McKee Foods Celebrates 25 Years in Virginia

Wednesday, 26 August 2015 16:14 by Info@YesVirginia.org
McKee Foods recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Stuarts Draft manufacturing facility in Augusta County, Va. McKee Foods is known for its Little Debbie® line of snack cakes. The family business has grown from a five-person bakery in the 1930’s to America’s No. 1 brand of snack cakes...

McKee Foods recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Stuarts Draft manufacturing facility in Augusta County, Va.

McKee Foods is known for its Little Debbie® line of snack cakes. The family business has grown from a five-person bakery in the 1930’s to America’s No. 1 brand of snack cakes.

The Stuarts Draft plant is one of the most advanced facilities in the baking industry. The company established the bakery in 1990 to produce oatmeal crème pies, honey buns and other bakery products.

The company’s most recent announcement in October 2014 included a $34 million investment and 54 new jobs to expand the facility.

McKee Foods employs more than 1,000 people and is the largest manufacturing employer in Augusta County. The company frequently credits the high productivity of its Virginia workforce as paramount to its success.

"We have found our Virginia workforce to be some of the most loyal and highly-skilled employees in the industry — and about 85 members of our Virginia workforce have been at the plant since it opened," said McKee Foods President and CEO Mike McKee.

In addition to a strong manufacturing workforce, Virginia provides McKee Foods with a strategic location, offering easy access to the company’s Northeastern and Canadian customers. Located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, the Stuarts Draft location offers McKee employees a high quality of life with close proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail and numerous national parks.

To learn why more than 580 leading food and beverage companies, like McKee Foods, have chosen to locate in Virginia, click here.

Representatives from McKee Foods, Augusta County and VEDP celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary in Stuarts Draft, Va. Photo courtesy of McKee Foods Corp.

Virginia Receives an “A” for Small Business Friendliness

Tuesday, 18 August 2015 14:39 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia received an A for overall friendliness on Thumbtack.com’s fourth annual Small Business Friendliness Survey. Virginia was the highest ranked state in the Mid-Atlantic and top 10 nationwide. Nearby competitors Maryland received a D+ and North Carolina a B-...

Virginia received an A for overall friendliness on Thumbtack.com’s fourth annual Small Business Friendliness Survey. Virginia was the highest ranked state in the Mid-Atlantic and top 10 nationwide. Nearby competitors Maryland received a D+ and North Carolina a B-.

Thumbtack.com surveyed 17,633 small businesses across the U.S. with 36 questions to evaluate the friendliness of state and local policies toward small businesses on more than a dozen metrics.

Highlights for the Commonwealth include an A+ for ease of starting a business, licensing regulations and environmental factors.   

“Small business owners on Thumbtack have consistently told us that they welcome support from their governments but are frequently frustrated by unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles,” said Jon Lieber, chief economist of Thumbtack.com. “Virginia's policies that support entrepreneurs could provide a helpful guide as we fight a general decline in business startups nationwide.”

“There is an excellent climate for small business in Virginia,” commented a translator and professor in Roanoke. “It is a great place to start and run a business because the state offers support, networking, referral and community enthusiasm.”

Richmond was ranked the No. 3 friendliest city in the U.S. and received an A+.

The survey results once again illustrate that Virginia is a great place for entrepreneurs to start and grow a business. To learn more about the Commonwealth’s pro-business policies, strategic location, competitive operating costs, leading research institutions and highly educated workforce, click here.

Image courtesy of Thumbtack.com

Classes Commence at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s IT Academy

Thursday, 13 August 2015 13:32 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Classes start this Monday, August 17, at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s IT Academy. The IT Academy offers a fast track for students to gain the knowledge and credentials to quickly obtain employment in the technology sector...

Classes start this Monday, August 17, at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s IT Academy.

The IT Academy offers a fast track for students to gain the knowledge and credentials to quickly obtain employment in the technology sector.

