The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City Luncheon was held in Suffolk on May 6 at the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront Hotel and Conference Center with a sold-out crowd of nearly 500 in attendance. The Suffolk luncheon was the final event in the five-part State of the City series. This series, hosted by the Chamber, allows networking among business professionals, elected officials and provides information of each city's progress over the past year and glimpse into the future.
The luncheon’s theme was “Celebrate Suffolk” and the mayor explained the countless reasons to applaud the city’s accomplishments. This year, the city is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
The mayor reminded the crowd that CNN Money Magazine recognized Suffolk as one of the top 100 best small cities to live in America and the 9th best place to live for jobs. Suffolk has the second lowest real estate tax rate in the region and now has more than 87,000 residents.
Mayor Johnson said, “I’m thrilled today to announce that this Fall, the Tidewater Builder’s Association will be teaming up with Sasser Construction and presenting sponsor TowneBank to once again highlight one of Suffolk’s premier communities – The Waterfront at Parkside – as we host Homearama 2014.”
“Our financial position is sound” said the mayor. “We are on the threshold of a AAA rating with all of the national rating agencies.” She added, “We have an increasingly expanding employment base, continued economic growth and strategic diversification.” She explained that Suffolk’s proximity to the Port of Virginia, easy access to expanding rail and road hubs, makes the city a great location for commerce.
Eighty-five new and expanding companies brought 650 new jobs and $93,863,500 in new capital investment to Suffolk in 2013. Unilever Lipton, celebrating 50 years in Suffolk, decided to revamp their tea operation, investing more than $96 million in the next several years to upgrade their facility.
Mayor Johnson announced that Massimo Zanetti Beverage, one of the nation’s largest coffee roasters, plans to begin producing their latest beverage product, called “pods,” at their manufacturing facility in Wilroy Industrial Park. This is a $4 million investment.
The mayor said, “Another coffee giant in Wilroy Industrial Park making a major announcement today is the J.M. Smucker Company. With their proposed 13,000 square foot expansion of their whole roast receiving project and as part of the plant’s business continuity plan, this expansion will also provide the ability to receive additional Folgers blends.”
The crowd learned that construction would begin on a 90 room, 56,000 square foot Hampton Inn Hotel located at Centerbrooke at Godwin Blvd. and the Rt. 58 Bypass. The hotel will be completed by summer of 2015. On the horizon, Mayor Johnson said a new Kroger Marketplace will be built in Northern Suffolk, a $22 million investment.
The mayor discussed the joint force simulation and training solutions at the Joint Staff in Suffolk and the tactical cyber defense that protects the Navy’s assets at the Navy Cyber Forces in Suffolk. There will be a new command in October 2014 at this location, the Information Dominance Forces Command, or TYCOM.
Addressing transportation, Mayor Johnson said, “Our quality of life is dependent upon our ability to get from place to place and we know our economy cannot grow if we cannot move our people, trucks or goods.” She said, “With the establishment of the new Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission, we can work together to improve conditions across our region and ensure that the best interests of localities are represented and that our citizens are getting the most out of their hard earned dollars.”
After the mayor’s address she led a toast and invited guests to the hotel’s lobby to enjoy a variety of desserts.
Thanks to Series Sponsors: TowneBank (Presenting); Geico (Gold); Bon Secours Virginia Health Systems (Platinum); Farm Fresh and Sentara Optima Health Plan (Silver).