Best Places to Work 2022 Honorees

by CoVaBizMag

Compiled by Beth Hester

When is a job more than job? When employees feel valued, engaged and genuinely happy to go to work each day.

We asked CoVa BIZ readers and local professionals to weigh in by nominating deserving businesses for our 2022 Best Places to Work contest. From inclusive management styles to big benefit packages, inspiring professional development opportunities to fun office perks, they answered the call.

Nominations were reviewed by CoVa BIZ staff and selected based on the overall strength of the nomination form/s and how the information provided by the nominator/s reflected a positive and desirable work environment for current and future employees.

Included below are our 15 honorees for CoVa BIZ  2022 Best Places to Work. Congratulations to all.

(Business descriptions were compiled using the 2022 Best Places to Work nomination forms and\or business websites and include anonymous quotations from one or more employees who submitted nominations.)


Investing in Employee Growth Pays Dividends

“Accel makes staff development a priority. Employees are viewed as valuable assets, and the company goes out of its way invest in them. I’ve never worked for a company that has taught me so much, and which challenged me to grow both professionally and personally. Truly a refreshing place to work.”

Accel Pest & Termite control has been serving Southeastern Virginia for more than a decade, and the business is thriving due in no small part to the emphasis the company places on investing in the success of its team members. From Accel’s strong benefits package to its multi-platform opportunities for employee growth and advancement, every policy, perk and initiative is designed to create good energy and support the development of well-rounded team members who’ll be standout professionals in the office and in the field. Employees tout the camaraderie and enriching family-like atmosphere that keeps turnover exceptionally low.

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By Design: A People First Approach to Business

“Employees are viewed as people first and employees second. Their response to COVID-19 was exceptional. In a matter of days, we were sent home with fully remote work capabilities. When it became clear that K-12 schools would be heavily impacted, AES provided employees with schedule flexibility so they could continue to work while caring for their families.”

AES provides land developers, architects, land use attorneys, home builders, general contractors and others with services pertaining to site engineering, surveying, land planning and municipal utilities design. The company’s core values center around ‘taking care of our clients by taking care of each other.’ AES fosters an environment where professional development opportunities and mentorship programs provide clear avenues for employee advancement, and significant investments are made in exposing them to the latest in their profession’s best practices and methods. Tuition reimbursement supports professional licensure, and the company covers membership in associated professional organizations. It’s a win-win for AES team members and the clients they serve.

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Sense of Duty Inspires

“Big solutions begin with big ideas. When you empower your employees, you have the entire business motivated to serve the customer. We have a workplace environment where employees thrive, and where everyone knows that they’re making a real difference in the lives of our military, law enforcement and first responders.”

Two decades ago, ADS, Inc. began as a diving supply shop catering to Navy SEALS. Now, they’re a major supplier of tactical equipment, and provider of procurement, logistics and supply chain solutions in support of our men and women in uniform. ADS strives to create an atmosphere where employees are happy, healthy and fully engaged in the company’s mission. The organization has a dedicated ‘Employee Engagement Manager’ whose sole purpose is to ensure employee satisfaction and wellness through organized classes, family events, sports outings and fitness challenges. More than one third of employees are military veterans or members of military families, a hiring practice that earns ADS “Military Friendly Employer” distinctions year after year.

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A Solid Foundation for Success

“We’re encouraged to be the best contracting company around, and we’re included in the rewards of a thriving business that we helped to build. It is very refreshing to work for an owner that doesn’t micro-manage and is selfless in how he shares the wealth.”

In just 10 years, this Hampton Roads service and contracting business has a grown exponentially, currently sporting a team of 45 full-time professionals. Even as the business continues to expand, employees emphasize that much of their high morale and job satisfaction is derived from owner Blake Heron’s cultivation of a collegial work environment where equality, openness and transparency reign supreme. Success is generously rewarded through competitive salaries, bonuses and profit-sharing. Career advancement and personal growth is encouraged and supported through book clubs, wellness challenges and continuing education on industry best practices. Employees appreciate that leadership teams regularly share company goals, clearly communicate expectations and are open to new ideas.