Seventeen students are enrolled in the first cohort, with classes scheduled Monday – Thursday evenings over a four month period. Afterwards, students can test for the Computing Technology Industry Association A+, Network+ and Server+ certifications. SVHEC is a member of the CompTIA Authorized Partner Program. 

Classes will take place in the newly renovated, 5,013-square-foot lab at SVHEC in South Boston, Va. The lab includes a data center, hardware repair center, computer-based classroom and conference area to closely approximate a real-world environment.

“We are seeing what I call a market correction in education with an increasing emphasis on students earning third-party credentials. The hands-on, intensive nature of the program allows students to quickly learn the skills they need to be successful in the workplace. Initiatives like the IT Academy are critical to closing the skills gap and preparing the region with skilled workers needed for jobs available right here, right now,” said Dr. Betty Adams, executive director of the SVHEC.

SVHEC and its partners initially designed the academy’s core curriculum around the three certifications and will develop advanced training based on needs and recommendations from major employers in the region. SVHEC worked closely with the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative, ATOS/Microsoft and HP to launch the academy.

The academy was announced in September 2014 after the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification & Community Revitalization Commission approved grant funding. Governor McAuliffe gave the keynote address at the ribbon-cutting ceremony this June.

To learn more about the program or sign up for the next cohort in June, visit http://www.svhec.org/ita.

The SVHEC IT Academy is another example of the cutting-edge training programs available across the Commonwealth. To learn how Virginia’s workforce can be the advantage for your business, click here.

Governor McAuliffe, Secretary Maurice Jones and SVHEC Executive Director Dr. Betty Adams join members of SVHEC and local officials at the IT Academy ribbon-cutting ceremony in June. Photo courtesy of SVHEC/Drew Morris.

VEDP’s Dan Gundersen to Speak at White House Forum on Economic Development

Wednesday, 29 July 2015 16:00 by Info@YesVirginia.org
VEDP’s COO Dan Gundersen was selected to speak at the fourth annual White House Forum on Economic Development hosted by the International Economic Development Council and SelectUSA...

VEDP’s COO Dan Gundersen was selected to speak at the fourth annual White House Forum on Economic Development hosted by the International Economic Development Council and SelectUSA.

This one-day summit allows a select group of economic development leaders from around the country to directly engage with senior members of the Obama Administration on topics with the greatest potential to impact job creation, such as infrastructure development, international trade and attraction, and manufacturing.

Gundersen will participate on a four-person panel entitled “Targeting and Landing Prospects:  Best Practices in International Attraction,” moderated by Peggy Philbin, Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of SelectUSA. He is the only state representative and will be joined by regional economic developers from Phoenix, Minneapolis/St. Paul and southeastern Michigan.

Gundersen will highlight Virginia’s presence around the globe, the Governor’s missions and recent successes of the VEDP team. 

“The White House Forum is a tremendous opportunity to meet with senior officials and discuss ways in which federal, state and local groups can work together to advance economic development and job creation. It’s an honor to be included with such a distinguished group to discuss the challenges facing our nation and the opportunity to broaden our message globally that the U.S. is a great location for business and investment,” said Gundersen.

Virginia will be well-represented as Barry Matherly, President and CEO of the Greater Richmond Partnership, was selected to moderate a panel on the next generation of manufacturing. Matherly also serves as the Vice Chair of the IEDC.

To learn more about Virginia’s unique combination of resources and why more than 700 international companies have chosen to call the Commonwealth home, click here.

RaesWear — Pouch Pants that Solve the Storage Problem

Thursday, 23 July 2015 16:49 by Info@YesVirginia.org
When entrepreneur Leigh Cockram was traveling on business in the summer of 2012, she struggled to find a way to store her hotel key, money and phone while going for a run. She thought, “There’s gotta be a better way,” so she created one...

When entrepreneur Leigh Cockram was traveling on business in the summer of 2012, she struggled to find a way to store her hotel key, money and phone while going for a run. She thought, “There’s gotta be a better way,” so she created one.

