sails into 2023 with economic projects geared for future growth
With a host of dynamic initiatives, Portsmouth looks forward to growth and continued revitalization
Enviably situated on the banks of the Elizabeth River in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, the City of Portsmouth is a thriving place with something to offer everyone with a robust lineup of economic development projects in the pipeline as we welcome in a new calendar year.
Portsmouth is home to nature reserves, art walks, restaurants, and more. It’s also a city that comfortably offers its inhabitants ample professional opportunities and entertainment for the entire family.
Portsmouth’s development is closely connected to the United States Navy. The city is home to the nation’s oldest naval shipyard and navy hospital.
“Our tradition, and legacy of service, of citizens working with the military is unique to Portsmouth. We’re extremely proud of our city, and all are Portsmouth Proud,” says Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover.
Portsmouth’s shipyards still construct and repair vessels, supporting the country’s defense efforts. One of five Port of Virginia terminals situated in the city, the Virginia International Gateway Terminal, is a state-of-the-art facility that handles cargo and freight from across the globe.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has invested billions of dollars into infrastructure around the city, not just at the ports but also in facilities associated with shipping. These investments include building and developing warehousing, distribution, logistics, and operators.
Maintaining these assets is essential as they are a pivotal part of the state and nation’s supply chain, which, during COVID, became a national talking point.
“Coming out of the pandemic highlighted the importance of free flow trade to our economy. Fortunately, we have a world-class operation in the city,” says Director of Economic Development Brian Donahue
Lineage Logistics is one of the new 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 in operation for over a year.
With investors eyeing the city, it’s been able to buck domestic recession trends during COVID-19. The City of Portsmouth actually saw growth during the pandemic and had a significant investment of $1.4 billion for projects.
One of the significant, new projects on the go, and the most anticipated in decades, is the grand opening of Rivers Casino Portsmouth – which will be open by the time this article has gone to print.
The city is working in partnership with Rush Street Gaming. This collaboration has meant over $340 million worth of investments by the company into the construction project.
Rivers Casino Portsmouth will attract crowds from across the Hampton Roads area and outside Virginia. The casino is pegged to be the 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 spaces for additional restaurants and entertainment venues. Portsmouth’s city management team projects that the development will generate over $16.3 million in new revenue.
This new revenue will allow the city to invest in community projects that need additional funding.
The city works closely with the community of small business owners, new startups, and entrepreneurial endeavors. With larger operators flocking to the city, management is proud that the small business community is thriving.
The City of Portsmouth has launched and developed unique programs to assist these fledgling businesses, unique to the city and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Portsmouth provides microgrants to new businesses that cover some early-stage costs. The city created the program last year and has already assisted 30 new companies.
Micro-businesses operate with ten or fewer employees, and 90% of the small enterprises participating in the program were a part of a minority group or women-owned.
“We’re proud to be able to support these segments of our population who traditionally may not have had resources to launch their businesses. The city has successfully reached these communities, and now we plan to expand on the program and offer it again this year,” says Donahue.
The city has also established a workforce development initiative called Portsmouth at Work. It’s a career pathway course where the city collaborates with public schools, higher educational institutions, industry players, and communities.
Portsmouth wants to ensure that all its residents gain employment and is proud to report that they’ve assisted 400 residents in its inaugural year. Half of those enrolled gained employment upon completing their coursework.
These results could only be accomplished by working hand-in-hand with the pivotal players in the city. With so much success in the program launch phase, there are plans to expand.
“We’re in talks with the Naval Shipyard to establish apprenticeship programs aimed for young folks leaving high school who want to be involved in skilled trades,” says Donahue.
Infrastructure is critical because Portsmouth is vital to the nation’s supply chain network. Recently, the city secured a RAISE grant for $19.2 million for Portsmouth’s High Street corridor.
This funding will be utilized to upgrade roadways and create pedestrian and bike-friendly route within the city’s newly created Innovation district.
Management is still seeking additional federal and state funding to complete different projects. If successful, these bonds and funds will be used to upgrade infrastructure throughout the city and stormwater utilities.
