Virginia Receives an A+ for Small Business Friendliness

Tuesday, 17 June 2014 09:35 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia received an A+ on Thumbtack.com’s annual Small Business Friendliness Survey. The Commonwealth improved its rank to the fourth overall friendliest state in the U.S. and the top state on the East Coast...

Virginia received an A+ on Thumbtack.com’s annual Small Business Friendliness Survey. The Commonwealth improved its rank to the fourth overall friendliest state in the U.S. and the top state on the East Coast.

Virginia outshone its surrounding competition for the third year in a row. Maryland received a C- and North Carolina earned a C+. Virginia has never received less than an A since the inception of this ranking.

Thumbtack.com partnered with the Kauffman Foundation to survey more than 12,600 entrepreneurs across the country. This ranking is unique because its results come straight from the comments of small business owners.

“After a two-month survey of thousands of small business owners nationwide, business owners have reaffirmed that Virginia is a premier destination for starting and running a business,” said Jon Lieber, Chief Economist of Thumbtack.com. “Creating a business climate that is welcoming to small, dynamic businesses is more important than ever, and Virginia's A+ grade by its small businesses shows what a welcoming and friendly place the Commonwealth is for entrepreneurs.”

Highlights for Virginia include a No. 3 ranking for ease of licensing regulations, a No. 4 ranking for ease of overall regulations, and a No. 5 ranking for training and networking programs. According to Thumbtack.com, the strongest correlating factor for the perception of small business friendliness is the ease of licensing forms, requirements and fees.

In addition, the study examined 82 metropolitan regions. Richmond was ranked No. 10 overall and Virginia Beach was ranked No. 20 overall. Richmond and Virginia Beach were ranked No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, for ease of licensing regulations.

Entrepreneurs and start-ups are becoming increasingly important for economic growth and organic job creation. According to Thumbtack.com, “Virginia’s small businesses were the third most optimistic in the nation when it came to plans to hire more employees in the next twelve months.”

To learn why Virginia is a great place to start and grow a business, click here.

Center for Advanced Film Manufacturing Established in Window Film Capital of the World

Monday, 9 June 2014 14:50 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The founding of the Center for Advanced Film Manufacturing was recently announced in Martinsville-Henry County during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Patrick Henry Community College...

The founding of the Center for Advanced Film Manufacturing was recently announced in Martinsville-Henry County during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Patrick Henry Community College.

Through a public-private partnership, the center will offer a 28-credit Advanced Film Certification Program. Students will take classes at Patrick Henry Community College and New College Institute, while receiving access to hands-on training with machinery and equipment at nearby Eastman Chemical and Commonwealth Laminating & Coating. In March, Eastman Chemical announced plans to acquire Commonwealth Laminating & Coating.

Advanced film experts at Eastman Chemical and Commonwealth Laminating & Coating are advising on curriculum and will participate as part-time instructors. The companies will also offer internships and all graduates of the program are guaranteed an interview at Eastman Chemical.

The Martinsville-Henry County region has become “the window film capital of the world,” producing more than 30 percent of the global supply of coated and dyed film.

Performance or advanced films are terms used to describe any film applied to another material, such as a glass window. Films come in the form of tints, laminates, coating and composites, providing benefits such as tints on car windows to reduce glare, tints on office building windows for privacy, additional strength to industrial windows for security, and the addition of photovoltaic materials to solar panels to capture the sun’s energy.

Students can apply to the Advanced Film Certification Program on the PHCC website, and the first class will commence in fall 2014.

Virginia is home to more than 200 plastics companies, and the Center for Advanced Film Manufacturing will help ensure the Commonwealth has a well-trained workforce pipeline to maintain its leadership in this industry sector. To learn more, click here.

Two employees at Eastman Chemical stand proudly in Martinsville-Henry County, “the window film capital of the world." Photo courtesy of Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.

RockTenn’s West Point Mill Celebrates 100 Years in Virginia

Monday, 2 June 2014 15:08 by Info@YesVirginia.org
RockTenn recently celebrated 100 years of success at its West Point mill in King William County, Va. The mill produces white top linerboard and recycled medium used in corrugated boxes and other types of packaging...

RockTenn recently celebrated 100 years of success at its West Point mill in King William County, Va. The mill produces white top linerboard and recycled medium used in corrugated boxes and other types of packaging. 

The West Point mill began operations on May 16, 1914, a little over a year after the company was first established as the Chesapeake Pulp & Paper Company. The mill began with 140 employees and a capacity of 20 tons of paper products per day.

Chesapeake Pulp & Paper Company would later become Chesapeake Corp. and the mill would change ownership a number of times before being acquired by RockTenn in 2011. RockTenn is publicly traded (NYSE: RKT) and one of the leading packaging solutions providers in North America.

In 1930, the West Point Mill acquired the first Fourdrinier machine in the South, allowing it to manufacture continuous sheets of paper.  The machine initially created a sheet 218 inches wide, running at a top speed of 1,000 feet per minute. The machine has been updated and is still running today at 2,000 feet per minute.

The mill added paper machine No. 2 in 1964 and machine No. 3 in 1985. Today, the mill employs more than 500 Virginians and produces about 900,000 tons of paper products each year.