The RaesWear concept includes a patented design with a front and back pocket along the entire length of the waistband. The runner uses one of two access points on the front and back to stow a variety of gear, without the fear that it will slip out or pull on their shorts or tights.

The company was named after Leigh’s grandfather, Ray, who was a gunner in the Army Air Corp. during World War II. Rae became a family name passed down to future generations and was a nice pun on race wear, while honoring the legacy of service established by her grandfather.

Leigh began making prototypes herself in 2012, and was directed by The Launch Place to a designer in North Carolina to make additional samples. Realizing she wanted to work closer to home and manufacture the products in Virginia, Leigh connected with Mollie’s Originals in Martinsville in 2014, and they have been manufacturing the products ever since.

RaesWear began with one pair of running tights and has grown to 13 products, including shorts, skorts, capris, tights and pants. While initially designed for athletes, customers are using the clothes for both exercise and throughout the day.

The company’s website at www.RaesWear.com was launched in December 2014, and products are sold online and at Mollie’s Originals. Leigh and her husband have used grass roots efforts, from social media YouTube videos, to appearances at marathon expos, to get the word out. They plan to start a paid advertising campaign shortly. 

They have also received requests to develop a product for men, and are currently working on a menswear line.

In true entrepreneurial fashion, Leigh has kept her day job and works on RaesWear at night and on the weekends from her home. Her husband has transitioned to support RaesWear full-time. 

“The best analogy I can give for running a business is being pregnant. You’re excited and nervous and you stay up at night wondering if things will be okay. And then you have your baby and it’s wonderful, but you’re always stressed and going through peaks and valleys, wondering if you’re doing the right things to make your child a success. It’s a true roller coaster, but very rewarding to take an idea from concept to reality all on our own,” said Leigh Cockram.

RaesWear is another strong example of the innovation and creativity of Virginia entrepreneurs. To learn why the Commonwealth is a great location to grow a business, click here.

Leigh Cockram, RaesWear owner, stands next to a display of her company’s pocketed athletic products at Mollie’s Originals in Martinsville, Va. Photo courtesy of Leigh Cockram.

Wise, Virginia is Home to First FAA Approved Drone Delivery of Medical Supplies in the U.S.

Friday, 17 July 2015 15:18 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Today’s event, called Let’s Fly Wisely, is the first FAA approved delivery of medical supplies by drone in the U.S...

Today’s event, called Let’s Fly Wisely, marked the first FAA approved delivery of medical supplies by drone in the U.S.

This research mission was overseen by the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, one of only six groups across the U.S. that won FAA approval to conduct Unmanned Aerial System research at sites across Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland. MAPP is headquartered at Virginia Tech’s Institute of Critical Technology and Applied Sciences.

The mission began when NASA Langley Research Center flew about twenty prescriptions from Tazewell County Airport to the Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise, Va., in an SR22 aircraft. The plane was operated remotely, but had a pilot on board for backup and safety purposes.

The prescriptions were then transferred into smaller packages, flown in 10-pound drones provided by Australian company Flirtey Inc. and delivered to the Remote Area Medical tent at the Wise County Fairgrounds. Remote Area Medical has served the people of Wise County for more than 15 years.

This project demonstrates one of the humanitarian outcomes of UAS technology could include delivery of medical supplies to underserved or remote areas.

Flirtey Inc. Founder and CEO Matt Sweeney called this a “Kitty Hawk moment” for Wise County and the UAS industry.

The success of this event and its location in the Commonwealth furthers Virginia’s leadership position in the aerospace industry. To learn why more than 260 aerospace companies have chosen to operate in Virginia, click here.

Governor McAuliffe holds one of the first medical prescriptions delivered by drone in the U.S. at the Let’s Fly Wisely event in Wise, Va. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech College of Engineering.