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Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

“Buzz Franchise Brands is a company like no other. From the transparent leadership team to the core values that each team member lives out every day, it truly feels like a family. We also have the opportunity to help people achieve their dreams of business ownership, which makes the hard work that everyone puts in worth it.”

For this multi-brand franchising and business management company, having fun is a core value. A designated “Sanity Control Committee” organizes an ever-changing slate of innovative team activities, events and outings that help keep team members refreshed, energized, and yes, you guessed it, sane. These are not the tired, run-of-the-mill team building activities everyone loathes—we’re talking axe throwing, adventure ropes courses, dolphin watching, beach days, and trips to Cancun. When perks are combined with a healthy benefits package, 401(k) match, and a strong sense of comradery, employees feel empowered and driven to help franchisees realize their dreams.

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Diversity Makes Us Stronger

“We treat people with respect, integrity, and kindness, and are developing a diverse and inclusive workplace where team members are empowered to be their authentic selves.”

Chartway’s expressed purpose is to “unlock the potential of individuals and families so they can thrive.” This mission extends to the organization’s employees. Chartway provides paid federal holidays, birthdays and a day off on Juneteenth. Employees are offered a full complement of perks and benefits including paid group life insurance, tuition reimbursement, career development plans, medical and dental benefits, and a flexible, collaborative work model. Through internal communication channels, Chartway observes holidays and events that celebrate the culture and contributions of diverse racial, ethnic and religious groups. Additionally, team members can choose to share their preferred pronouns as part of their Chartway email signature, and the dress code allows for gender-fluid expression. Chartway believes that diversity strengthens both the credit union and the community.

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Agility Equals Stability

“I cannot think of a better place to work. The company continues to grow every year and gives endless chances for promotion if you’re willing to put in the work. Either I love what I do, or I am just crazy. The solid benefits package is one of the best around.”

Chesbay sells and distributes a wide variety of domestic, imported and regional craft beer. Employees enjoy the casual, yet professional atmosphere, management’s open-door policy, and emphasis on safety. An ample benefits package has all of the more traditional health and welfare components like affordable health insurance, 401(k), paid maternity leave, and bonuses. But there are also discount programs with partners like Verizon and Ford, and employee’s animal companions are offered pet health insurance. Chesbay is agile and adaptable. When COVID-19 caused unforeseen product shortages that would have negatively impacted employee's paychecks, the company switched to a salary model to ensure that the salesforce could enjoy stable earnings.

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Clear Strategy Marks the Path

“I can't say enough good things about the HRWC. I feel proud to tell people where I work. We do amazing things for the Hampton Roads community, and I am grateful to be a part of it. I have literally grown up within this organization, and I can't imagine working anywhere else.”

The Hampton Roads Workforce Council helps regional workforce development services generate the kinds of meaningful employment opportunities that will grow the Hampton Roads economy. Employees cite that an emphasis on professional development and clear avenues for career advancement play a significant role in their job satisfaction. The organization has experienced the changes involved in navigating a merger and coping with the pandemic. Through it all, employees laud the leadership of President and CEO Shawn Avery for working to boost morale during the height of COVID, seeking staff input when developing a new strategic plan, and for instituting ample paid time off and a flextime policy.

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Breaking Down Barriers

“Everyone has a unique role to play, and there are no small roles here. We are all valued and appreciated for what we bring to the table. Workplace vibes are positive, and it’s such a difference to be regarded by your employer as a person, not a number.”

For over 40 years, Hudgins Contracting has supported government, commercial and residential development through site preparation, underground utilities work and infrastructure services. A woman-owned business, the company’s team members appreciate the numerous and effective initiatives implemented by management that are designed to break down perceived barriers between office and field crews. Good communication between departments, and an emphasis on personal growth, makes for a workforce that feels valued and empowered. It’s not enough for the company to attract and hire talented team members—they’re interested in retaining them. There’s no substitute for experience.

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Understanding the Big Picture

“The INIT organization has a real ‘team’ feel about it. Regular company meetings connect the work we do we do in our individual roles to the bigger picture. Project managers provide status updates on different projects, so we better understand the value we create.”

