 1990, a precision sheet metal fabrication and machine shop based in Ashland, Va.

His three sons, Brandon, Utley and Kevin, worked in the shop since high school and each found their niche, whether it was handling the finances, managing customer relationships or processing orders. When their dad passed away in 2009, the brothers took ownership and proudly carried on the family name and reputation for a superior product and customer service at S.O.N. Inc.

“We do the work other people don’t want to do,” said Brandon Harrison. “Our high-end, custom sheet metal work is in the White House Visitor Center, the American Civil War Museum at Tredegar and the Virginia Historical Society, and our customers include Homeland Security, Architectural Graphics Inc., Dometic Corporation and Showbest Fixtures.”

The company has successfully grown from two people in a 2,500 square foot building to more than 30 people in a 32,000 square foot facility. The company delivers custom products and can offer consulting, drafting, welding, deburring, powder coating and precision parts, all from one location.

The Harrison brothers not only weathered the recent economic downturn, but were able to continue growing their company. “We did feel some of the effects, but we manage our finances well and purchase equipment as we need it, so we don’t carry a lot of debt.” said Harrison. “We also have a broad customer range, from the marine industry to railroads to store fixtures. Being diverse helped us stay strong and grow our company through the tough times.”

The brothers also took a calculated risk and started a sister company in 2008, Pro Powder & Paint Inc. “About 90 percent of our customers want a finish on their steel or aluminum products. We provide that and do our own powder coating and wet paint at a facility just down the street,” said Harrison.

The company just had one of its best years and has a solid plan to grow both businesses and eventually combine them into one larger building.

“We are lucky,” said Harrison. “The three of us are all equally responsible and we get to expand on what our father built. We really try to keep the family atmosphere throughout the company as we grow. We have several cousins and family members working in the shop, and we treat all of our employees like we are one big family. Without every piece of the puzzle coming together, this wouldn’t be possible.”

As we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation Month, Specialty’s Our Name serves as another great example of the ingenuity and dedication of Virginia entrepreneurs. To learn why the Commonwealth is a great location to grow a business, click here.

Specialty’s Our Name owners Brandon, Utley and Kevin Harrison at their company headquarters in Ashland, Va.

Marstel-Day — Growing a Green Business in Virginia

Thursday, 28 May 2015 09:33 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Rebecca Rubin started Marstel-Day in 2002 with a passion to help large institutions conduct business in a way that is both effective and preserves the natural resource base...

Rebecca Rubin started Marstel-Day in 2002 with a passion to help large institutions conduct business in a way that is both effective and preserves the natural resource base.

Based out of Fredericksburg, Va., the company has grown from a one-woman desk to 160 employees nationwide. With clients ranging from government agencies to academic institutions, Marstel-Day helps organizations develop an overall strategy to be more eco-friendly.

“Our customers may have the interest and funding, but we help them with their strategies and policies,” said President and CEO Rebecca Rubin. “Whether they want to be carbon neutral or make better use of their ecosystem services or reduce water consumption or be ready for climate change, we help them get there. We look at such things as their vulnerability to drought, temperature change, responsiveness and resilience of the IT structure to climate events — and help them answer the big picture questions.”

The company’s success speaks for itself. Marstel-Day experienced 8-10 percent growth every year, including during the economic downturn. Its impressive client roster includes the Department of Defense, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration and National Laboratories. 

Marstel-Day has also received numerous accolades, including being named to both the Inc. 5000 list and Zweigwhite’s Hot Firm list for six consecutive years, the Alliance for Workplace Excellence Eco-Leadership Award three years in a row, the Virginia Fantastic 50 list for the third time, and the UVA Darden School’s Tayloe Murphy Award for Resilience.

Rubin chose to headquarter the business in Fredericksburg for two reasons:  proximity to a rail line and access to a great park system. “We were deliberately trying to get our employees off the roads and onto public transportation,” said Rubin. “Our other Virginia offices in Richmond and Alexandria are also within a quarter of a mile of a main train line. If you translate that into hours saved, it has an enormous impact on employee morale and health.”

“Because of its battlefield history, Fredericksburg has preserved green spaces and they have a new trail system. Having a park system where our employees can jog or bike during their lunch hour or after work is tremendously important to us.”

“There’s a reason why we’re here. Historically, Virginia has done a good job of understanding and appreciating the significance of nature and ecotourism. We find Virginia’s and the Governor’s commitment to green important to us as a company.”

As we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation Month, Marstel-Day is another great example of how entrepreneurs find a successful environment for innovation in the Commonwealth. To learn why Virginia is a great place to grow a business, click here.

Marstel-Day President and CEO Rebecca Rubin at the company’s headquarters in Fredericksburg, Va. Photo courtesy of Marstel-Day LLC.

Performance Signs — From a Dorm Room to the Highway

Thursday, 21 May 2015 10:30 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Founder Robbie Morris was an engineering student at Virginia Tech when he started making decals for his brother’s stock car racing team. Robbie actually ran the decal machine out of his dorm room in the fall of 1995...