In October 2012, RockTenn celebrated completion of an 11-mile pipeline to supply natural gas to the West Point mill, in partnership with Virginia Natural Gas, Dominion Virginia Power, New Kent County, King William County, and the Town of West Point. The company also invested in the mill to make it more efficient, reduce emissions and lessen its carbon footprint.

According to RockTenn General Manager Chris Broome, “We are very excited about the investments RockTenn is making in our West Point mill to continue providing our customers with high-quality products and to better support their needs. We are committed to being a good business partner within the community and value the relationships we have developed throughout the years.”

The West Point mill’s 100 years of success is a notable achievement and represents the longevity and prosperity companies experience in Virginia’s pro-business environment. To learn why companies keep growing in the Best State for Business, click here.

A view of RockTenn’s West Point mill on the York River in West Point, Va. Photo courtesy of RockTenn.

U.S. Foreign Affairs Security Training Center Comes to Virginia’s Fort Pickett

Wednesday, 21 May 2014 14:29 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The U.S. Department of State recently announced plans to establish its Foreign Affairs Security Training Center, known as FASTC, on 1,500 acres at Fort Pickett in Virginia’s Nottoway County...

The U.S. Department of State recently announced plans to establish its Foreign Affairs Security Training Center, known as FASTC, on 1,500 acres at Fort Pickett in Virginia’s Nottoway County.

U.S. diplomats are currently trained at multiple sites across the nation. In May 2008, Congress identified the need to consolidate training at one facility to improve efficiencies and cost savings. 

After a multi-year search, Fort Pickett was selected as the best site over 70 other properties because it met DOS’ operational requirements and offered close proximity to D.C. agencies and the intelligence community.

FASTC will train approximately 8,000 – 10,000 U.S. ambassadors and diplomats sent to foreign countries, sometimes in dangerous locations. The center will initially focus on hard skills training, which includes detecting surveillance, providing emergency medical care, identifying explosive devices, firearms training, and performing defensive driving maneuvers. The 2012 attacks in Benghazi highlight the importance of this training for the U.S. foreign affairs community.

Fort Pickett is the perfect location because the 46,000-acre campus offers plenty of land and a secure environment to build driving tracks, mock urban environments, and firing and explosive ranges. Fort Pickett was established in 1942 and currently serves as the Maneuver Training Center for the Virginia National Guard. While the land is predominantly in Nottoway County, it covers parts of Brunswick and Dinwiddie Counties.

This project is expected to be transformative for the Nottoway County region. The DOS is currently estimating a hard-skills facility will bring $461 million in investment to the area, not to mention additional jobs both onsite and in the community through the multiplier effect.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and a group of federal, state and local officials recently visited Fort Pickett to tour the future site of FASTC. The Administration continues to work through budgetary issues and must complete an updated master plan and environmental impact study before construction can begin.

Virginia’s selection as the site for the FASTC project illustrates how the Commonwealth provides the right location, infrastructure and workforce for both public and private entities. To learn more click here.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and a group of federal, state and local officials tour the future site of FASTC at Fort Pickett in Nottoway County, Va. Photo courtesy of Virginia National Guard Public Affairs/Cotton Puryear.

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Holds Its First Commencement Ceremony

Friday, 9 May 2014 12:07 by Info@YesVirginia.org

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine will hold its first-ever commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 10 at 8:30 a.m. at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke.

The ceremony will be held for the school’s first 40 graduates, who are all continuing on to a residency. U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, who as a former governor of Virginia signed legislation to support the creation of the new school, will be the keynote speaker.

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute serves as a model of collaboration between public and private partners. The institute combines Virginia Tech’s sciences, bioinformatics, and engineering with Carilion Clinic’s highly experienced medical staff. The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute collaborates with 75 institutions around the world, and has 168 research employees.

In addition, the institute’s unique, patient-centered learning model and small class size allows students to learn through real-life situations with ample student participation. Only 15 percent of medical schools in the U.S. have a patient-centered learning curriculum.

Virginia has a number of nationally recognized medical training and research institutes around the state, including the VCU School of Medicine and the UVA Department of Biomedical Engineering and School of Medicine, and now adds another major medical school in the western part of the state.

Virginia’s nationally acclaimed universities and community colleges, ensure businesses have a knowledgeable and highly trained workforce. The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute is a great example of how Virginia is preparing for jobs of the 21st century. To learn more about Virginia’s more than 100 in-state institutions of higher education, click here.

A view of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute—located in Roanoke, Virginia.

Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre Breaks Ground in Martinsville-Henry County

Monday, 21 April 2014 15:02 by Info@YesVirginia.org

Last Thursday, a kickoff event was held marking the beginning of development at Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre.

The event at the 740-acre site attracted members of the U.S. Congress, state leaders, local officials, and citizens and neighbors from both Virginia and North Carolina. The CCBC project began in 2007 when Henry County purchased the land. Earlier this month, the grading permit was awarded by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Chairman of the Henry County Board of Supervisors H.G. Vaughn, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, U.S. Congressman Robert Hurt, U.S. Congressman Morgan Griffith, and Virginia House of Delegates member Danny Marshall delivered remarks. U.S Senator Mark Warner could not attend the event but had his remarks delivered by a member of his staff.

