Sunday, December 10, 2023

Hampton Roads Alliance Highlights Focus on Offshore Wind Industry

(WYDaily/Ben Mackin)

WILLIAMSBURG — The Williamsburg City Council held its work session on June 6 at the Stryker Center and on the agenda was an update from the Hampton Roads Alliance (the Alliance).

The Alliance’s President & CEO Douglas L. Smith presented information on the organization’s regional economic development efforts to council members. The main areas of focus include business attraction, business expansion, and business intelligence.

The Alliance works with 14 localities across the region, including James City County, Williamsburg, York County, Newport News, Poquoson, Hampton, Isle of Wight, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Franklin, and Southhampton County. The organization also holds relationships with key business leaders, local governments, and academic institutions in order to help promote the region and to attract new opportunities and talent to Hampton Roads.

According to the presentation, the Alliance’s vision is, “To be a catalytic partner that drives economic empowerment for the region, companies, and people who call the 757 home.”

“An interesting conversation that we’ll have this year, and continue to have, is around talent,” Smith said during the presentation. “If it was location, location, location, now the mantra is labor, labor, labor. Do we have the people to fill these jobs?”

Smith highlighted key industries that the alliance is focusing on. Priority sectors listed in the presentation included offshore wind, advanced manufacturing, software and IT, food processing and technology, distribution and logistics, and shared services.

“We’re spending a lot of time on offshore wind, simply because there’s a window of time here where that industry,” said Smith. “That 80 billion dollar industry is going to land off the east coast and we think Hampton Roads has a chance to be the supply chain hub for that industry.”

(WYDaily/Dominic Catacora)

The Alliance has actually doubled the number of projects that it has in its project pipeline when compared to 2020. A large contributing factor to that has been the anticipation of the offshore wind industry coming to the Commonwealth.

2020 New Projects by industry

  • Advanced Manufacturing: 26
  • Business & Shared Services: 3
  • Distribution & Logistics: 6
  • Food & Beverage Processing: 12
  • Information Technology: 8
  • Offshore Wind: 3

2021 New Projects by industry

  • Advanced Manufacturing: 37
  • Business & Shared Services: 3
  • Distribution & Logistics
  • Food & Beverage Processing: 5
  • Information Technology: 5
  • Offshore Wind: 57

“I think, as a practical matter, we have the natural assets. We are blessed with that proximity to the ocean, that unobstructed ability to get to the ocean, and some sites,” said Smith. “Portsmouth Marine Terminal and Lamberts Point Docks which are always identified as two of the best sites on the east coast.”

Breeze Airways has added an additional destination to its nonstop service from Norfolk International Airport (Courtesy of Pratt & Whitney, A Raytheon Technologies Company)

Another project that Smith highlighted was the Alliance’s role in bringing Breeze Airways to the region, collaborating with the state to get a hub in the region for the airline.

Smith said it is the individual localities that actually close the deals, however, the Alliance acts as a facilitator and provides market/business research for the 14 communities that are a part of the organization.

The presentation also stressed the need to retain current businesses in the areas that fall under the following categories:

  • Alliance Investors
  • Companies With Upcoming Expiring Leases
  • Companies identified as growth stage
  • Companies with international headquarters
  • Major regional employers
  • Port-related companies
  • Regional Assets

More information on the Hampton Roads Alliance can be found on the organization’s official website.

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