Virginia’s Colleges and Universities Make Another Strong Showing on MONEY’s Best Colleges List

Tuesday, 14 July 2015 17:16 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Once again, Virginia’s higher education institutions made a strong showing on MONEY Magazine’s 2015 Best Colleges List...

Once again, Virginia’s higher education institutions made a strong showing on MONEY Magazine’s 2015 Best Colleges List

10 Virginia institutions made the Top 200 overall:  University of Virginia (No. 17), Washington and Lee University (No. 24), Virginia Military Institute (No. 48), Virginia Tech (also tied at No. 48), James Madison University (No. 59), College of William and Mary (No. 75), University of Richmond (No. 105), University of Mary Washington (No. 119), George Mason University (No. 127), and Hampden-Sydney College (No. 157).

The Commonwealth had seven schools make the Top 50 Best Public Colleges list:  UVA was No. 4, Virginia Tech and VMI both tied for No. 15, JMU tied with another school for No. 19, College of William and Mary was in a three-way tie for No. 26, University of Mary Washington tied with another school for No. 42, and GMU rounded out the list in a three-way tie for No. 47.

Virginia also had strong results in the Top 50 Best Liberal Arts Colleges list with four schools:  Washington and Lee was No. 4, VMI was No. 10, University of Richmond tied with another school for No. 26, and Hampden-Sydney College was No. 38.  

Bridgewater College was counted among the Top 50 Most Affordable Private Colleges and Hampton University was included in the Top 50 Colleges That Add the Most Value list.

The editors at MONEY Magazine only included the 736 schools with an above-median graduation rate from the list of 1,500 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. The schools were then ranked on 21 factors falling into the three categories of quality of education, affordability and outcomes.

Virginia’s world-class education system is currently serving more than 575,000 students who will provide a steady pipeline to support the Commonwealth’s current industry needs. To learn why Virginia’s higher education institutions continue to be highly ranked, click here.

A view of The Rotunda at University of Virginia, ranked No. 4 on MONEY Magazine’s Top 50 Best Public Colleges list for 2015. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corp.

University of Mary Washington’s Convergence Center Joins Learning and Technology

Tuesday, 30 June 2015 16:39 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The University of Mary Washington’s energetic new learning facility, the Information and Technology Convergence Center, was completed fall 2014...

The University of Mary Washington’s energetic new learning facility, the Information and Technology Convergence Center, was completed fall 2014.

This technology-rich, four-story building offers UMW students and faculty a “commons” space that includes a digital auditorium, 10 conference rooms, four high-tech classrooms, audio/video production space, and multiple collaboration, study and meeting spaces through an open design. It also houses UMW’s speaking and writing centers, along with a café.

Visitors are greeted by a multi-story media wall in the atrium that uses laser phosphor display technology to showcase student work. The digital gallery on the third floor also features student artwork on interactive touchscreens.

The Convergence Center houses a production studio with a 180 degree green screen, high definition cameras, teleprompters, a control room and an audio recording booth. The multimedia editing lab has five iMacs loaded with a full suite of A/V editing software so students obtain real-world experience.

The center also holds a two-story digital auditorium that can seat 150 people for classes, lectures or performances. The auditorium has three screens and a full theatrical lighting system. It also opens up into a lobby and garden that can be used to host events holding up to 300 people.

Sprinkled throughout the center are collaboration spaces and conference rooms that have conferencing capabilities, projectors and flat-panel displays. There is even an incubator classroom that allows professors to experiment with the latest technology. The modular design is complemented by high definition projectors, cameras, flat screen displays and wireless microphones.

UMW’s Convergence Center has become a central gathering place for students to learn and engage with their schoolwork in an interactive, high-tech environment. It is another example of the state-of-the-art technology Virginia’s higher education institutions are using to train the 21st century workforce. To learn more about the Commonwealth’s premier educational offerings, click here.

VEDP gets a tour of the digital auditorium at UMW’s Information and Technology Convergence Center.