Henry County officials said their plan is to create about 140 to 170 acres of useable pad space for potential companies. Grading work on the site is expected to begin within two to three weeks and it could take up to 18-24 months to complete that work. The Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation will be the lead agency in marketing the property.

CCBC is a prime location for advanced manufacturing companies, including automotive and aerospace. The business park is located in an Enterprise Zone, which allows companies to apply for special zone grants and incentives. CCBC is located 33 miles from the Piedmont Triad International Airport and is adjacent to the Norfolk Southern Railway Mainline.

Funding partners for CCBC include Henry County, the City of Martinsville, the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation, the Tobacco Commission, The Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Small Business Administration and the Mid-Atlantic Broadband.

CCBC is another example of the pipeline of premier business parks that keeps manufacturing companies coming to the Commonwealth. To learn why manufacturers have invested more than $13.7 billion in Virginia over the last decade, click here.

Federal, state and local officials celebrate the groundbreaking of CCBC, a 740-acre business park in Martinsville-Henry County.

Southern Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Center Receives Additional Funding

Monday, 14 April 2014 15:16 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Halifax County Industrial Development Authority recently announced it has received a $427,500 grant to complete Phase III renovations on the Southern Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Center...

Halifax County Industrial Development Authority recently announced it has received a $427,500 grant to complete Phase III renovations on the Southern Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Center.

SVAMC is located in South Boston, Va., at the former Daystrom Furniture manufacturing plant. Halifax County purchased the facility three years ago, which includes 34 acres and three buildings totaling 430,000 square feet. 

The county has been renovating the site, originally established in the 1960s, and recently added a new, more energy-efficient roof. Phase III renovations will extend natural gas to the site through a collaboration with Columbia Gas of Virginia.

The goal of the project is to provide a manufacturing ecosystem that will draw multiple companies to the area, as well as jobs and investment. The facility will include both advanced manufacturing and hands-on workforce training space for multiple tenants. It is expected to be ready in early 2015.

VEDP helped Halifax County identify the grant from the U.S. Community Advancement and Improvement Program. Matt Leonard, executive director of the Halifax County IDA, emphasized the importance of the funding for the region, commenting, “The USCAIP grant provides benefits beyond its dollar value.”

Advanced manufacturing continues to be a mainstay of Virginia’s economy, with 5,600 manufacturers employing almost 231,000 workers. To learn why manufacturing companies have invested more than $13.7 billion in the Commonwealth over the last 10 years, click here.

A rendering of the Southern Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Center in South Boston, Va. Photo courtesy of Halifax County Industrial Development Authority.

Bioplastics — How One Virginia Company is Making Plastic out of Feathers

Friday, 28 March 2014 11:45 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Eastern BioPlastics has successfully commercialized a process to make plastic out of chicken feathers. By using what was formerly a waste product, the company is making plastic components in a sustainable way...

Eastern BioPlastics has successfully commercialized a process to make plastic out of chicken feathers. By using what was formerly a waste product, the company is making plastic components in a sustainable way.

Co-founders Sonny Meyerhoeffer and Dr. Justin Barone established the company in Mount Crawford, Va., in 2008. They combined Meyerhoeffer’s background as an entrepreneur in the poultry industry with Barone’s engineering expertise as a professor at Virginia Tech to accomplish a difficult task — commercializing R&D into an effective process.

The company replaces up to 50 percent of the petroleum component of plastics with fiber made from chicken feathers. This chicken feather fiber, called feather fiber intermediate, has a number of advantages over petroleum. It is a renewable resource and makes use of something that was previously viewed as a waste product. In addition, the chicken feather fibers are very strong yet lightweight, making them ideal for plastic products.

Eastern BioPlastics has developed a proprietary technique that cleans and processes the chicken feathers in a cost-competitive way. The feather fiber intermediate is blended with polyolefins in a resin, and then extruded into pellet form. These pellets are then sold to original equipment manufacturers that use injection molding to form any number of end products for use in the automotive, furniture and sports equipment industries. The company is currently beta testing this product with customers.

Eastern BioPlastics has also developed a second product called Environmental BioProtector. Feathers are extremely oil absorbent; news coverage of massive oil spills illustrates how birds suffer because the oil becomes trapped in their feathers. The company has developed a product using chicken feathers to help clean up oil spills, from large-scale disasters to consumer use for car oil leaks. Environmental BioProtector is USDA certified and made of 99 percent bio-based material, making it one of the most eco-friendly and low cost oil absorbing solutions on the market today. The company has been selling this product since May 2013.

Creating an entirely new product in 2008 was no easy feat, especially during the economic downturn of 2009-2010. According to co-founder Meyerhoeffer, “Back then nobody wanted to take a chance on anything new. We had to figure out how to break in and create a market with a brand new product.”

When asked why he kept going during these early days, Meyerhoeffer responded, “I was never led to quit and we stayed at it because we knew there was something there that was better. You have to persevere through the tough times. I think a lot of entrepreneurs are that way. You know you’ve got something viable and it’s just about continuing through to the end.”

The founders of Eastern BioPlastics exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation that’s alive and well in the Commonwealth. To learn what Virginia offers and why it’s a great place to start a business, click here.

Eastern BioPlastics co-founder Sonny Meyerhoeffer displays his Bioplastic Composite Resins made from chicken feathers. 

