Virginia Makes History Again — Orbital Sciences Launches First Satellite Built by High School Students

Wednesday, 20 November 2013 13:56 by Info@YesVirginia.org
At approximately 8:15 p.m. last night, Orbital Sciences launched the first satellite built by high school students, a team from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va...

At approximately 8:15 p.m. last night, Orbital Sciences launched the first satellite built by high school students, a team from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va. 

The satellite, known as TJ3SAT, is a CubeSat that has been designed, built and tested by more than 50 students at Thomas Jefferson and represents nearly seven years of work. Orbital Sciences mentored the students and provided financial support, as well as space testing facilities.

TJ3SAT measures 10 x 10 x 11 cm and weighs approximately two pounds. Its payload consists of a voice synthesizer that converts text to voice. Once it enters Earth orbit, students from around the world will be able to freely access the satellite by sending strings of text to the TJ3SAT website. Approved messages will be transmitted to the satellite, where they will be converted to voice signals and transmitted back to Earth using amateur radio frequency.

TJ3SAT launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-OB at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. MARS is one of only four commercial sites approved by the FAA for orbital space launches, and offers an ideal trajectory for Earth orbit insertion.

Orbital Sciences launched TJ3SAT with 27 other CubeSats aboard a Minotaur I rocket as part of its ORS-3 mission for the U.S. Air Force.

The collaborative partnership between Orbital Sciences and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology illustrates Virginia’s position at the forefront of STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math), preparing students for careers in advanced fields, such as aerospace.

Use the highlighted links to learn more about the TJ3SAT program and Virginia’s leadership in the aerospace industry.

The Minotaur I rocket, carrying the first satellite built by high school students, launches from MARS at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Photo courtesy of NASA Wallops/Chris Perry.

Virginia Conference on World Trade Celebrates 65 Years of Global Business Success

Wednesday, 13 November 2013 09:48 by Info@YesVirginia.org

VEDP’s international trade division recently hosted more than 200 professionals at the 65th annual Virginia Conference on World Trade in Williamsburg, Va.

The two-day event provided attendees with the opportunity to develop their international network with in-country experts, as well as attend sessions where panelists offered practical advice on how to expand sales in the global marketplace.

The event kicked off with an evening networking reception featuring Ignite Speed Networking, a Virginia company that has the world’s only platform for group-based speed networking.

Prior to the conference, attendees were encouraged to take the Global Mindset Survey offered by the renowned Thunderbird School of Global Management. The next morning, Dr. Mansour Javidan, Director of the Najafi Global Mindset Institute and Garvin Distinguished Professor at Thunderbird, went over the results of the survey and helped attendees pinpoint areas to improve their cross-cultural interactions.

Participants then chose between two tracks for the main portion of the day. Track A included a session each on how to gain traction in the South American, Asian and European markets. Track B was geared towards defense companies and offered sessions on the Foreign Military Sales process, the Australia/U.S. Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty, and how to manage and motivate foreign distributors.

The keynote address was provided by Michael Eyestone, Minister-Counsellor (Commercial Policy) and Senior Trade Commissioner at the Embassy of Canada in Washington, D.C. Eyestone discussed the plentiful opportunities that Canada offers as the U.S.’ No. 1 export destination. It provides a strong entry point for companies new to exporting due to the ease of restrictions and common language.

The conference concluded with an evening banquet where three awards were given, recognizing excellence in international trade. The Commonwealth of Virginia Governor’s Award for Excellence in International Trade was given to Moog Components Group out of Blacksburg, Va. The Virginia International Business Council Global Excellence Award recognized Joseph Ruddy, chief operating officer at Virginia International Terminals. The Virginia TradePort Innovator of the Year Award was given to Shawn Utt of Pulaski County.

Save the date for next year’s conference, October 29-30, at The Richmond Marriott in Richmond, Va. Visit www.vacwt.org for conference details and www.exportvirginia.org to learn how VEDP can help your company sell overseas.

Paul Grossman, VEDP vice president of international trade, congratulates Greg Boyer, vice president of sales at Moog Components Group, for winning The Commonwealth of Virginia Governor’s Award for Excellence in International Trade.

UMW Hosts Transformation 20/20 — A Regional Economic Development Summit

Monday, 4 November 2013 10:34 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Last week, University of Mary Washington hosted Transformation 20/20, a summit focused on economic development in the greater Fredericksburg region...