Virginia Western Community College Offers Cutting-Edge Mechatronics Training

Monday, 22 June 2015 15:07 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Mechatronics is a growing interdisciplinary field that incorporates mechanical and electrical engineering with computer science and looks at industrial operations from a system-wide perspective...

Mechatronics is a growing interdisciplinary field that incorporates mechanical and electrical engineering with computer science and looks at industrial operations from a system-wide perspective.

Students in this field become well-versed in electro-mechanics, computers, digital control systems, robotics and mechanical CAD, and go on to pursue careers in the automotive, aerospace, defense, consumer and manufacturing industries.

Virginia Western Community College offers three programs in mechatronics. First, students can earn a certificate that will allow them to take Level 1 of the Siemens Mechatronic Systems Certification Program. Second, students earning a two-year associate degree can sit for Level 2 of the Siemens certification. And, third, students completing the two-year program who go on to a university and earn a four-year degree can sit for Level 3 of the Siemens certification.

The Siemens Mechatronic Systems Certification is an industry standard with worldwide recognition allowing students to illustrate to employers that they are qualified and ready to work as technicians. The college began offering mechatronics courses in 2008, and now has 100 students in the program.

VWCC is one of only 35 colleges in the world that offers a certified Siemens Mechatronics program.

VWCC is actively engaged with high school students in the area. Through The Regional Academy for Advanced Technology it offers both engineering and mechatronics training for high school juniors and seniors interested in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career. Currently, about 250 students are enrolled in The Regional Academy.

VWCC maintains an active dialogue with companies in the Roanoke Valley to ensure its training closely aligns with industry requirements. They have held two annual manufacturing summits where faculty meet with employers in the area to better understand their needs. Regional employers have also made commitments to mentor students and donate lab equipment.

“The goal of the mechatronics program at Virginia Western is to prepare students with globally, in-demand skills through local engagement to be well-educated, work-ready engineering technicians,” said Professor Dan Horine, Mechatronics Program Head at VWCC.

VWCC is a great example of the cutting-edge STEM education available through Virginia’s 23-member community college system. To learn how Virginia’s higher education institutions are preparing the workforce of tomorrow, click here.

VWCC mechatronics students commission the FESTO Modular Production System at one of the labs in the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Specialty’s Our Name — Expanding a Family Business Through the Generations

Friday, 29 May 2015 09:19 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Butch Harrison founded Specialty’s Our Name in 1990, a precision sheet metal fabrication and machine shop based in Ashland, Va. His three sons, Brandon, Utley and Kevin, worked in the shop since high school and each found their niche, whether it was handling the finances, managing customer relationships or processing orders...

Butch Harrison founded Specialty’s Our Name in 1990, a precision sheet metal fabrication and machine shop based in Ashland, Va.

His three sons, Brandon, Utley and Kevin, worked in the shop since high school and each found their niche, whether it was handling the finances, managing customer relationships or processing orders. When their dad passed away in 2009, the brothers took ownership and proudly carried on the family name and reputation for a superior product and customer service at S.O.N. Inc.

“We do the work other people don’t want to do,” said Brandon Harrison. “Our high-end, custom sheet metal work is in the White House Visitor Center, the American Civil War Museum at Tredegar and the Virginia Historical Society, and our customers include Homeland Security, Architectural Graphics Inc., Dometic Corporation and Showbest Fixtures.”

The company has successfully grown from two people in a 2,500 square foot building to more than 30 people in a 32,000 square foot facility. The company delivers custom products and can offer consulting, drafting, welding, deburring, powder coating and precision parts, all from one location.

The Harrison brothers not only weathered the recent economic downturn, but were able to continue growing their company. “We did feel some of the effects, but we manage our finances well and purchase equipment as we need it, so we don’t carry a lot of debt.” said Harrison. “We also have a broad customer range, from the marine industry to railroads to store fixtures. Being diverse helped us stay strong and grow our company through the tough times.”