VEDP Releases Maritime Opportunities Export Report

Thursday, 20 March 2014 14:44 by Info@YesVirginia.org
VEDP just released its Maritime Opportunities Export Report for Virginia. The report was prepared by Old Dominion University as part of VEDP’s Going Global Defense Initiative aimed at helping Virginia defense companies mitigate the impact of sequestration by increasing international sales...

VEDP just released its Maritime Opportunities Export Report for Virginia. The report was prepared by Old Dominion University as part of VEDP’s Going Global Defense Initiative aimed at helping Virginia defense companies mitigate the impact of sequestration by increasing international sales.

This report, geared towards small and medium defense contractors, is timely given current expectations for another BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) process and the possibility of the U.S. military shifting some assets to the Pacific Rim.

The Maritime Opportunities Export Report gives a high level overview of the process a company would need to follow in order to export defense products or services. For example, one of the first steps a company should take is determining if its product or service is on the U.S. Munitions List or the Commerce Control List so it can obtain the appropriate registration and license to export. The report also provides helpful links to federal resources that govern these procedures.

Recognizing that the most reliable indicator of future trade activity is current trade activity, the report utilized a mixture of historical data on defense import purchases combined with expected growth rates and political and financial stability to determine the export opportunity ranking by country.

The Top 10 markets for U.S. Maritime Exports are:

  1. Japan
  2. Australia
  3. United Kingdom
  4. South Korea
  5. Israel
  6. India
  7. Turkey
  8. United Arab Emirates
  9. Mexico
  10. South Africa

The report also outlines a number of emerging growth markets in the global maritime industry. These include anti-piracy products, services and technology; ship conversions and deactivations; privatized naval security; unmanned underwater vehicles for mining, mapping, environmental testing, route surveying and port surveillance; and C4ISTAR which stands for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, targeting acquisitions and reconnaissance.

To download the report and learn more about VEDP’s Going Global Defense Initiative, click here.

Capital One Celebrates Opening of Chesterfield County Data Center

Wednesday, 19 March 2014 09:09 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Capital One recently celebrated the opening of its newest data center in Chesterfield County. The $150 million project was first announced in June 2012...

Capital One recently celebrated the opening of its newest data center in Chesterfield County. The $150 million project was first announced in June 2012.

This investment represents part of Capital One’s efforts to streamline and automate its IT infrastructure, adding new technologies to continue its reputation for leadership and exceptional customer service.

The 242,000-square-foot facility is scalable for future growth and includes redundant power supply and substantial backup systems to ensure uninterrupted service. It is also LEED Gold certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“This new data center is a bold example of the value we place on having the best technology to deliver on our customer mission, and we are proud to continue our strong relationship with Virginia and expand our workforce here,” said Rob Alexander, Chief Information Officer at Capital One.

The company employs more than 15,000 associates in Virginia, drawing on the Commonwealth’s strong IT and professional services labor pool. While the company initially expected to create 50 new jobs related to this investment, Capital One now expects to double that over the next year in Central Virginia.

Capital One was founded in Virginia more than 20 years ago. The company has thrived in the Commonwealth and grown to become a Fortune 500 company (NYSE: COF) and one of the most recognized brand names in the U.S. It is the country’s largest direct bank and 7th largest bank based on deposits.

Chesterfield County was selected for this project due to its proximity to Capital One’s existing operations in the Greater Richmond area. Central Virginia has been part of Virginia’s booming data center industry because it offers abundant power, an advanced fiber-optic network, low risk of natural disaster, and a strong IT workforce.

To learn why approximately 700 data processing, hosting and related establishments have selected Virginia as their home, click here.

The Port of Virginia – the Only Port on the U.S. East Coast Ready Now for Post-Panamax Vessels

Tuesday, 11 March 2014 15:58 by Info@YesVirginia.org
While other ports along the East Coast scramble to deepen their channels in preparation for the Panama Canal expansion, the Port of Virginia stands ready as the only port on the U.S. East Coast currently capable of handling post-Panamax ships as first and last port of call...

While other ports along the East Coast scramble to deepen their channels in preparation for the Panama Canal expansion, the Port of Virginia stands ready as the only port on the U.S. East Coast currently capable of handling post-Panamax ships as first and last port of call.

With 50-foot channels and authorization up to 55 feet, the Port of Virginia offers the deepest shipping channels on the U.S. East Coast, able to accommodate ships greater than 10,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). Even just a few feet of channel depth can have a significant impact. 45-foot channels can only accommodate up to 8,500-TEU vessels and 42-foot channels can only accommodate 4,500-TEU vessels.

The Port of Virginia offers prime, unobstructed access to the Atlantic Ocean. This saves valuable transit time and costs, and ships traveling to the Port of Virginia can avoid the hassle of traveling inland, navigating rivers and overhead obstructions like low bridges.

Served by every major shipping line, the Port of Virginia offers direct connection to more than 100 foreign ports and reach to any country in the world. Norfolk Southern and CSX offer on-dock, double-stack intermodal service to markets throughout the Northeast, Midwest and Southeast. Customers also have access to 12 short-line railroads for a total of 3,500 miles of track throughout Virginia. 

