Key Players Leading the Way in Local Business

10+ leaders who are changing the game or playing a critical role in the current projects and initiatives shaping our region

by Beth Hester

Women of the HRBT Expansion Project
The largest highway construction project in Virginia’s history, the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion is making history in another way: the project has 79 female staff members and 212 female craft members contributing to all aspects of the undertaking.

Photo By Leona Baker

Photo By Leona Baker

With a total budget of more than $3.8 billion, the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion is the largest highway construction project in Virginia’s history. Linking Hampton and Newport News with Norfolk and Virginia Beach, the bridge-tunnel is traversed by nearly three million vehicles every month every month. During tourist season this key transportation artery carries more than 100,000 vehicles per day. When it’s completed in 2025, the expanded bridge-tunnel will help relieve congestion and enhance travel time reliability.

But this project is making history in another way: the project’s design-builder has 79 female staff members and 212 female craft members contributing to all aspects of the undertaking—from engineering and design to construction operations, safety management and environmental compliance, finance and project administration. This figure represents approximately 32% of the project’s total workforce. Because of this robust female representation, we are honoring the Women of the HRBT Expansion Project by collectively designating them as one of our Top 10 Influential Business Leaders.

From the project’s inception to the construction process, the project’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and Small, Women and Minority (SWaM) participation goals are intended to ensure that all protected classes under federal law, including both minorities and women, are provided equal opportunity to be involved. To date, the HRBT Expansion Project has awarded a total of 327 DBE/SWaM agreements for more than $517.1 million in contract awards to small, women and minority business enterprises.

More good news on the job creation front: 81% of DBE and SWaM firms engaged on the HRBT Expansion Project are based right here in Virginia, with 49% from the Hampton Roads region.

Richard Dreiling 2Richard Dreiling
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Dollar Tree

On January 29, 2023, Richard Dreiling, Dollar Tree’s executive chairman, assumed an expanded role by becoming chairman and chief executive officer of Dollar Tree, Inc. Dreiling brings more than 50 years of retail experience to this role, and his multi-faceted corporate biography includes key senior leadership positions with Dollar General Corp., Safeway, Inc., and Duane Reade, the largest drug store chain in the New York City metro area.

It’s an exciting time for the Chesapeake, Virginia-based company on many fronts, and Dreiling’s professional experience in the intersecting realms of grocery and discount retail is a boon to the company. He is endeavoring to build strong teams to advance crucial corporate programs and initiatives that will simplify operations, improve supply chains and deploy innovative merchandising strategies.

Dreiling’s leadership comes at a time when Dollar Tree’s massive corporate campus and associated urban mixed-use development, Summit Pointe, is in full swing and experiencing ongoing investment and significant growth. Dollar Tree’s gleaming, high-rise office tower anchors the massive complex, and it’s currently home to approximately 2,300 Dollar Tree employees. The company has played an enormous role in jumpstarting Summit Pointe’s development and shepherding it through multiple stages of construction.

It’s all part of a multi-year plan to furnish Chesapeake with a real, walkable downtown replete with residences, pocket parks, restaurants, retail shops, office space and resources that will attract, retain and support businesses representing every sector of the economy.

Brian HemphillBrian Hemphill
President, Old Dominion University

The ninth president of Old Dominion University, Brian Hemphill has garnered praise for his transformational leadership mindset and optimistic but clear-eyed approach to solving the complex issues facing higher education. His scholarly papers cover topics as varied as gun violence and threat-preparedness on campus, workforce development, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and economic issues relating to education. And, much to the delight of many Monarch fans, Hemphill’s bold and successful championing of ODU Athletics to join the Sunbelt Conference will expand opportunities for student athletes.

Espousing a commitment to visionary change, during remarks at his inauguration in 2022, he said: “We can allow skyrocketing tuition, growing student debt, the enrollment cliff, the value proposition, or the challenging post-COVID environment to define us and limit our possibilities, or we can embrace innovation and opportunity. And, in turn, we will be a forward-focused institution in our research, forward-focused in our teaching and forward-focused in our service.”