Founder Robbie Morris was an engineering student at Virginia Tech when he started making decals for his brother’s stock car racing team. Robbie actually ran the decal machine out of his dorm room in the fall of 1995.

While out on an engineering co-op, Robbie realized he enjoyed the creativity of the sign work much more than the structure of his engineering internship and decided to pursue the sign business full-time.

Today, Performance Signs makes a variety of signs, banners, vehicle lettering, vehicle wraps, window lettering and real estate signs for commercial businesses, public safety vehicles and highways.

Self-awareness is an important trait for entrepreneurs, and surrounding oneself with the right people and skillsets is critical. Robbie found the perfect business partner in his wife Katherine. She came on board full-time in 2004 and made improvements with her ability to manage, schedule and handle the day-to-day business, allowing Robbie to focus on the creative side.

Robbie and Katherine focused on building relationships with their customers and that paid off. “We were doing work for a sign company that supported a police department in Southwest Virginia,” said Performance Signs Founder Robbie Morris. “Those decals were an exact match for the Albemarle police department near us. We were able to approach them and found that there was a need for somebody to serve the public safety vehicles in our area. There’s a tightknit community among the police, fire department and rescue squad, and our relationship with that core group has helped us grow.”

When the recession hit, Robbie and Katherine looked at everything they did in order to be more efficient, from the number of phone lines they needed to the amount of equipment. They also took a calculated risk when a property became available. 

“All indications were that it would be crazy to buy something right now, but it completely came together for us,” said Robbie. “We really felt like God was moving in our lives and the timing was right. We did an SBA 504 loan. It was a lot of work, but through that process it helped us see our business in a new way.”

Robbie and Katherine closed on their building in the fall of 2009, and continuing their quest for efficiency, installed a solar-paneled roof on the 8,000-square-foot facility. Depending upon the time of year, the solar panels generate anywhere from 55-100 percent of the building’s electricity. 

Robbie and Katherine’s tenacity allowed them to successfully bounce back from the recession. The company has doubled sales since 2010 and grown from four to 12 people.

Performance Signs was also just selected to participate in the inaugural class of Ones to Watch, a business mentoring initiative run by the U.S. Senate Productivity and Quality Award Program for Virginia.

As we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation Month, Performance Signs stands as another great example of the innovation and creativity of Virginia entrepreneurs. To learn why Virginia is a great place to grow a business, click here.

Performance Signs CEO Katherine Morris and Founder Robert Morris outside their company headquarters in Ruckersville, Va.

Release Reels — An Entrepreneur’s Journey from Biking to Fishing

Thursday, 14 May 2015 09:50 by Info@YesVirginia.org
After a hectic career traveling all over the U.S. and Europe as a professional cyclist, all Wes Seigler wanted to do after retiring as an athlete was to relax at his parent’s home in Reedville, Va., and fish every day like he did as a kid...

After a hectic career traveling all over the U.S. and Europe as a professional cyclist,  all Wes Seigler wanted to do after retiring as an athlete was to relax at his parent’s home in Reedville, Va., and fish every day like he did as a kid.

While fishing on the Chesapeake Bay and offshore Virginia, Seigler and his friends soon encountered problems with the performance of the reels they were using. Drawing upon his experience perfecting his own bike gearing and after encouragement from contacts in the cycling industry, Seigler decided to design his own product.

Release Reels was established in 2009. Seigler quickly found himself in the world of POs, RFQs and SKUs and learning what it all meant on the go. He initially started manufacturing in China, but found his intellectual property was leaking into competitors’ products and decided to bring back the manufacturing stateside.

Release Reels makes premium saltwater fishing reels, and the tolerances are very high. The product has to perform perfectly and look sharp. In order to make sure the machining was spot on, he decided to manufacture it himself. Upon being told he couldn’t compete with Asia, Seigler responded, “We can, we just gotta be willing to work.”

The company now operates nine CNC machines and has 10 full-time employees. 100% of the assembly and machining is done in Virginia and 100% of the component parts are made in the U.S. Seigler sources specialty bearings from Florida, gears and springs from Wisconsin and screws from San Diego, all to ensure the product is made in the USA.

“We have to win all categories — that’s the mentality of our company,” said Seigler. Release Reels products outperform in every class — they are smaller and more powerful, while weighing less.

The company also maintains a lifetime warranty on all its products, which no one else in the industry does. “If you purchase a product, I believe you should be able to call somebody and talk to them,” remarked Seigler. “We can fix it inexpensively, since we do all the machining in-house. Customers love the interaction and that carries into their next purchase.”

Release Reels also works with Rappahannock Community College and hires interns with an interest in machining as a career. “Giving a chance to somebody that might not be university bound has been pretty cool. Manufacturing is not what it used to be, it’s technology driven. We run a clean shop and it’s a great environment where people can learn a lot,” said Seigler.

The company’s high standards and customer service have paid off. After beginning with production of 100 reels per month, the company is now selling almost 600 reels per month and building the infrastructure to grow beyond that. They have also expanded into international markets from Europe to Southeast Asia.  

