VIRGINIA BEACH — Mayor Bobby Dyer started off his first “State of the City” address with a bang.
“Every day is an awesome day to be in Virginia Beach,” Dyer said as he walked on stage.
The annual speech provides a look back at major developments in the city, and is sometimes used to announce new businesses or initiatives. During the 2018 State of the City speech, then-Mayor Will Sessoms announced that a free mental health care clinic for veterans was opening in Virginia Beach.
Dyer took a page out of Sessom’s book, boasting recent economic investments made in the city and introducing new initiatives in the fight against flooding and sea-level rise.
Here are five highlights from the speech to keep an eye on:
1. Dyer emphasized city government’s engagement with the public throughout his speech.
“Our goal is to provide as many ways for the public to participate in their government as possible.”
Specifically, Dyer touted the city’s use of Publicinput.com, an engagement hub used by local governments for surveying public opinion.
Dyer said since Virginia Beach began using the website, “20,000 participants have provided nearly 275,000 responses on topics ranging from what elements they want to see in the Dome Site project, what murals should be painted on the steps of Mount Trashmore, to what the city’s priorities should be in the future.
2. Dyer announced Cyber-security firm Sparq Global is investing $20 million to update a facility on Lynnhaven Parkway, bringing with it 250 new jobs with average salaries of $74,000 a year. Sparq is a spin-off of Virginia Beach-based Global Technical Systems, founded in 2017.
What Dyer did not mention was that the Virginia Beach Development Authority awarded an Economic Development Investment Program grant of $300,000 to Sparq in January.
3. In its first year, the $32 million Kempsville Recreation Center was voted the best new facility statewide by the Virginia Recreation and Park Society. Dyer did not reference what criteria was used by the society in their selection.
4. Dyer also announced two additional corporate brands that will have a presence at Something in the Water — Verizon and Timberland. Pharrell Williams’s mother, Carolyn Williams, was recognized by Dyer after he and the audience viewed a video produced by Pharrell Williams that has been used to inspire brands and corporate sponsors to buy-in for the festival
5. The mayor said he was “taking a cue from the Research Triangle of North Carolina,” and forming a coalition of higher education institutions in the region that will partner regionally to boost economic activity in Hampton Roads.
That will include advisory committees for business and technology to identify obstacles and emerging trends, Dyer said. Other Dyer initiatives include providing targeted assistance to small, minority-owned, and women-owned businesses
Dyer also announced the “Mayor’s Commission Environmental Resilience and Sea-Level Rise,” as well as a regional forum, in partnership with Norfolk, to study stormwater and recurrent flooding challenges of the future.
“We will educate people on these environmental matters and we will come up with solutions,” Dyer said. “We have no choice — this is critical.”