That forward-thinking approach to service applies to Hemphill’s drive to find innovative solutions to address the health care challenges and public health disparities within our region’s most vulnerable communities. Hemphill has been instrumental in forging a strategic partnership with Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) and Norfolk State University to develop and establish the O.N.E School of Public Health, the first of its kind in the Commonwealth, with Sentara Healthcare investing approximately $4 million in grants to ODU and NSU to support the accreditation process. Hemphill will also be at the helm as ODU and EVMS prepare for a merger that would create a brand-new institution, The Eastern Virginia Health Sciences Center at Old Dominion University.

vance hullVance Hull
Chairman, Virginia Maritime Association Offshore Wind Committee

Norfolk native Vance Hull is director of business development at Colonna’s Shipyard, a diversified industrial company with multiple divisions that was established in the decade following the end of the Civil War. At Colonna’s, Hull pursues commercial opportunities for Colonna’s ship repair, fabrication and conversion, and for their Steel America division, a heavy steel fabrication and large-scale machining provider.

Hull’s maritime experience covers the waterfront, and his professional background includes management experience in port ship agency, harbor maintenance and dredging, specialized mega-yacht repair. Most recently, his work supports groundbreaking, regional offshore wind initiatives, the goal of which is to provide clean energy, create new domestic supply chains, accelerate manufacturing growth, enhance port infrastructures and help develop a highly skilled workforce throughout Coastal Virginia.

In the early days of the Virginia Offshore Wind Coalition, Hull served as chairman of the supply chain committee, and is currently chairman of
the Virginia Maritime Association’s Offshore Wind Committee.

Vance Hull is known as a powerful goodwill ambassador for wind power and clean energy. In concert with other stakeholders and partners, his continued support of and advocacy for Coastal Virginia’s offshore wind initiatives are helping transform the local economy, while attracting adjacent economic development opportunities.

Here’s just one huge, wind power win for the area: announced in 2021, the city of Portsmouth will be home to the United States’ first offshore wind turbine facility, creating hundreds of new jobs for the region through the manufacture of “Virginia Made” turbine blades to supply multiple offshore wind projects in North America.

Roy CorbyRoy Corby
General Manager, Rivers Casino Portsmouth

In 2021, Roy Corby was named General Manager of Rivers Casino Portsmouth. Back then, news of the upcoming gaming and entertainment venue was creating quite a buzz, and sitework was already underway at the Victory Boulevard location. Speculation about the venue’s potential impact on the regional economy and local tax revenue were the talk of the town, and expectations were high.

Fast forward to March 2023 when Rivers Casino Portsmouth reported $24.7 million in adjusted gaming revenue in February, its first full month of operations according to the Virginia Lottery Board. Those expectations appear to have been met—and exceeded. Going forward, it’s projected that the venue will generate over $16 million in annual tax revenue for the city of Portsmouth, and it is anticipated that Rivers Casino will serve as a catalyst for further economic development, increased regional tourism and job creation.

Managing Virginia’s first permanent, freestanding casino is a tall order, but Corby brings to the table three decades of experience in casino gaming and operations, and he knows the business from the ground up. Prior to joining Rush Street, the company that develops and operates Rivers Casinos, Corby worked as a table games dealer and slot attendant in Atlantic City before rising in the industry to oversee operations at three high-profile gaming venues for Global Gaming Solutions.

The opening of Rivers Casino Portsmouth sets the stage for the highly anticipated construction of Headwaters Resort & Casino on the Norfolk waterfront. That casino will be owned the Pamunkey Indian Tribe and is expected to open its permanent location in 2024.

gregory lumGregory Lum
General Manager, Amazon Robotics Fulfillment Center

Known as the birthplace of Planters’ monocle-wearing Mr. Peanut mascot, Suffolk is also now home to a revolutionary, state-of-the-art, 3.8 million square-foot Amazon site where General Manager Gregory Lum directs Virginia’s first warehouse and fulfillment center that’s largely fueled by robot power. The facility supports approximately 1,500 full-time employees who, thanks to robotics technology, are able to process over 200,000 packages per day with the capability to scale up to one million.