“The international market is huge for us,” noted Seigler. “People love an American-made product. Japan has a large fishing industry with some of the top shops in the world there. Being accepted by those customers is a strong statement for the quality of our products.”

As we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation Month, Release Reels is a great example of the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit alive in the Commonwealth. To learn more why Virginia is a great place to grow a business, click here.

Release Reels Founder and President Wes Seigler demonstrates the company’s premium saltwater fishing reels for a future customer. Photo courtesy of Release Reels.

NCS Technologies — A Case Study of Innovation During Sequestration

Thursday, 7 May 2015 10:33 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Founded in Northern Virginia in 1996, NCS Technologies made a name for itself as a nimble and responsive small business computer manufacturer and supplier to state and federal agencies, the military, the intelligence community and commercial markets. The company operates out of a modern campus in Gainesville...

Founded in Northern Virginia in 1996, NCS Technologies made a name for itself as a nimble and responsive small business computer manufacturer and supplier to state and federal agencies, the military, the intelligence community and commercial markets. The company operates out of a modern campus in Gainesville.

The company’s products include commercial-off-the-shelf laptops and desktops for offices and schools, high-performance servers for corporate networks, and rugged tablet computers and servers for the military. Over the years, much of the company’s business depended on government.

Like many companies that found a niche serving federal agencies, the impact of sequestration created significant challenges. However, as with all great companies, NCS was able to turn those challenges into opportunities and come out successfully on the other side.

NCS has bounced back to its full pre-sequestration workforce and used the opportunity to diversify its customer base. The company realized that its experience delivering advanced computing products and services to highly demanding government customers could be translated into innovative new products for other growing markets, including healthcare, advanced manufacturing, banking and financial services.

The company kept innovating during the economic downturn and developed the industry’s only zero client laptop. Zero client computers have no operating system or data stored locally. Everything is virtually saved in the cloud, making the data more secure in the event the computer is hacked, lost or stolen.

While global competitors have developed zero client desktops, NCS Technologies is the only company able to master the engineering challenges to fit those capabilities, including patented Wi-Fi capability, into a mobile laptop product.

“Our employees are our greatest investment in innovation,” said John Callahan, vice president of marketing. “They are truly knowledge workers, including electrical engineers, sales representatives, program managers, financial analysts, highly trained assembly-line associates, technical support and customer service employees. Prince William County and surrounding Northern Virginia offers us that range of workforce that helps us excel in a complex, ultra-competitive environment.”

As part of Virginia Business Appreciation Month, NCS Technologies represents the high-growth industry and technological innovation that is alive and well in the Commonwealth. To learn why companies have found success in Virginia for more than 400 years, click here.

The Cirrus LT from NCS Technologies is the world’s first mobile zero client laptop computer. Photo courtesy of NCS Technologies.

 

 

Highground Services — A Successful Graduate of the Franklin Business Incubator

Friday, 1 May 2015 09:34 by Info@YesVirginia.org
John Warren and James Strozier, two former International Paper employees, put their experience together and became entrepreneurs when they created Highground Services in 2006. They co-founded the company with their wives, allowing it to qualify as a veteran-owned, SWAM (small, women-owned and minority) business...

John Warren and James Strozier, two former International Paper employees, put their experience together and became entrepreneurs when they created Highground Services in 2006. They co-founded the company with their wives, allowing it to qualify as a veteran-owned, SWAM (small, women-owned and minority) business.

The company provides high quality engineering services for process control, system automation and instrumentation projects.

The company was off to a fast start — they landed their first contract with International Paper in May 2007 and became a part of the Franklin Business Incubator that December.

When International Paper announced the closing of its Franklin Mill in 2009, this represented a substantial part of Highground Services’ sales.

Rather than be discouraged by the economic downturn and loss of their largest customer, Warren and Strozier seized the opportunity to hire displaced International Paper workers and expand their customer base. They also diversified their business by providing new services, including electrical construction and plant maintenance.

“We made a conscious decision to locate in a historically underutilized business zone and we really value being a part of this community,” said CEO James Strozier. “Our employees are tremendous and they worked tirelessly to help us not only survive, but thrive in what could have been a very challenging time.”

The company’s efforts have paid off in multiple ways. They received the Virginia Business Incubation Association's Donna Noble Incubator Client Award in 2009, UVA’s Darden School of Business Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards in 2011 and the Franklin/Southampton Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award in 2010.

Highground Services has surpassed the $5 million revenue mark for the third straight year, and grown from four founders to 65 employees. The company is also poised to graduate from the Franklin Business Incubator and is in the process of purchasing a building across the street in downtown Franklin.

The entrepreneurial spirit and resiliency of Highground Services is a great reminder of the innovation that exists here in the Commonwealth as we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation Month. To learn why Virginia offers the resources for entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses, click here.

Co-founders Jim and Lisa Strozier (center) are joined by local officials in front of their new property in downtown Franklin, Va.

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