Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms spoke to 900 business and community leaders and elected officials from Hampton Roads at the Chamber’s Virginia Beach State of the City luncheon on March 14, at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. Former Virginia Governor George W. Allen introduced Mayor Sessoms, who then delivered an hour-long address.
Mayor Sessoms applauded the city’s accomplishments and achievements from the past year. “Virginia Beach has a proven track record of getting through the rough times, of making tough decisions, and of staying on the best, long-term path for our citizens,” he declared. “In the past year, Virginia Beach has made it onto multiple lists that praise how this City is run, how healthy it is and what a great place it is to raise a family. “
Mayor Sessoms addressed the city’s current and future economic position. “We are a fiscally strong city…,” he said. “Year after year after year, we do more with less, and, yet, we are still among the most effective and efficient governments in the nation!” The mayor mentioned that the city saved about $1.8 million over the 20-year term of bonds for major projects last year.
According to Mayor Sessoms, transportation is the city’s single largest challenge. He urged Virginia Beach City Council and the leaders of the region and state to continue working with the General Assembly to fund a new revenue stream of at least $500 million a year to support transportation initiatives. “Together, I am confident we can build a campaign to come up with real solutions to these transportation challenges,” he said. The mayor announced his support of light rail and bringing The Tide to Virginia Beach. He made it clear that he wants a new referendum, as soon as November, to determine whether they city should pursue light rail. “We hope to link to The Tide in the very near future,” he said.
The importance of the military was made clear by the mayor. “[The military] is an irreplaceable component to our economic engine,” he said. Mayor Sessoms announced that one of the city’s major victories last year was acquiring 540 homes and more than 2,000 acres to protect Oceana’s future. “Our fight to keep Oceana safe and sound will continue,” he said. “We have not come this far to give up the ship — or the jets.”
The crowd listened as Mayor Sessoms praised the city’s tourism industry. “In 2011, the city experienced a record year for overall lodging sales — $279 million dollars — a 1.7% increase over 2010,” he said. “Visitor spending on lodging is the single best indicator of how healthy our tourism industry is.” The mayor pointed out that Virginia Beach was the only destination among their major competitors that saw positive increases in visitor spending last year.
Just as the military presence and tourism industry are crucial for the growth and development of the city, so is the importance of local businesses, according to the mayor. “The city is committed to bringing new businesses within our borders,” Sessoms said. Last year, the city gained 22 new businesses which was a 144% increase over the previous year. The mayor pointed out that Amerigroup is ranked 396 on the Fortune 500 list, and Valkyrie Enterprises is the only Virginia company outside of the D.C. metro area to make the annual Forbes.com list of “America’s Most Promising Companies.” “We are proud that Virginia Beach companies are thriving,” declared the mayor.
Before ending the program, Mayor Sessoms took a moment to talk about his competitor in the fall mayoral election, Huff, the famous Great Dane who starred in the Doritos ad that aired during the Super Bowl. Huff made a special appearance showing his support for Mayor Sessoms and for the city of Virginia Beach! “I guess the city won’t be going to the dogs after all,” joked the mayor.
Mayor Sessoms thanked city residents, employees and volunteers for being the “true heart of the city.” “I see the best citizens that you could find anywhere — people who are working to ensure the quality of life in our community continues to be superb, so that Virginia Beach will continue to be the best city in the world.”
The Chamber thanks series sponsors: TowneBank (Presenting), Bon Secours Virginia Health System (Platinum), Cox Communications (Media) Farm Fresh, Inc., and Optima Health (Silver). The event’s Bronze sponsor was GEICO.