The Port of Virginia is one of the largest intermodal networks on the East Coast, handling 2.2 million TEUs in 2013. The Virginia Port Authority operates four owned terminals:  three marine terminals, Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal, and an inland facility, the Virginia Inland Port. VPA also operates two leased marine facilities: APM Terminals and the Port of Richmond.

Norfolk International Terminals is the Port of Virginia’s largest terminal. It houses 14 Suez Class ZPMC cranes, the largest, most efficient cranes in the world. Capable of handling current and future ships, these cranes have a 245-foot reach that can offload vessels loaded 27 containers wide.

APM Terminals is known as the most technologically advanced terminal in the Americas. It automates and optimizes the flow of crane and container movements, and its advanced tracking systems can pinpoint the exact location of every container. Cargo movements are handled by eight Super Post-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes, 30 semi-automated rail-mounted gantry cranes and two rubber-tire gantry cranes with electric spreader bars.

Use the highlighted links to learn more about the capabilities of the world-class Port of Virginia and Virginia’s global logistics network.

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Virginia’s Colleges and Universities Make Another Strong Showing on MONEY’s Best Colleges List

Tuesday, 14 July 2015 17:16 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Once again, Virginia’s higher education institutions made a strong showing on MONEY Magazine’s 2015 Best Colleges List...

Once again, Virginia’s higher education institutions made a strong showing on MONEY Magazine’s 2015 Best Colleges List

10 Virginia institutions made the Top 200 overall:  University of Virginia (No. 17), Washington and Lee University (No. 24), Virginia Military Institute (No. 48), Virginia Tech (also tied at No. 48), James Madison University (No. 59), College of William and Mary (No. 75), University of Richmond (No. 105), University of Mary Washington (No. 119), George Mason University (No. 127), and Hampden-Sydney College (No. 157).

The Commonwealth had seven schools make the Top 50 Best Public Colleges list:  UVA was No. 4, Virginia Tech and VMI both tied for No. 15, JMU tied with another school for No. 19, College of William and Mary was in a three-way tie for No. 26, University of Mary Washington tied with another school for No. 42, and GMU rounded out the list in a three-way tie for No. 47.

Virginia also had strong results in the Top 50 Best Liberal Arts Colleges list with four schools:  Washington and Lee was No. 4, VMI was No. 10, University of Richmond tied with another school for No. 26, and Hampden-Sydney College was No. 38.  

Bridgewater College was counted among the Top 50 Most Affordable Private Colleges and Hampton University was included in the Top 50 Colleges That Add the Most Value list.

The editors at MONEY Magazine only included the 736 schools with an above-median graduation rate from the list of 1,500 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. The schools were then ranked on 21 factors falling into the three categories of quality of education, affordability and outcomes.

Virginia’s world-class education system is currently serving more than 575,000 students who will provide a steady pipeline to support the Commonwealth’s current industry needs. To learn why Virginia’s higher education institutions continue to be highly ranked, click here.

A view of The Rotunda at University of Virginia, ranked No. 4 on MONEY Magazine’s Top 50 Best Public Colleges list for 2015. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corp.

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.

MAAP Unmanned Aerial Test Site at Virginia Tech Declared Fully Operational by FAA

Monday, 18 August 2014 15:57 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Last week, a group of government, academic and business leaders gathered at Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute to celebrate the FAA declaring the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems test site program fully operational...

Last week, a group of government, academic and business leaders gathered at Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute to celebrate the FAA declaring the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems test site program fully operational.

In December 2013, the FAA announced that Virginia Tech was selected as one of six test sites across the country to conduct research as part of an initiative to establish safety standards for integrating UAS, such as drones, with commercial aircrafts.

Virginia Tech led the submission of a joint proposal for Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland, along with Rutgers University and the University of Maryland, called the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership. MAAP is headquartered at Virginia Tech’s Institute of Critical Technology and Applied Sciences, with test sites located across Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland.

The ceremony included a simulation flight involving an unmanned, multi-rotor helicopter called the Smart Road Flyer. It was modified for transportation research by Dr. Kevin Kochersberger, a professor with the College of Engineering and the Virginia Center for Autonomous Systems, and engineering students from the Unmanned Systems Laboratory at Virginia Tech. The simulation gathered information from a mock accident scene on an interstate highway.

This scenario illustrates the wide-ranging future capabilities of UAS. Potential uses of this technology include disaster response, search and rescue missions, utility and pipeline inspections, agricultural monitoring, wildlife management, cargo delivery and weather observation.

This is another win for Virginia’s burgeoning aerospace industry. With flights to the International Space Station taking off from MARS/NASA Wallops Flight Facility and UAS launched from MAAP at Virginia Tech, the Commonwealth has the assets to stake its claim as a national aerospace leader. 

To learn why more than 250 aerospace companies have chosen to call Virginia home, click here.

Dr. Kevin Kochersberger (right) describes a UAS simulation flight at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute during the MAAP First Flight Ceremony. University President Timothy Sands, Virginia Delegate Joseph Yost, Governor Terry McAuliffe, and MAAP Executive Director Rose Mooney (left to right) discuss the future of unmanned and autonomous aviation at the event. Photo Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Virginia Schools Rank High on the Forbes and Money Top Colleges Lists

Tuesday, 12 August 2014 09:46 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia’s higher education institutions once again ranked high on the Forbes America’s Top Colleges 2014 list. Forbes partnered with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity on its seventh annual ranking.

