What comes to mind when you think about Virginia Beach? Surf and sand? A rich history? World class entertainment? Year-round recreational opportunities? Naval Air Station Oceana?
Virginia Beach, the largest metro area in the commonwealth, is renowned for its sandy beaches and lively tourism industry, but unless you follow the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development’s (VBDED) projects and initiatives closely, you may not be aware of the numerous ways in which the Department’s collaborative, steady and intentional growth strategies are raising the region’s international profile, and nurturing a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. The city’s success in attracting national and international businesses in key industry sectors complements existing strengths in the areas of military and defense, and tourism.
Drawn by Virginia Beach’s stable and supportive business climate, strategic location, intermodal transportation infrastructure, well-educated workforce and quality of life, an ever-increasing number of companies are making Virginia Beach their base of operations. Whether the sector is offshore wind and renewable energy, advanced manufacturing, government contracting, IT/Cyber, maritime and logistics, or retail and professional services, VBDED provides companies with everything they need to launch, grow and thrive.
Acting as a liaison on behalf of businesses and working in concert with area partners and other city departments, VBDED can streamline the planning, permitting and zoning processes. This gives established companies and startups alike robust support in areas of recruitment, management, real estate, and access to capital. VBDED can also offer businesses the kinds of comprehensive data needed to make prudent decisions. You can think of VBDED as a highly-specialized “concierge service” for business entities.
A Fresh Approach to Growth
As a direct result of these strategies, the city is realizing some big wins, but not at the expense of smaller businesses and startups.
“Sometimes people tend to focus on the high-profile big wins,” says Laura Hayes Chalk, Deputy Director of Economic Development at VBDED. “But it’s about the smaller achievements and expansions as well, the ones that set the stage for future growth. You have to be forward-looking and diversified in your approach. Like the city itself, over the years our organization has evolved, and our multi-faceted growth model includes everything from small business mentoring and business incubation, to leading the way with renewable energy, and helping international companies establish a U.S. presence.”
On the following pages we showcase significant projects and initiatives that are gaining momentum and making waves in Virginia Beach.
Virginia Beach International Incubator
Opened in 2021, this incubator has been described as “temporary office space for a soft landing.” In addition to office space, the incubator experience comes with a tailored suite of benefits geared toward international companies that are getting their operations off the ground. Several tiers of support are available to the businesses depending on their size and emerging needs.
Benefits include access to an informal advisory committee composed of lawyers, accountants, educational and workforce ecosystems, representatives from area service providers and organizations like the Hampton Roads Workforce Alliance. Looking ahead, Virginia Beach is establishing an industrial incubator to serve out-of-market companies wishing to establish a U.S. presence.
One of the most promising sectors in the Virginia Beach economic landscape is offshore wind energy. VBDED has been instrumental in positioning the city as a leader in this space, actively attracting and supporting companies involved the industry. The region’s strategic location along the East Coast and its strong maritime infrastructure make it an ideal hub for offshore wind energy projects. Industry partners like Dominion Energy, Siemens Gamesa, and Avangrid Renewables bring their expertise to projects that will create thousands of new jobs.
In 2020, to help prepare the area’s workforce for “what comes next,” Tidewater Community College and Virginia Beach initiated a partnership designed to ensure there would be a pipeline of skilled technicians well-positioned to support the offshore wind industry and benefit from the high-paying jobs that the projects will generate.
• Jazz Solutions: Provides IT support to federal, state and local government as well as the healthcare industry with an array of services. They recently announced their expansion into Virginia Beach. They offer high paying, high quality jobs with an average salary of $158,000.
• Vectrona: Supplies innovative system analysis, training services, engineering solutions and technology applications for the Department of Defense, announced their expansion into Virginia Beach in August of 2022. Their expansion brings 40 new jobs with averages salaries of $95,000 to our area residents.
• DroneUp: Specializes in commercial drone delivery, flight services and software. This thriving company continues to extend its reach. After experiencing significant growth, DroneUp opted to keep its corporate headquarters in Virginia Beach. Additionally, the company plans to expand its base of operations, investing $6.95 million and adding 510 new jobs to the community with an average salary of $55,000.
• STIHL: Investing $49 million to expand its Virginia Beach operations, the German manufacturer is also adding
15 new jobs.