A super benefits package isn’t the only thing that defines INIT’s company culture in the minds of its employees. A global public transportation and mobility organization, INIT provides ample employee health insurance coverage for individuals and their families, generous paid vacation time, flexible work-from-home positions, 401(k) match, life insurance, a community service day per year and a personal equipment allowance. While these benefits and perks are much appreciated, employees enjoy a collegial work environment where each team member understands the impact of their individual contribution. INIT’s management is convinced that success happens when employees are given the space to innovate and implement new ideas.

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Big Firm Retains Sense of Community

“Kaufman & Canoles employees share the firm’s core values; this creates an energizing, motivating and professional work environment.”

Kaufman & Canoles is one of the largest law firms in southeastern Virginia, and its roots in the region run deep. The organization believes that their forward-thinking, hardworking, progressive, entrepreneurial, can-do spirit attracts professionals whose vision for their future aligns with the firm’s core values. Many employees have been with the firm their entire careers, and turnover is low.

Employees enjoy a generous benefits package including tuition reimbursement, profit sharing and numerous avenues for public service. Staff appreciation days, happy hours, wellness programs and team luncheons help to create a sense of community within this large organization. Employees express satisfaction with the opportunities afforded them, and they believe that their accomplishments are recognized and rewarded.

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A Passion for Positivity

“Each day is full of passion and enthusiasm to make a positive impact in our community through guest relationships. There is so much positivity that the guests frequently comment on our great vibe.”

Bang trims, blowouts, expert coloring and more are the range of services offered at Mane Life Salon. This makes for a dynamic work environment where every day is different, and where team members are energized by the salon’s emphasis on collaboration and positivity. Continuing education classes for stylists and specialists is paid for by the salon, and the owner Ashley Smith is dedicated to helping budding professionals achieve their career goals through an apprenticeship program and structured pathways for professional development. The salon’s team members are encouraged to be their authentic selves, and to celebrate each other’s unique personalities and special gifts.

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Team Chemistry is the Superpower

“Cat. Coffee. Cool people. Part of what makes Red Chalk special is that our employees are from different places in life, yet everyone comes together in a supportive, respectful way that allows us to create powerful work together.”

For this creative agency, innovative ideas spring from a work environment designed to inspire. Team members say that their workplace culture is one of curiosity and discovery, a place where the quirky, colorful, physical surroundings promote the generation of great ideas. Associates can take advantage of professional development opportunities on the company’s dime—the only requirement is that the knowledge has to be shared with the rest of the team so that everyone benefits. One team member wrote: Often we spend more time at work than we do with our friends, so it’s pretty amazing that our team is more like a work family. With everybody engaged and onboard, it's no wonder we get so much done! We love to work hard and play harder.

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Benefits You Can Take to the Bank

“TowneBank Mortgage is a great place to build a career. There are plenty of opportunities for advancement, continuing education, and the company provides excellent benefits. It is a company that wants the best for their employees.”

TowneBank Mortgage offers employees a solid package of benefits including generous paid vacation and sick leave, paid holidays, and top-tier dental, health and vision plans. A wellness plan encourages healthy lifestyles and includes a fitness reimbursement program. In addition to these competitive benefits, TowneBank Mortgage offers a variety of fun activities and seasonal events. There is a 12 days of Christmas event, a derby day, Tides games at Harbor Park, food truck visits and monthly lunches. Importantly, TowneBank Mortgage posts jobs internally prior to opening them up to the public so that current employees get the first opportunity to advance within the organization. Several members of the senior management team started their careers in entry-level positions and were promoted from within the company.

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The Mission That Motivates

“Westminster-Canterbury’s mission is to create a community that fosters joy and well-being; that kind of atmosphere makes it a pleasure to come to work each day. We work hard to generate joy within our resident community. At the end of the workday, that is a great feeling to go home with.”

Employees at this beachfront, resort-style retirement community say that because of its mission, the organization attracts people who are motivated to serve, who have a passion for their job, and who support teamwork, respect, responsibility and accountability. Though the organization offers a comprehensive benefits package that includes access to an on-site clinic and pharmacy, employees emphasize that it’s often the less tangible benefits that inspire them each day: the community’s proximity to the scenic shores of the Chesapeake Bay, and the bond of mutual concern and affection that develops between long-time residents and staff.

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