The Hampton Roads Chamber kicked off its signature State of the City series in Virginia Beach. The Chamber means business and this event unites business leaders and citizens across our region. In an interactive audience participatory State of the City, newly elected Mayor Bobby Dyer addressed the Commonwealth’s largest city on March 20th in a packed ballroom, declaring Virginia Beach as the “City of Yes!”
Asking the audience to bring out their cell phones he encouraged them to participate in a live State of the City survey. Dyer launched the public polling campaign for Virginia Beach, early in his term and PublicInput.com has had 20,000 participants and provided nearly 275,000 responses in its short 4 months. It was active during the State of the City address and Dyer announced almost instantaneous results.
Some of the survey questions asked were “Which three words do you most hope people use to describe Virginia Beach ten years from now?” and “To achieve the future you just imagined for Virginia Beach what are the three most important issues we must address?” Economic Development – more good jobs ranked highest in the impromptu poll, which also asked, “Which of the following are a result of public-private partnerships?” This question listed 13 area facilities, and Dyer confirmed the city had some level of investment in each of them as large scale initiatives to grow the economy by expanding our tax base and generating additional revenue. “For every dollar we put in we get four dollars in return,” Dyer said.
He indicated stormwater projects are a top priority as well as improving transportation systems and major roadway projects, many of which have been completed or are in the works, throughout the city.
Projects include the $115 million Lesner Bridge; the Housing Resource Center, a first of its kind in the region, which integrates a shelter, housing, health center, dining hall, learning facility, supportive service and community resources in one facility and Cape Henry Lighthouse renovations.
Regarding the proposed project at the Dome site, Dyer said, “I’m all in. Atlantic Park has the potential to transform our resort area into a year-round destination, with something for everyone, including a state-of-the-art surf park, a 3,500-seat live entertainment venue, and new-to-market retail restaurants, in addition to office and residential components. It’s a big deal!” Dyer and the team of site analysts estimate the project will produce millions in revenue. He also reassured citizens that funding for this project comes from the Tourism Investment Program Fund dedicated for such projects since 1993.
A Virginia Beach State of the City address feels incomplete without Pharrell Williams, who made an appearance via pre-recorded video again this year. His “Something in the Water” initiative for April was touted as a boost to tourism and an opportunity to turn around the negative news of college week in past years.
Some of the highlights of Virginia Beach’s last year included 100 percent of Beach schools earning full accreditation and an all-time high graduation rate. The implementation of special programming for individuals with sensory processing disorders in the department of Parks & Recreation, an emphasis on mental health awareness with two sold-out mental health forums, the latest phase of Town Center, as well as investments in the ViBe creative district, and focus on a start-up ecosystem. Dyer said, “These are the types of accomplishments that help make Virginia Beach the preferred Coastal City on the Atlantic. Virginia Beach is a city of positivity, where people can hold and express different points of view respectfully to create common ground and constructive solutions.”
Dyer added. “Virginia Beach is a city of inclusion, a city of one, the city of yes.” This theme resonated throughout the speech as Dyer discussed igniting the city of yes. Plans include equipping every Virginia Beach City Public Schools student with a public library account via their school I.D. cards, designating opportunity zones – key areas like Seatack, Hilltop and the Lynnhaven Corridor which are ripe for investment and resurgence, and a focus on small business growth, incubators, accelerators and mentoring programs.
This includes a higher education consortium uniting the region’s higher education institutions to partner with the city to boost economic vitality. Dyer announced the creation of a business advisory committee that will expedite processes for small businesses, as well as regional forums to address stormwater, sea level rise and recurrent flooding.
“We must continue to think and act regionally,” Dyer said. “Homelessness, fire response, transportation, drinking water and high-speed broadband are areas in which we have had successful regional collaborations. We must continue to reach beyond the border of Virginia Beach to work on issues.”
With his speech coinciding with the first day of spring, Dyer planted the seeds of change with as he concluded his first State of the City, said, “It’s a time for new beginnings, let’s work together and plant the seeds of success for Virginia each to become our City of Yes.”
As an impactful advocate and powerful economic partner, the Hampton Roads Chamber encourages everyone to participate in all the State of the City series events which continue on April 5th with Portsmouth, April 19th with Norfolk, April 30th with Chesapeake and closes with Suffolk on May 21st.
Thank you to the Series Presenting Sponsor, TowneBank; Platinum Series Sponsor, Bon Secours, Member Spotlight Sponsor, The Cavalier; Host Sponsor, Virginia Beach Convention Center; Building the Future Series Sponsor, The Franklin Johnston Group; Gold Series Sponsor, Geico, Silver Series Sponsors, ABNB, Hampton Roads Workforce Council, Optima Health, Langley Federal Credit Union, Traffix, BrightView, Norfolk State University, and Verizon; Bronze Sponsor, Entercom; Magazine Sponsor, Virginia Business; Non-Profit Leader Sponsor, WHRO; and Radio Sponsor, Sinclair