At the multi-story fulfillment center, human labor is fused with robotics in a high-tech choreography, where Lum has said that the robotics technology “allows us to take away some of the heavy lifting so our associates can focus on safety, quality and delivering smiles for our customers.”

With a background in fleet management and logistics, Lum began his career with Amazon in 2015 as an area manager, and he served in the Army National Guard for over a decade. As an alumnus of Virginia Military Institute, his return to Virginia to lead the Suffolk fulfillment center is a kind of homecoming.

Suffolk’s forward-thinking investments in infrastructure and workforce services, its land-rich environment and the city’s proximity to the Port of Virginia make the city a highly-desirable logistics hub for companies. Amazon thinks so, too.

A recent report produced by ABI Research covering warehouse automation trends projects that there will be approximately 4 million commercial robots installed in over 50,000 warehouses by the end of 2025. Looks like Gregory Lum, and the fulfillment center associates he’s charged with leading are decidedly on-trend.

Jason MiyaresJason Miyares
Attorney General, Commonwealth of Virginia

Elected Attorney General in 2021, Jason Miyares became the first Hispanic-American to hold statewide office in Virginia. A self-described “common-sense” conservative, he credits much of his drive and service-orientation to his mother’s influence and the impact of her poignant personal journey fleeing Castro’s Cuba in 1965. Miyares attended Virginia Beach public schools, obtained a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from James Madison University and is a graduate of the William & Mary Law School. The Miyares’ family live in Virginia Beach.

Coastal Virginia is home to the largest Naval base in the world, and the only NATO command on U.S. soil. Active duty and retired military personnel are our next-door neighbors, our sons and daughters, and the coworkers who proudly serve in reserve units. In his prior role as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, issues impacting the military informed Miyares’ efforts. He served on the Virginia Board of Veteran’s Services and was recognized in 2018 as “Legislator of the Year” by the Hampton Roads Military Officers Association of America for his “outstanding service to Virginia’s military veterans.” Miyares’ support of the military community continues as the Attorney General’s office oversees the Veterans Assistance & Resources Section.

Virginians may or may not agree with some of Miyares’ more controversial positions as a cultural warrior, but one thing is certain: Miyares is a bulldog when it comes to issues surrounding consumer protection. During 2022, Miyares’ office processed 5,471 consumer complaints, highlighting the top 10 during National Consumer Protection week to raise awareness of scams and encourage reporting. Miyares’ office announced participation in a national investigation of alleged illegal robocalls, obtained financial restitution for consumers who had been deceived by a company claiming to provide them with service dogs, and AG Miyares’ Crime and Consumer Protection Section helped score a big win in the highly publicized Experian data breech case.

Manan Shah Manan Shah
Owner, Pashm Global

Every day, customers from Richmond to Northeastern North Carolina sip Tropical Smoothies, send Edible Arrangements to friends and relatives, shop in convenience stores and book beachfront accommodations. But not everyone knows that many of those businesses were built and developed by Manan Shah, founder of Virginia Beach-based company Pashm Global, who began his entrepreneurial journey by operating a single, modest convenience store in Chesapeake.

Today, Pashm Global is a vibrant hotel, retail and property development business. Shah’s current portfolio includes 16 hotels, three convenience stores, nine Tropical Smoothie restaurants and seven Edible Arrangements stores located in Coastal Virginia, Richmond and Elizabeth City. The Sandcastle Resort, The Capes, Seaview, The Blue Marlin Inn & Suites, Caribbean Corners in Nags Head and Barclay Towers are part of the company’s Oceanfront and resort operations.

