More than 300 business and community leaders were in attendance to hear the 72nd Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, launch the Chamber’s Leadership Series on March 24th. McAuliffe discussed the impact the 2015 General Assembly had on Hampton Roads, as well as the Commonwealth. He also shared his accomplishments since he became Governor in January 2014 as well as his outlook for the next two-and-a-half years.
L. Taylor Harrell, Executive Vice President & Regional Executive of Southern Bank & Trust Company was the Presenting Sponsor. “We’re delighted that Governor McAuliffe can be with us. So far in his administration, there have been 343 job announcements representing $6.3 billion in investment, more than twice any previous Governor’s record,” said Harrell. He continued, “Those deals are bringing more than 4,000 jobs to Hampton Roads.”
The Governor began his remarks by saying it was a pleasure to be back in Hampton Roads. He commented that from an economic standpoint stating, “When Hampton Roads is healthy, Virginia is healthy.”
Governor McAuliffe addressed updated plans involving a new, four-lane road between Suffolk and Windsor in addition to improving existing roads. He also confirmed that the Department of Transportation would be widening I-64 from Hampton Roads through to Richmond, in order to ease congestion and improve commerce.
McAuliffe’s biggest announcement was that Virginia will be the first state in the nation to receive a wind energy research lease in federal waters from the United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
McAuliffe said his big goal is to make Hampton Roads, with its deep-water port, a hub for turbine manufacturing.
"It takes vision, courage and a lot of money to develop these turbines," he said.
The Commonwealth has named Dominion Virginia Power as the lease operator. The wind energy pilot project, scheduled to start turning in 2017 will consist of two turbines, each more than 500 feet tall, located 24 nautical miles east of Virginia Beach.
Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Maurice Jones, said in an announcement from the Governor’s office, “this research lease provides a tremendous opportunity to develop a level of expertise about offshore wind development previously unseen in the U.S.. BOEM has been a tremendous partner with the Commonwealth on this project, and we look forward to continuing that relationship in the future.”
McAuliffe referenced how Kentucky has created 40,000 jobs by closing the healthcare coverage gap. “Closing the coverage gap and bringing $1.7 billion back to Virginia’s healthcare system will help 400,000 Virginians,” said McAuliffe. “It is important to the long term vitality of our economy.”
McAuliffe noted he was happy with this legislative session that just concluded, and that about 71 percent of his bills were passed. He further emphasizes that the focus was on driving this “new” Virginia economy.
McAuliffe also addressed the issue of congestion at the Port of Virginia. He explained this was due to winter storm-related productivity losses and increased freight volumes related to labor issues on the West Coast. He projected that “the port was going to have a profitable year.”
Cathie France, Chief Public Affairs Officer for the Port of Virginia thought the timing of this event was perfect because of the Governor’s announcement.
“When I was in the Governor’s office we were just starting on the path towards offshore wind, so it’s nice to see the connectivity with the federal government, but also the awareness of the economic development opportunities in relation to the port. Whether it’s bringing in the component part or attracting the manufactures here, we really have an opportunity to be the hub here in Virginia.” France continued, “It’s just nice to hear that broad connectivity and awareness in the business community and how they can participate and really help move the ball forward.”
Josh Jackson, Vice President of Training and Simulation at SAIC attended the event as a Silver Sponsor. Jackson remarked after the event, “The Governor’s vision for workforce diversification and leveraging new technology to help the State grow are powerful.”
The Chamber would like to extend a special thank you to our series sponsors: Southern Bank (Presenting Sponsor); Newtown Building Supplies (Building the Future Partner); and Sentara Optima Health Plan (Silver).
The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce’s Chamber Leadership Series is designed to give attendees the opportunity to interact with important leaders who provide practical knowledge, sharing what helped them rise to the top of their field. Speakers in the series include leaders in business, industry and government. Join the Chamber for the remaining Chamber Leadership Series events in 2015. For more information and to register, visit www.hrccleadership.com.