2020 Millennial on the Move: Jessica Bedenbaugh
30, Business Development Manager with Portsmouth Economic Development, Portsmouth
Business and Civic Involvement:
Together We Can Foundation Board of Directors; Samaritan House Governance Board of Directors; Portsmouth Service League Member; tHRive Young Professionals Past Board of Directors and Branding Committee Member; PORTCO, Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, Red Cross, Virginia’s Career and Technical Education Resource Center Volunteer; Olde Towne Business Association Board ex-officio Member; LEAD Hampton Roads Class of 2019
What is something that makes you stand out professionally?
My unique array of professional experiences gives me a wide perspective on business—from planning corporate content to engaging with clients and business owners, supporting development of young professionals or responding to crises like COVID-19—I’m able to use multiple tactics to prevent and solve challenges. I am privileged to have gathered an interdisciplinary knowledge from academic study, professional training and hands-on experience, across several industries, that gives me an ability to take a holistic approach to my work, whatever it may be. Many generous leaders and mentors guided me on how to earn a seat at the table early in my career, and I was able to learn strategic communication practices and high-level management needs as a young professional.
Who or what keeps you motivated or inspires you?
Impact is important to me. Knowing that I’ve made a positive and lasting contribution to my community or for my client, or helped someone in some way that matters. I’m also fortunate to be surrounded by the most incredible community and network of family, engaged and civically active friends, and innovative colleagues that continually set the bar higher and elevate my own work with feedback and support.
Tell us about an accomplishment that you’re proud of.
The momentum and energy that Portsmouth has built both make me really proud. There are so many wonderful examples to share from the businesses in the city and some of the changes that we’ve made in Portsmouth Economic Development amplify the stories of these exciting citizens and businesses. Our year-over-year growth as a city is also something to be proud of—from 2018 to 2019, we went from $104 million capital investment to $379 million, respectively. I’m grateful to be on a team that can make such positive and long-lasting impact in a city and region I live in and care deeply about.
How do you feel your industry can best respond to the effects of COVID-19?
In economic development, we are and will continue to respond to the COVID-19 impacts in several ways. Making sure that our businesses are aware of resources is a big component and growing our existing businesses, while attracting new businesses, will also be a continued effort. Workforce development and the nurturing of a talent pipeline that is sustainable and resilient is more important now than ever. This all requires clear communication, and in Portsmouth Economic Development, we are dedicated to maintaining these avenues of open dialogue with our partners now during COVID-19 and as we safely transition into the recovery period.
What new idea or development are you excited about in Coastal Virginia?
There are entirely too many exciting things in the works to list—the region has a ton of great projects in the works. I am obviously partial to the tremendous drive we have in Portsmouth and am excited to see the next steps in several key developments come to fruition. The recently passed casino legislation is historic for the Commonwealth and could contribute to a great anchor site for the Entertainment District on Victory Boulevard. Welcoming the first medical CBD oil dispensary in the region to Portsmouth opens a number of new roads for holistic healthcare moving forward. The 757 has big things happening!
What’s the most important aspect you look for in a workplace?
Personally, organizational and team culture both need to be a good fit. This includes, but certainly isn’t limited to, respect, transparency, humor, good communication, empowerment, autonomy, trust…I think it’s important to recognize that work styles are unique, and a part of good leadership is managing those unique styles in a cohesive manner while also hiring compatible styles to fill the gaps.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in your current position?
I’m fortunate enough that I’m able to do several of my favorite things in my current role and in complementary roles, either as a consultant or an adjunct instructor. I’ve been told quite often that I’d make a solid politician, so maybe I would have followed my plan of being a lawyer (don’t worry I was 7 at the time) and then gotten into politics instead of communications and public service.
What’s your favorite spot to relax in Coastal Virginia?
We have wonderful small businesses and gathering spaces with tons of character that I love supporting every chance I get. I’m particularly fond of our small wine shops that offer a nice cozy place to settle in and chat for girls’ nights. Living in Portsmouth has allowed me to see many of my favorite spots through new eyes as I invite new folks that may not have spent much time here. The Ocean View beaches have a very special place in my heart and will always be my favorite quirky section of the region.