By: Michelle Rogers, Director of Workforce Development
Before the turn into the New Year, I attended the Virginia Economic Developers Association’s (VEDA) “Impact Economic Development” virtual session — it was all about the Commonwealth’s Offshore Wind program, and I’m excited to share that Virginia’s Gateway Region (VGR) is very well-positioned for participation in this huge initiative.
Since this program is under a GO Virginia grant, the whole state can participate. I believe this project is extremely valuable, and through collaborative efforts, VGR can capture a portion of this incredible activity happening now and on the horizon.
We have the opportunity to bring suppliers and a support industry to what’s happening offshore at the Port of Virginia. Additionally, this allows the Gateway Region a chance to take advantage of highlighting the region’s sites and properties as well as all of the resources we have available to help make this happen.
“VGR can help bridge the gaps and strengthen this revolutionary initiative through its talented workforce, sites and close proximity to the project itself.”
There’s definitely potential for VGR to bring companies in at a lower cost of doing business, certainly in terms of property, but also with the region’s workforce, wages and its close to proximity to accessing Hampton Roads via major transportation infrastructure such as the Port, State Route 460 as well as other avenues — we’re really in a prime location to capture some of this action.
Economic Impacts and VGR’s Workforce Potential
In the Gateway Region, we have a workforce in some industries where there are cross-over skills and training which can transfer into the highly-skilled workers needed to make Virginia’s offshore wind initiative happen.
There are certainly opportunities to create curriculum and workforce training programs to meet this need.
That’s where my role as Director of Workforce Development comes in — because it’s a dual-position between VGR and the Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA), which is a partnership with John Tyler Community College. I provide a human connection between new and expanding companies or industries and our region’s workforce.
Job opportunities will fluctuate by project phase, and the peak opportunities will occur in what is being considered the installation phase.
The Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project and the overall initiative is set to begin very early on with 1,100 jobs in operations and maintenance, a portion of which can certainly be caught by VGR. Economic activity is projected to reach $210 million, $11 million of which is expected to strengthen local and state tax coffers.
As for the Hampton Roads initiative itself, which is looking at producing one gigawatt per year in offshore wind growth, we’re looking at approximately 5,200 jobs created over a period of time in industries and subsectors the Gateway Region has a lot of experience in and assets for, such as assembly and supplier services. This is expected to build $740 million in economic activity as well as $39 million in local and state taxes.
Most importantly, because VGR has such collaborative relationships within the region — from all of our support communities and existing businesses to our strong partner organizations, such as CCWA and the Port — I know that if we work together to coordinate a solid economic development strategy for the Gateway Region, we can help make America’s first offshore wind turbines installed in federal waters a true reality.