"Our community is vibrant, beautiful, and connected. We are fortunate to live in Virginia Beach, and the great thing about that is, we know how lucky we are," said Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer.
On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, the Virginia Beach State of the City took place at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. "The Hampton Roads Chamber is proud to host the Virginia Beach State of the City," said Bryan Stephens, President and CEO.
"In the past year, Virginia Beach was named the number one Best Big City to Live In, the number one most caring city in America, and the third Hardest Working City in America," began Mayor Dyer.
"There really is something special in the water here," said Mayor Dyer, as he discussed the economic success of the music festival Something In the Water. The music festival brought more than 45,000 people to the 757, along with more $24 million funneled into the local economy.
The past year was one of tremendous economic growth for Virginia Beach. Mayor Dyer championed Virginia Beach's low unemployment rate of 2.4%, the addition of more than 5,000 jobs, and local GDP growth of 3.06% in 2019. He also noted that Virginia Beach is one of "the top three cities for veterans to live and work."
According to recent citizen satisfactory surveys, 93% of residents say Virginia Beach is a good place to live. Mayor Dyer said, "We will continue to look for opportunities to partner with neighbors throughout our region to improve efficiencies for citizens of the 757."
Despite the successes experienced in 2019, there was also tragedy in Virginia Beach. "The wonderful high we felt was eclipsed by the worst day in the history of Virginia Beach when 12 innocent people were killed in cold blood." Mayor Dyer discussed the trauma and horror from the shooting that changed Virginia Beach on May 31, 2019.
"We are forever changed," said Mayor Dyer. He told the audience how touched he was, in the days and months following the shooting, by how the community came together to honor and remember those who lost their lives.
"As we approach the one-year mark, let us keep all who have been affected in our prayers, and know that in the face of adversity, we are VB Strong - a City of Heroes." Mayor Dyer asked for a moment of silence to remember and honor the victims and families of the Virginia Beach Shooting. He also thanked the Virginia Beach police department, firefighters, dispatchers, and medical officials for their commitment to keeping Virginia Beach safe.
Mayor Dyer addressed the local business community. "Another area in which we must elevate our efforts is our strategy to assist small businesses, entrepreneurial start-ups, and minority- and women-owned businesses."
Mayor Dyer touted the growth of the business community, starting with the Virginia Beach Innovation Park expected to open in 2020, and the expansion of local eatery, Ynot Italian's corporate headquarters. He also discussed the opening of a Small Business Development Center and championed local small business owners. "The truth is, young people are our future entrepreneurs, business leaders, and inventors," said Mayor Dyer. He told the audience that talent, determination, teamwork, leadership, and strategy are the skills necessary to "come out on top."
Myer Dyer continued, "The second strategy Virginia Beach must leverage is its natural assets." He stressed the importance of location and mentioned both the Corporate Landing and Landstown business parks. He described these parks as hubs for opportunity and said, “They are strategically located to support the wind energy industry.”
"It is great to see that Virginia Beach will once again be the site of another First Landing in America." Mayor Dyer discussed the opportunities offshore wind energy will provide to the region. He expressed excitement about partnering with Orsted and Avangrid to develop infrastructure that supports offshore wind energy. He told attendees that wind energy would power more than one million homes in Virginia Beach. "We have a great foundation to build on."
He went on to acknowledge several companies headquartered in Virginia Beach, such as LifeNet, STIHL, Operation Smile, SANJO, and more. "Each of these businesses is as critical to our economic success as our tourism industry." He urged those in attendance towelcome new business ventures to the region.
"We don't just compete with beach communities for people's leisure time and spending," said Mayor Dyer. "We are competing with the likes of Nashville, Memphis, Austin, and Raleigh for conventions and visitors looking for authentic new experiences." He highlighted all that Virginia Beach has to offer from beaches, business opportunities, tourism ventures, and economic development. Mayor Dyer said, "Our current investment pipeline is geared towards attracting visitors throughout the calendar year and leveraging our strategic location in the Mid-Atlantic."
In closing, Mayor Dyer asked attendees to remain innovative and engaged with their local government. "We need change agents who will propel us forward." He reminded the audience that transformation is a collaborative effort which takes time and willingness to change.
"There is no question that we are up for any challenges that come our way, whether it is a public health emergency like the growing coronavirus outbreak or threats from rising seas. Through tragedy and triumph, WE ARE and always will be strong — VB Strong," ended Mayor Dyer.
The Hampton Roads Chamber would like to thank the following State of the City sponsors: Towne Bank (Series Presenting Sponsor); Goldkey|PHR (Member Spotlight Sponsor); The Franklin Johnston Group (Series Building the Future Sponsor); EdLogics (Creating Healthy Communities Sponsor); Bon Secours(Series Platinum Sponsor); Virginia Beach Convention Center(Host Sponsor); ABNB, Geico, Hampton Roads Workforce Council, Langley Federal Credit Union, Optima Health, Norfolk State University, Traffix, and Verizon (Series Silver Sponsors); WHRO (Series Non-Profit Leader Sponsor); Virginia Business(Series Magazine Sponsor); Steel Photography (Photography Sponsor); The King Agency, LifeNet Health, and S.L. NusbaumRealty Co. (Bronze Sponsors).