Portsmouth, Virginia | Business View Magazine

Entering 2023 with Economic Projects Ready for Future Growth

With a host of dynamic initiatives, Portsmouth looks forward to growth and continued revitalization

Located on the banks of the Elizabeth River in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, the city of Portsmouth is a thriving location offering everyone a robust lineup of economic development projects in the pipeline as we welcome in a new calendar year.

The Portsmouth Nature Reserve is home to art walks, restaurants and more. It is also a city that comfortably provides its residents with ample business opportunities and entertainment for the whole family.

The development of Portsmouth is closely tied to that of the United States Navy. The city is home to the country’s oldest naval shipyard and the Naval Hospital.

Shannon Glover, Mayor

“Our tradition, and heritage of serving civilians working alongside the military, is unique to Portsmouth. We are very proud of our city, and all Portsmouthians are proud,” says Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover.

Portsmouth’s shipyards still build and repair ships, supporting the country’s defense effort. The Virginia International Gateway Terminal, one of five Port of Virginia terminals located in the city, is a state-of-the-art facility that handles cargo and freight traffic from around the world.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has invested billions of dollars in infrastructure around the city, not only at the ports but also in shipping-related facilities. These investments include construction and development of warehousing, distribution, logistics and operators.

It is necessary to maintain these assets as they are a vital part of the supply chain of the state and the country, which became a national topic of discussion during Covid.

“Coming out of the pandemic highlighted the importance of free-flowing trade in our economy. Fortunately, we have a world-class operation in town,” says Brian Donahue, director of economic development

Lineage Logistics is one of the newer operators within the city limits. A global leader in cold storage solutions, they have built a new 164,000-square-foot facility, which has been under operation for over a year.

With investors eyeing the city, it has been able to buck the domestic bearish trends during COVID-19. The city of Portsmouth really saw growth during the pandemic, with a significant $1.4 billion investment for projects.

One of the significant, new projects, and one of the most anticipated in decades, is the grand opening of the River Casino Portsmouth – which remains open as of the time this article goes to press.

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The city is working in partnership with Rush Street Gaming. The collaboration means the company has invested over $340 million in the construction project.

River Casino will attract crowds from outside the Portsmouth Hampton Roads area and Virginia. The casino is considered a catalyst for more projects in the area, resulting in a new entertainment district.

“The casino will provide an anchor for an entirely new development that will immediately employ 1,300 individuals,” says Donahue.

It will also provide new locations for additional restaurants and entertainment venues. Portsmouth’s city management team estimates that the development will generate more than $16.3 million in new revenue.

This new revenue will allow the city to invest in community projects that need additional funding.

The city teems with a community of small business owners, new startups, and entrepreneurial endeavors. With larger operators coming to town, management is proud that the small business community is flourishing.

The City of Portsmouth has launched and developed unique programs to assist these budding businesses, which are unique to the city and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Portsmouth offers micro-grants to new businesses that cover some early stage costs. The city created the program last year and has already helped 30 new companies.

Micro businesses operate with ten or fewer employees, and 90% of small enterprises participating in the program were owned by minority groups or women.

“We are proud to be able to support these segments of our population who traditionally may not have had the resources to start their own businesses. The city has successfully reached out to these communities, and we now plan to expand the program and offer it again this year,” says Donahue.

The city has also established a workforce development initiative called Portsmouth at Work. It is a career pathway course where the city collaborates with public schools, higher education institutions, industry players and communities.

Portsmouth wants to ensure that all of its residents are employed and is proud to report that they have assisted 400 residents in their inaugural year. Half of those enrolled gained employment upon completion of their coursework.

These outcomes can only be accomplished by working hand in hand with the pivotal players in the city. With so much success in the launch phase of the program, there are plans to expand.

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“We are in talks with the Navy Shipyard to set up an apprenticeship program aimed at young people leaving high school who want to get into skilled trades,” says Donahue.

Infrastructure is important as Portsmouth is vital to the country’s supply chain network. Most recently, the city received a $19.2 million RAISE grant for Portsmouth’s High Street Corridor.

Portsmouth, Virginia

Brian Donahue, Director of Economic Development

The funding will be used to upgrade roadways and create pedestrian- and bike-friendly routes within the city’s newly created Innovation District.

Management is still seeking additional federal and state funding to complete various projects. If successful, these bonds and funds will be used for infrastructure upgrades throughout the city and storm water utilities.

In terms of technology, the city of Portsmouth was an early adopter of high-speed connectivity and built its own fiber ring.

“Portsmouth invested $10 million in the local Fiber Ring a few years ago. This has allowed services and businesses to tap into the network and leverage it to great success. I am told that our internet speeds are so Fast enough that you can download the Library of Congress in about 30 seconds,” says Glover.

In terms of green initiatives, as electric vehicles become more popular nationwide, the city has so far held intense discussions with the Commonwealth of Virginia regarding funding for the construction of charging stations and the legislative requirements surrounding those issues.

But one environmental project for the port city is offshore wind turbines. The plan is an entirely new industry for the city, the state, the Eastern Seaboard and the country. Accepting this new challenge, the city hopes to become a hub for offshore wind projects.

These turbines are being developed 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. 176 installations are planned, which would make it the largest offshore wind project in the country and generate 2.6 gigawatts of electricity when completed.

“Offshore wind power is here in Virginia and will be located in Portsmouth. Although it is hard to quantify how much 2.6 GW is, it would be capable of powering 600,000 homes,” Donahue says.

To accommodate this project, the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, owned by the Virginia Port Authority, will replace the terminal. Dominion Energy and the Port of Virginia have already invested $223 million in port upgrades.

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Siemens Gamesa Renewables is another player and is investing $200 million in setting up a wind blade turbine finishing facility in the city. This means Portsmouth will be building its own wind turbine blades for itself and the rest of the east coast.

These turbines have a life expectancy of around 20 to 25 years, meaning they will require training teams to operate and maintain. With Virginia’s plan to be carbon-neutral by 2045, the city is on track to achieve this goal.

The City of Portsmouth has several partnerships they work with, such as the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, which is an essential ally for the city.

Another important asset is its relationship with the state’s economic development agency, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

Working with all of these organizations opens up new opportunities for the city and region. Another partnership is with the Hampton Roads Workforce Council.

“It’s about building teamwork and relationships within these organizations that ultimately helps the city achieve great things,” says Donahue.

Looking ahead into the future, the city wants to focus on becoming the number one city in the region for workforce development.

This means being able to pay employees a decent living wage, and Glover elaborates, “It is important to allow our citizens to provide for their families, acquire new skills and abilities, and have a good quality of life.” . It’s important to the city of Portsmouth.”

Another goal is to ensure that the local economy welcomes new businesses. Portsmouth deserves to be the city entrepreneurs think of first when starting their own venture.

The City also seeks to be fair and equitable regarding the distribution of resources and opportunities. Portsmouth will open the platform to anyone interested in helping and working towards this goal.

The mayor concluded, “I am truly humbled, and it has been an honor to serve the city. Portsmouth has been through a lot, but we are a community that is moving forward as we move forward with all the major projects in the pipeline.” Seeing tremendous growth.

There can be no more important role I can play today than in becoming an effective, collaborative and inclusive leader who will bring our city together and lead us in a bold new direction,” he concluded.

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