Virginia’s higher education institutions once again ranked high on the Forbes America’s Top Colleges 2014 list. Forbes partnered with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity on its seventh annual ranking.

Three Virginia schools made the Top 25 in the Best Public Colleges category:  University of Virginia was No. 5, College of William and Mary was No. 6, and Virginia Tech was No. 23.

In the Overall category, eight Virginia colleges made the Top 200 list: Washington and Lee University (No. 33), UVA (No. 40), College of William and Mary (No. 41), University of Richmond (No. 96), Virginia Tech (No. 117), Virginia Military Institute (No. 129), Hampden-Sydney College (No. 171), and James Madison University (No. 188).

Washington and Lee University was also ranked No. 15 on the Best Liberal Arts Colleges list.

Forbes is a unique ranking because instead of focusing on the metrics of how competitive an institution is to get in to, it focuses on what students get out of college in terms of ROI. The five factors that determine the ranking include student satisfaction, post-graduate success, graduation rates, academic success and student debt.

Money also gave Virginia high marks on its Best Colleges for Your Money 2014 ranking. The Commonwealth scored well in the Best Public Colleges category with UVA at No. 3, VMI at No. 4, Virginia Tech at No. 12, JMU at No. 17 and the College of William and Mary at No. 20.

In the Overall category, 10 Virginia institutions made the Top 200:  UVA (No. 16), VMI (No. 18), Washington and Lee University (No. 39), Virginia Tech (No. 42), JMU (No. 53), College of William and Mary (No. 60), George Mason University (No. 101), University of Mary Washington (No. 107), University of Richmond (No. 120), and Hampden-Sydney College (No. 156).

Money only included schools with an above-average six-year graduation rate, and then based the ranking on a number of factors in three main categories — quality of education, affordability and outcomes.

Virginia’s substantial higher education system includes more than 100 in-state institutions that are preparing 450,000 students to enter the workforce. From large universities, to small private colleges, to the 23-member Virginia Community College System, the Commonwealth’s world-class education system stands ready to support industry demand with a strong pipeline of highly skilled workers.

To learn more about Virginia’s premier education system, click here.

A view of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. UVA was ranked No. 3 on Money’s Best Public Colleges list. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corp.

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Holds Its First Commencement Ceremony

Friday, 9 May 2014 12:07 by Info@YesVirginia.org

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine will hold its first-ever commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 10 at 8:30 a.m. at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke.

The ceremony will be held for the school’s first 40 graduates, who are all continuing on to a residency. U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, who as a former governor of Virginia signed legislation to support the creation of the new school, will be the keynote speaker.

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute serves as a model of collaboration between public and private partners. The institute combines Virginia Tech’s sciences, bioinformatics, and engineering with Carilion Clinic’s highly experienced medical staff. The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute collaborates with 75 institutions around the world, and has 168 research employees.

In addition, the institute’s unique, patient-centered learning model and small class size allows students to learn through real-life situations with ample student participation. Only 15 percent of medical schools in the U.S. have a patient-centered learning curriculum.

Virginia has a number of nationally recognized medical training and research institutes around the state, including the VCU School of Medicine and the UVA Department of Biomedical Engineering and School of Medicine, and now adds another major medical school in the western part of the state.

Virginia’s nationally acclaimed universities and community colleges, ensure businesses have a knowledgeable and highly trained workforce. The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute is a great example of how Virginia is preparing for jobs of the 21st century. To learn more about Virginia’s more than 100 in-state institutions of higher education, click here.

A view of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute—located in Roanoke, Virginia.

Bioplastics — How One Virginia Company is Making Plastic out of Feathers

Friday, 28 March 2014 11:45 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Eastern BioPlastics has successfully commercialized a process to make plastic out of chicken feathers. By using what was formerly a waste product, the company is making plastic components in a sustainable way...

Eastern BioPlastics has successfully commercialized a process to make plastic out of chicken feathers. By using what was formerly a waste product, the company is making plastic components in a sustainable way.

Co-founders Sonny Meyerhoeffer and Dr. Justin Barone established the company in Mount Crawford, Va., in 2008. They combined Meyerhoeffer’s background as an entrepreneur in the poultry industry with Barone’s engineering expertise as a professor at Virginia Tech to accomplish a difficult task — commercializing R&D into an effective process.

The company replaces up to 50 percent of the petroleum component of plastics with fiber made from chicken feathers. This chicken feather fiber, called feather fiber intermediate, has a number of advantages over petroleum. It is a renewable resource and makes use of something that was previously viewed as a waste product. In addition, the chicken feather fibers are very strong yet lightweight, making them ideal for plastic products.

Eastern BioPlastics has developed a proprietary technique that cleans and processes the chicken feathers in a cost-competitive way. The feather fiber intermediate is blended with polyolefins in a resin, and then extruded into pellet form. These pellets are then sold to original equipment manufacturers that use injection molding to form any number of end products for use in the automotive, furniture and sports equipment industries. The company is currently beta testing this product with customers.