Pashm Global also offers a targeted range of services designed to help business owners and fledgling entrepreneurs find success in the areas of hotel and resort management, property development and retail operations management. Shah and his team also support businesses through innovative digital marketing and sales services.

Shah attended the Gujarat University in Ahmedabad, India, receiving a BE degree. He has a Master’s Certificate in Hospitality Management from Cornell University and is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, having served four years as a supply analyst.

With a goal of leading by example, Shah serves the community as secretary of the Hindu Temple of Hampton Roads and has played a key role in promoting the culture of India throughout Coastal Virginia. He’s also Vice President of Virginia Asian American Store Owner Association.

Pharrell Williams
Musical Producer, Media and Culture Mogul

Virginia Beach native, Grammy winning musician, producer and entrepreneur, Pharrell Williams’ influence on popular music and media is so powerful that he’s joining the rarified ranks of mononymous artists like Cher, Prince, Beck, Drake, Adele and Madonna. Mention “Pharrell” almost anywhere on the planet, and no explanation is needed.

Defying easy categorization, Williams joyfully blurs the lines between musical genres, incorporating elements of hip-hop, R&B, rock, funk and electronic music, push boundaries of and exploring the potential of new sounds and technologies.

Alone, or in concert with fellow musicians and co-producers, Williams has helped shape the songs of Nelly, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and Gwen Stefani. His imaginative collaborations with artists like Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar, Daft Punk, Herbie Hancock and film composer Hans Zimmer showcase his depth and musical range.

But Williams’ influence extends far beyond the borders of his entertainment oeuvre. Because of the outsized nature of his hands-on generosity, Town & Country Magazine once posed the question: “Is Pharrell Williams the World’s Best Neighbor?” He just might be. He’s quietly supported the expansion of José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen and has helped develop programs like Black Ambition and other non-profits that serve at-risk youth and marginalized groups.

While Williams’ social conscience encompasses a broad range of universal concerns, he’s never strayed far from his local roots. His massive Something in the Water Festival recently returned to Virginia Beach, and the City approved a $335 million surf park and entertainment venue at the former Dome site, which he has been instrumental in planning. From the Mighty Dream Forum and YELLOWHAB K-12 school in Norfolk, to the thousands of face masks donated to Sentara Healthcare and the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s office during the height of COVID-19, Williams both thinks globally and acts locally. It makes us “Happy.”

taylor adamsTaylor Adams
Deputy City Manager & Director of Economic Development, City of Virginia Beach

Taylor Adams is deputy city manager and director of economic development for the City of Virginia Beach. Many have credited Adams’ ongoing leadership for Virginia Beach being recognized as a business and innovation-friendly destination, a great place to live, work, create, and a build a business. Since joining the city in 2015, Adams worked first as a purchasing agent and then as a finance operations administrator.

As Deputy City Manager, Adams is focused on diversifying the city’s economy, and he’s been instrumental in making changes to the city’s contracting and procurement processes to expand opportunities for small, women- and minority-owned (SWaM) companies. He has expressed a committed to making the city a hub for advanced manufacturing, technology, research and innovation by promoting the resort city’s strategic location near the Port of Virginia, low tax rates, skilled workforce and attractive quality of life.

Adams and the Department of Economic Development identify six industry sectors as areas of primary focus: advanced manufacturing, military and defense, maritime and logistics, office and retail, cybersecurity and information technology, and offshore wind energy. But Adams recognizes that that the city must seek additional ways to foster “startup ecosystems,” and to forge mutually beneficial partnerships between small businesses associations, workforce development organizations, and academia. The HIVE-VB Resource Center, which opened in 2021, is a perfect example of one such collaborative community specifically designed to help grow and scale early-stage businesses.

Adams is also advancing alliances with prominent international trade organizations in the biomedical and life sciences. “These new partnerships will enhance our business attraction efforts,” he noted in a public announcement, “allowing us to make new connections and strengthen our existing relationships, which in time will allow us to grow our local bio and life sciences hub through direct foreign investment.”

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