Regarding technology, the City of Portsmouth was an early adopter of high-speed connectivity and constructed its own fiber ring.
“Portsmouth invested $10 million into a local fiber ring a couple of years ago. This has allowed services and businesses to tap into the network and leverage it to great success. I’ve been told that our internet speeds are so fast you can download the Library of Congress in about 30 seconds,” says Glover.
In terms of green initiatives, with electric vehicles becoming more popular around the country, the city has yet to have in-depth discussions with the Commonwealth of Virginia about funding to construct charging stations and the legislative requirements around those issues.
But one environmental project for the port city is offshore wind turbines. The plan is an entirely new industry for the city, state, Eastern Seaboard, and country. The city hopes to become the hub for offshore wind projects by taking up this new challenge.
These turbines are being developed 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. There are plans for 176 installations, which will make it the largest offshore wind project in the country and, upon completion, will generate 2.6 gigawatts of power.
“Offshore wind power is here in Virginia and will be located in Portsmouth. While it’s hard to quantify how much 2.6 gigawatts is, it will be able to power 600,000 households,” says Donahue.
To accommodate this project, the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, owned by the Virginia Port Authority, will transform the terminal. Dominion Energy and the Port of Virginia have already invested $223 million into the port upgrades.
Siemens Gamesa Renewable is another player and is investing $200 million into establishing the city’s wind blade turbine finishing facility. This means Portsmouth will manufacture its own wind turbine blades for itself and the rest of the East Coast.
The life expectancy of these turbines is around 20 to 25 years, which means there’ll be a need for training teams to operate and maintain them. With Virginia’s plan to be carbon-neutral by 2045, the city is on its way to achieving this goal.
The City of Portsmouth has several partnerships that they work with, such as the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, which is an essential ally for the city.
Another vital asset is its relationship with the state’s economic development agency, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
Working with all these organizations brings new opportunities for the city and region. Another partnership is with the Hampton Roads Workforce Council.
“It’s all about teamwork and building relationships within these organizations that eventually help the city achieve great things,” says Donahue.
Moving 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 give the workforce a good living wage, and Glover elaborates, “It’s important to allow our citizens to provide for their families, gain new skills and abilities, and have a good quality of life. That’s important for the City of Portsmouth.”
Another goal is to ensure the local economy welcomes new businesses. Portsmouth needs to be a city entrepreneurs think of first when starting their ventures.
The city also wants to be fair and equitable about the distribution of resources and opportunities. Portsmouth will open the floor for anyone willing to assist and work towards this goal.
The mayor concludes, “I’m genuinely humbled, and it’s my honor to serve the city. Portsmouth has been through a lot, but we’re a community on the up as we see tremendous growth with all the major projects in the pipeline.”
Today there’s no more significant role I can play than to be an effective, collaborative, and inclusive leader who will bring our city together and move us in a bold new direction,” he concludes.
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AT A GLANCE
Where: City of Portsmouth, Virginia
Rivers Casino & Resort – www.riverscasino.com/portsmouth
The new Rivers Casino Portsmouth has everything you could want and more. Enjoy Vegas-style slots and table games, wall-to-wall sports action at BetRivers Sportsbook, delicious restaurants like Admiral’s Steak & Seafood, LIVE entertainment at The Sound Bar and action-packed virtual fun at Topgolf® Swing Suite®!
Bon Secours Health System, Inc. – www.bonsecours.com
As the only civilian hospital in the City of Portsmouth, Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center is a full-service 346 bed hospital, offering a comprehensive open heart surgery program, bariatric and orthopedic surgery programs on dedicated units, and was recognized as a Top Teaching Hospital in 2021 by The Leapfrog Group.
Ripley Heatwole Company – www.ripleyheatwole.com
Ripley Heatwole Company (RHC) has evolved from a real estate company, established in 1946, into a full service development firm. Affiliates include a Class A General Contractor, mortgage banking company, property management company, and telecommunications provider. Our award winning team is excited to partner with the City of Portsmouth.