Eastern BioPlastics has also developed a second product called Environmental BioProtector. Feathers are extremely oil absorbent; news coverage of massive oil spills illustrates how birds suffer because the oil becomes trapped in their feathers. The company has developed a product using chicken feathers to help clean up oil spills, from large-scale disasters to consumer use for car oil leaks. Environmental BioProtector is USDA certified and made of 99 percent bio-based material, making it one of the most eco-friendly and low cost oil absorbing solutions on the market today. The company has been selling this product since May 2013.

Creating an entirely new product in 2008 was no easy feat, especially during the economic downturn of 2009-2010. According to co-founder Meyerhoeffer, “Back then nobody wanted to take a chance on anything new. We had to figure out how to break in and create a market with a brand new product.”

When asked why he kept going during these early days, Meyerhoeffer responded, “I was never led to quit and we stayed at it because we knew there was something there that was better. You have to persevere through the tough times. I think a lot of entrepreneurs are that way. You know you’ve got something viable and it’s just about continuing through to the end.”

The founders of Eastern BioPlastics exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation that’s alive and well in the Commonwealth. To learn what Virginia offers and why it’s a great place to start a business, click here.

Eastern BioPlastics co-founder Sonny Meyerhoeffer displays his Bioplastic Composite Resins made from chicken feathers. 

Virginia’s Focus on Cybersecurity Remains Strong

Thursday, 6 March 2014 14:22 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Governor McAuliffe recently announced the launch of Cyber Virginia, a plan to establish the Virginia Cybersecurity Commission and augment Virginia’s leadership in cybersecurity...

Governor McAuliffe recently announced the launch of Cyber Virginia, a plan to establish the Virginia Cybersecurity Commission and augment Virginia’s leadership in cybersecurity.

The Commonwealth has a strong legacy in cybersecurity, and is well-positioned with the infrastructure to grow this sector. Virginia has the highest concentration of high-tech workers, according to Cyberstates 2013, and up to 70 percent of the world’s Internet traffic flows through Northern Virginia every day. Growth in the Commonwealth’s data center industry remains robust — investment topped $1 billion in 2012 — positioning Virginia as the place to be for companies moving towards cloud computing.

Virginia’s close proximity to the federal government’s cybersecurity operations also played a role in establishing its leadership position. The Commonwealth is home to the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communication Integration Center, and DARPA.

Virginia’s premier institutions of higher education are poised to maintain the Commonwealth’s leadership in technology through a healthy pipeline of skilled technology workers. Twenty-two of Virginia’s 23 community colleges offer training programs in cybersecurity.

In addition, the NSA and U.S. Department of Homeland Security named five Virginia schools as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education: George Mason University, Hampton University, James Madison University, Marymount University, and Norfolk State University. Virginia Tech was named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research.

To highlight a couple of these programs, Virginia Tech offers the Hume Center for National Security and Technology, which researches intelligence applications of cyberattacks and defense. The university also provides students with real world experience through its IT Security Lab. In partnership with the Naval Postgraduate School and L-3 Communications, Virginia Tech hosts the Cybersecurity Innovations Laboratory at its Arlington campus.

In one of our recent blogs, we mentioned George Mason University’s expertise as the author of the VEDP Cybersecurity Export Market Report. GMU is home to the International Cyber Center and founded the Center for Secure Information Systems in 1990, which was the first academic center in security in the U.S. and one of the NSA’s original Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.

To learn more about Virginia’s leadership in cybersecurity and the overall technology industry, click here.

A view of the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington, which houses the Northern Virginia location of the Hume Center for National Security and Technology.

FAA Selects Virginia Tech as Test Site for Unmanned Aircrafts

Friday, 3 January 2014 16:03 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The FAA recently announced that Virginia Tech was selected as one of six test sites across the country to conduct research on unmanned aircraft systems...

The FAA recently announced that Virginia Tech was selected as one of six test sites across the country to conduct research on unmanned aircraft systems.

This initiative will help the FAA establish safety standards that will allow UAS, such as drones, to share airspace and integrate with commercial airlines. Test sites were selected for their geographic and climate diversity, as well as existing infrastructure and aviation experience.

The test site at Virginia Tech will focus on UAS failure mode testing, and identify and evaluate operational and technical risk areas.

Virginia Tech led the submission of a joint proposal for Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland called the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership. In order to enhance the region’s competitiveness, the governors of each state agreed to support the initiative, and Virginia Tech will partner with Rutgers University and the University of Maryland, College Park.

Virginia has already shown its support for UAS and securing the Commonwealth’s position as an aerospace leader. In December, Governor McDonnell announced Virginia Tech would receive more than $2.6 million in Federal Action Contingency Trust funds to operate the UAS test site.

In addition, the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership successfully completed its first flight in October with a team from the Virginia Center for Autonomous Systems, a research partnership between Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science and the College of Engineering. The team attached sensory equipment provided by American Aerospace Advisors to an unmanned 250-pound helicopter. Using ultraviolet and infrared cameras, the group was able to gather data on the health of five acres of tobacco crops.

This type of research could help farmers quickly survey their land to gain a better understanding of crop health, reduce pesticide use and improve yield. Agriculture is expected to be a prime growth market for UAS technology.

This win for Virginia Tech illustrates the Commonwealth’s premier higher education system, as well as its leadership in the aerospace industry. To learn more click here.

