Prince George Economic Growth Aided by Hometown Hero

Yoti Jabri grew up in Prince George County, where his father, Abe Jabri, operated a used car lot and, at one time, auto parts store. One of his biggest life lessons was that running a business was often harder than it needed to be.

“I saw the struggles that small business owners had, but, at the same time, I wanted to change course from being a small business owner. I wanted to figure out ways to help my community grow,” said Jabri, who has served as Prince George’s Economic Development and Tourism Director since August 2022. “With economic development, you are directly and indirectly helping all businesses with the county, and even within Virginia’s Gateway Region.”

Last fall, Jabri played a pivotal role in securing PGT Innovations’ $54.3 million investment to locate a new glass manufacturing operation, Triple Diamond Glass, in Prince George County. It was a major win on two fronts: PGT will create 659 new jobs, and the project will revitalize the facility that Rolls-Royce closed in 2021 after a reorganization that cost many high-paying jobs.

“The creation of Triple Diamond Glass represents a major step forward in our company’s journey,” said Jeff Jackson, President and CEO of PGT Innovations. “Prince George, Virginia offered an ideal blend of proximity to customers, robust infrastructure, and skilled workforce to support this operation and bringing its cutting-edge products to the window and door industry. We greatly appreciate the efforts put forth by the state of Virginia and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, and we are looking forward to contributing to job growth and the economic success of the region.”

What makes Prince George County so attractive to prospective new companies or businesses looking to expand? Without hesitation, Jabri gives a simple answer: “Location, location, location.”

The county is nestled just east of I-95 and I-295, with easy connections to I-64 and I-85, giving business great accessibility to major arteries along the East Coast. At the same time, “The Port of Virginia is expanding, almost doubling in size,” he added, noting the Port’s growth in Norfolk less than 75 miles down Route 460. (Note: Virginia beat out Arizona for the PGT project with the Port of Virginia proving to be a major decision factor for the company.)

“We have great infrastructure in the county, and we have room to grow as well – which is a positive thing,” Jabri said, “That’s coupled with a strategic plan to how we can build out for the future. As a locality, we’re growing as well.”

In fact, Prince George County experienced 20% growth in residents over a decade, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. That tells business leaders who are considering planting roots in the county that they’ll find an ample workforce, not to mention the ability to tap into a 60-mile labor shed (even dipping into North Carolina) of more than 1.5 million people.

Jabri witnessed that population boost firsthand, as he’s lived there since birth. He studied at Richard Bland College of William & Mary, then earned his undergraduate degree at Longwood University. He added a master’s degree in economics and concentration in public administration from Virginia State University, then capped that with the CEcD certification from the prestigious International Economic Development Council.

His service with Prince George County started in 2012 as deputy clerk, and then he transitioned to deputy treasurer. In 2017, he moved into the newly created role of economic development specialist. In 2020, he departed to become Director of Economic Development and Tourism in Surry County.

Having the opportunity to return home in 2022 for the top economic development job was a perfect fit.

With an annual slate of marketing and recruiting strategies, Jabri travels to about a half-dozen trade shows and conferences to talk with advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals/biotech and supply chain industries that are looking for the right location, resources and support to grow their businesses. He’s developed strong alliances within Virginia’s Gateway Region as well as the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, which help the county to host site selection visits where prospective companies can learn about current infrastructure and workforce viability.

Jabri is quick to note that he’s part of a collaborative team in attracting future industrial partners. Every participant plays a role in a successful bid.

“Most projects want to be shovel ready, permit ready and just ready to go as soon as possible. As we all know, time is money,” he said. “We have a team where we all have trust in each other and get things done. If we’re not responsive, we’re going to lose these projects, so we take a very proactive approach. That’s an important key to economic development.”

With his economic degree, Jabri understands how workforce availability is the underpinning to attracting significant investments –a challenge faced by small and large industries alike. So, for example, he’s nurtured strong partnerships with educational institutions like Brightpoint Community College and Richard Bland College. Those schools have created tailored workforce development programs, so workers can be trained with specific skills and are job-ready when businesses open their doors.

One major opportunity for growth he sees right now is tourism, with a particular focus on sports tourism. Part of the county’s strategic vision includes an Exit 45 action plan, which aims to enhance the tourism along the I-95 corridor. Currently including a half-dozen hotels, a few restaurants and some travel centers, the zone has benefited by beautification efforts.

Another initiative is the interdepartmental partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department, where the county hosts hot-ticket softball tournaments at its 52-acre JEJ Moore Athletic Complex. The payoff is that a single event can lure hundreds of players alone – many opting to stay in the Exit 45 area.

And while he’s always looking to lure new economic opportunities, Jabri gives equal attention to keeping existing businesses rooted and successful in Prince George –helping them find expansion avenues when the time is right. Last year, he implemented a quarterly Business Resource meeting, which is targeted to guiding entrepreneurs and small businesses to give them the support they need.

“We meet face-to-face with businesses,” Jabri said. “We ask how they are doing, and we work to assess their needs and see how we can better serve them. It’s all part of the job.”

When one unpacks the vision that Jabri has for Prince George’s economic future, it is easy to see he is going places.

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