The Metro Richmond Exports Initiative (MREI) and the City of Hopewell welcomed business leaders from all over the Richmond Metro Area to the Beacon Theatre yesterday to discuss exporting and its benefits for the region. At their second Lunch & Learn event, industry experts and companies already exporting gave presentations focused on international trade finance and the options available for payment, risk mitigation and financing.
For the first time this year, the sound of leaves hitting the ground can be heard at R. Garland Dodd Park in Chesterfield. It’s mid-October and the trails here are a popular attraction during this season. Kids hang out on a playground in the distance. Ahead, the Appomattox River flows by listlessly. This afternoon the trails lead only to the river and back to the parking lot. But that is about to change.
Approximately 4,240 miles from Norfolk, the Panama Canal has spent the past few years undergoing a $5 billion expansion. The expanded canal, which opened officially on June 26, now allows bigger ships to pass through the 102-year-old waterway, doubling cargo capacity. Despite the distance, the canal expansion is having direct impacts on coastal ports across the United States, especially in Virginia.
Over a year after its launch in July 2015, the Virginia Growth and Opportunity (GO Virginia) Board held its inaugural meeting last month to discuss their ambitious plan to jumpstart Virginia’s economy.
Instead of a locality-by-locality strategy, GO Virginia approaches economic development on a regional level, incentivizing individual cities and counties to work together rather than compete for projects. This plan promotes a collaboration of individual communities’ strengths while recognizing that assets and needs vary regionally across Virginia.
Manufacturing is actually flourishing in the United States. According to a recent Associated Press article, the country has lost more than 7 million factory jobs since 1979, while factory production has more than doubled in that same time period, minus raw materials and other costs. The same article held that even though General Motors employs roughly one-third of the 600,000 workers it had in the 1970s, it produces more trucks and cars than ever before.
Demand is high locally – so much so that local companies are trying to promote the region, particularly the Interstate 95 South corridor, as the “Silicon Valley of advanced manufacturing” – that employers have joined up with Chesterfield County Public Schools’ Chesterfield Career and Technical Center and John Tyler Community College to create a pipeline of skilled workers.
The Port of Virginia, quite possibly, had the most important day in its history on Sept. 21. On that day, the governor and the leadership of the port signed a new lease agreement for Virginia International Gateway and in doing so set this one-of-a-kind, state-owned maritime asset on a path to be the leading venue for trade on the East Coast.
Hundreds of participants and speakers emerged from the 68th Virginia Conference on World Trade with two shared conclusions: international trade remains crucial to the health and growth of the state economy, and Virginia must work to improve exporting levels.
“Over 30 percent of economic activity in Virginia comes from exports,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore. “$36 billion in revenues come from international trade. We’re doing everything from soybeans to cybersecurity.”
Serving eight different counties including Sussex and Surry, as well as Prince George, Dinwiddie, Petersburg, Hopewell, Colonial Heights and Chesterfield, Virginia’s Gateway Region has been servicing the enhancement of economic development in the Southern Virginia area since 1960.
“We are 75 percent funded by the private sector, and 25 percent by the public sector,” VGR President and CEO Renee Chapline said. “Our budget averages as about a million dollars per year, and of that amount, the five counties and three cities pay in 25 percent of than in order to have their economic development initiatives prepared. We do all of their marketing, all of their research analysis and bring companies to evaluate the entire region.”
For the first time in the post’s nearly 100-year history, a sitting president visited Fort Lee, creating an unexpected midweek stir at the usually sedate Prince George installation. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama traveled via Air Force One and helicopter to Fort Lee for a two-pronged visit that included a town hall hosted by CNN and a meet-and-greet with service people and Tri-Cities notables.
Virginia’s Community Colleges are off to a promising start in their quest to triple the number of credentials students earn annually by the year 2021. As the VCCS celebrates its 50th anniversary, the 2016 class was the most successful in history, reaching record numbers for both individual graduates and credentials earned. This past spring’s graduations also represented the end of the first year of the VCCS’s six-year statewide strategic plan, Complete 2021, which established the goal of tripling credentials.