A team from Virginia Tech prepares to launch an unmanned 250-pound helicopter for a research mission to determine if UAS can gather meaningful data for crop management.  Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program Celebrates 30 Years

Thursday, 28 February 2013 13:21 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program (CGEP) recently celebrated its 30-year anniversary at an event in Richmond, Va., hosted by CGEP and VEDP...

The Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program (CGEP) recently celebrated its 30-year anniversary at an event in Richmond, Va., hosted by CGEP and VEDP.

CGEP offers Master’s degrees and certificate programs for engineers and scientists seeking to further their education while remaining in the workforce. Students can pursue degrees in Computer Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Engineering Administration, Environmental Science & Engineering, and Systems Engineering.

What is most unique about the program is its distance learning model, which includes both online courses and televised courses offered at more than 25 sites across Virginia. CGEP uses the latest interactive video conferencing technology, allowing for two-way audio and video to provide an interactive classroom experience for students.

In addition, graduate students can personalize their program by taking advantage of courses offered by any of the five participating universities, which include George Mason University, Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech.

During the 2011-2012 academic year, total enrollment in CGEP increased by 10 percent to 6,759 students. CGEP attributes this growth to increased offerings in online coursework, allowing busy graduate students to take classes anywhere, anytime.

CGEP is another example of the innovative programs offered by Virginia’s prestigious higher education institutions to ensure a solid pipeline of skilled employees is ready to fulfill industry needs. 

To learn more about CGEP or Virginia’s higher education offerings, click on the highlighted links.

Virginia’s Wind Industry Gains Speed with Two Federal Announcements

Monday, 17 December 2012 16:12 by Info@YesVirginia.org
In the last few weeks, Virginia’s wind industry has won validation with two positive announcements from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Department of Energy (DOE)...

In the last few weeks, Virginia’s wind industry has won validation with two positive announcements from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Department of Energy (DOE).

On November 30, the BOEM announced federals waters off the Virginia coastline qualified as one of only two wind energy areas (WEAs) for the upcoming competitive lease sale process. This is the first-ever wind energy lease sale on the Outer Continental Shelf.

The Commonwealth’s WEA encompasses 112,800 acres located about 23.5 nautical miles off Virginia’s coastline. According to the BOEM, this area would have the capacity to produce more than 2,000 MW of wind generation, enough electricity to power 700,000 homes.

On December 12, the DOE announced that a Virginia team led by Dominion Virginia Power was one of seven projects awarded an initial grant of up to $4 million for the engineering, design and installation of an offshore wind turbine demonstration facility.  

Dominion will install two Alstom 6-megawatt turbines off the Virginia coastline using an innovative “twisted jacket” foundation that requires less steel. In addition to Alstom Power Inc., the Dominion team includes KBR; the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME); the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute; and Newport News Shipbuilding.

Virginia-based Fugro Atlantic has also been selected by the DMME to conduct a geological survey to study the seafloor of Virginia’s WEA in the Outer Continental Shelf.

Recognition from both the BOEM and DOE highlights the Commonwealth’s strengths in the offshore wind industry. Virginia is well-positioned as a leader in this renewable energy field, offering the ideal combination of strong Class 6 winds, shallow waters off the coast, an experienced maritime workforce, a robust transportation network, and access to a fully operational high voltage transmission grid close to shore.

Often called the “Energy Capital of the East Coast,” Virginia is home to more than 380 energy companies and has seen more than $4.6 billion invested in energy projects over the last decade. To learn more about Virginia’s burgeoning energy industry, click here.

A rendering of the Dominion offshore wind turbine demonstration facility, consisting of two Alstom 6-megawatt turbines. Courtesy of Dominion Virginia Power.

National Tire Research Center Displays New Tire Testing Machine “Flat-Trac LTRe”

Friday, 26 October 2012 15:23 by Info@YesVirginia.org
This week, the National Tire Research Center (NTRC) hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the unveiling of its new tire testing machined called the “Flat Trac LTRe”...

This week, the National Tire Research Center (NTRC) hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the unveiling of its new tire testing machine called the “Flat Trac LTRe.”

This high-performance, $11.3 million machine is the only one of its kind. It allows speeds up to 200 mph on car, truck and motorsports vehicles and tests tire performance during acceleration, brake and burnout events, as well as wheel torque capability.

Located in the Virginia Motorsports Technology Park adjacent to the Virginia International Raceway track in Halifax County, the NTRC provides easy access to real-world testing right on a premier race track.

NTRC is an applied research and testing facility established in 2010 through a public-private partnership between the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, General Motors, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.

By combining the industry leadership of General Motors with the research prowess of Virginia Tech, NTRC will focus on developing safer tires that are environmentally friendly, providing higher fuel economy with lower emissions.

Southern Virginia has become quite a hub for the automotive industry. NTRC has partnered with nearby Southern Virginia Vehicle Motion Lab (SoVa Motion), a facility also operated by Virginia Tech that rounds out the region’s offering to automotive manufacturers by providing shock and suspension testing, on-vehicle sensing, and full-motion driving simulation.

Virginia's advanced manufacturing capabilities cover all aspects of the automotive industry. To learn why automotive companies have invested more than $1 billion in the Commonwealth over the last decade, click here.

Dr. Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, addresses the crowd at the National Tire Research Center ribbon-cutting event in Halifax County.

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