The brothers also took a calculated risk and started a sister company in 2008, Pro Powder & Paint Inc. “About 90 percent of our customers want a finish on their steel or aluminum products. We provide that and do our own powder coating and wet paint at a facility just down the street,” said Harrison.

The company just had one of its best years and has a solid plan to grow both businesses and eventually combine them into one larger building.

“We are lucky,” said Harrison. “The three of us are all equally responsible and we get to expand on what our father built. We really try to keep the family atmosphere throughout the company as we grow. We have several cousins and family members working in the shop, and we treat all of our employees like we are one big family. Without every piece of the puzzle coming together, this wouldn’t be possible.”

As we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation Month, Specialty’s Our Name serves as another great example of the ingenuity and dedication of Virginia entrepreneurs. To learn why the Commonwealth is a great location to grow a business, click here.

Specialty’s Our Name owners Brandon, Utley and Kevin Harrison at their company headquarters in Ashland, Va.

Marstel-Day — Growing a Green Business in Virginia

Thursday, 28 May 2015 09:33 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Rebecca Rubin started Marstel-Day in 2002 with a passion to help large institutions conduct business in a way that is both effective and preserves the natural resource base...

Rebecca Rubin started Marstel-Day in 2002 with a passion to help large institutions conduct business in a way that is both effective and preserves the natural resource base.

Based out of Fredericksburg, Va., the company has grown from a one-woman desk to 160 employees nationwide. With clients ranging from government agencies to academic institutions, Marstel-Day helps organizations develop an overall strategy to be more eco-friendly.

“Our customers may have the interest and funding, but we help them with their strategies and policies,” said President and CEO Rebecca Rubin. “Whether they want to be carbon neutral or make better use of their ecosystem services or reduce water consumption or be ready for climate change, we help them get there. We look at such things as their vulnerability to drought, temperature change, responsiveness and resilience of the IT structure to climate events — and help them answer the big picture questions.”

The company’s success speaks for itself. Marstel-Day experienced 8-10 percent growth every year, including during the economic downturn. Its impressive client roster includes the Department of Defense, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration and National Laboratories. 

Marstel-Day has also received numerous accolades, including being named to both the Inc. 5000 list and Zweigwhite’s Hot Firm list for six consecutive years, the Alliance for Workplace Excellence Eco-Leadership Award three years in a row, the Virginia Fantastic 50 list for the third time, and the UVA Darden School’s Tayloe Murphy Award for Resilience.

Rubin chose to headquarter the business in Fredericksburg for two reasons:  proximity to a rail line and access to a great park system. “We were deliberately trying to get our employees off the roads and onto public transportation,” said Rubin. “Our other Virginia offices in Richmond and Alexandria are also within a quarter of a mile of a main train line. If you translate that into hours saved, it has an enormous impact on employee morale and health.”

“Because of its battlefield history, Fredericksburg has preserved green spaces and they have a new trail system. Having a park system where our employees can jog or bike during their lunch hour or after work is tremendously important to us.”

“There’s a reason why we’re here. Historically, Virginia has done a good job of understanding and appreciating the significance of nature and ecotourism. We find Virginia’s and the Governor’s commitment to green important to us as a company.”

As we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation Month, Marstel-Day is another great example of how entrepreneurs find a successful environment for innovation in the Commonwealth. To learn why Virginia is a great place to grow a business, click here.

Marstel-Day President and CEO Rebecca Rubin at the company’s headquarters in Fredericksburg, Va. Photo courtesy of Marstel-Day LLC.

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Virginia Economic Development Partnership is the Best State for Business

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), a state authority created by the Virginia General Assembly to better serve those seeking a prime business location and increased trade opportunities, provides confidential site selection and international trade services. VEDP's mission: To enhance the quality of life and raise the standard of living for all Virginians, in collaboration with Virginia communities, through aggressive business recruitment, expansion assistance, and trade development, thereby expanding the tax base and creating higher-income employment opportunities.

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