Last week, University of Mary Washington hosted Transformation 20/20, a summit focused on economic development in the greater Fredericksburg region.

The goal of Transformation 20/20 is to develop a clear vision as the region moves toward the year 2020. The summit brought together more than 150 public and private sector attendees to discuss opportunities for collaboration across the Fredericksburg region.

Preparation for the summit began a year earlier when UMW President Rick Hurley, the UMW Center for Economic Development, and Fredericksburg Regional Alliance met with local economic development professionals and business leaders in the community. FRA is the first Virginia economic development organization to be formally affiliated with a higher education institution and is housed on UMW’s campus.

Part of the year-long planning process involved commissioning a study from Chmura Economics & Analytics, and those results were presented at the summit.

The Chmura report identified six industry clusters economic developers should include as part of their strategy to encourage job creation and capital investment in the Fredericksburg region. They include business services, finance/insurance/real estate, health and life sciences, information/communications, manufacturing, and public administration.

The Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce also presented the results of a survey of young professionals, ages 21-40, in the region. The survey found that these young adults were pleased with the job market and planned to stay in the Fredericksburg area. The group suggested improvements to traffic congestion and more recreational and networking opportunities would increase their likelihood to remain in the region.

Transformation 20/20 served as a catalyst for identifying areas of opportunity to encourage economic prosperity in the Fredericksburg community. Continued conversations about how to improve traffic, increase broadband infrastructure, and encourage entrepreneurs are expected to take place — UMW plans to make Transformation 20/20 an annual event.

To learn more about FRA and the UMW Center for Economic Development, click on the highlighted links.

UMW President Rick Hurley and Fredericksburg City Council Member Matt Kelly (right to left) discuss economic development strategy at the Transformation 20/20 summit. Photo courtesy of Fredericksburg Patch.com/Susan Larson.

STIHL Inc. Wins AME 2013 Manufacturing Excellence Award

Friday, 25 October 2013 16:19 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The Association for Manufacturing Excellence recently recognized STIHL Inc. with a 2013 Manufacturing Excellence Award at its recent AME International Excellence Inside Conference in Toronto, Canada...

The Association for Manufacturing Excellence recently recognized STIHL Inc. with a 2013 Manufacturing Excellence Award at its recent AME International Excellence Inside Conference in Toronto, Canada.

The AME Manufacturing Excellence Award is given to North American manufacturing plants that have demonstrated excellence in their manufacturing and business operations. AME seeks to acknowledge manufacturers that have implemented continuous improvement, lean principles, creativity and innovation.

STIHL’s award-winning Virginia Beach facility serves as both its U.S. headquarters and base of operations to manufacture more than 280 models of chains saws and other power equipment. The company manufactures the No. 1 brand of chain saws in the world.

According to the company, “The AME assessment team noted the facility’s strides toward the establishment of a continuous improvement system, focusing on the implementation of advanced technology, integration of automation, data systems, work instructions, signaling devices and steps toward the establishment of flow.”

Since opening its Virginia Beach plant in 1974, STIHL has grown from 20,000 square feet under one roof to more than two million square feet on a 150-acre campus. With a talented workforce of 1,900 Virginians, the company exports products to more than 90 countries around the world.

Over the last 20 years, STIHL has announced more than $335 million of investment in the Commonwealth. What keeps an innovative global leader like STIHL coming back? Virginia has successfully competed against China, Brazil and Germany due to its highly-skilled workforce, premier logistics system and pro-business environment.

To learn more about the innovative environment Virginia offers global leaders like STIHL, click here.

Glenn Marshall, chair of AME’s Manufacturing as a Desirable Career Path program; Brent Sheffler, managing director, Knowledge Transfer and Strategic Outreach at VEDP; Christian Koestler, vice president of operations at STIHL Inc.; and Dale Gehring, Chairman of AME, celebrate STIHL’s AME 2013 Manufacturing Excellence Award in Toronto, Canada.

Williamsburg-James City County School System Celebrates National Manufacturing Day

Wednesday, 23 October 2013 13:48 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The Williamsburg-James City County School system recently celebrated Manufacturing Day with tours of three local manufacturing operations...

The Williamsburg-James City County School system recently celebrated Manufacturing Day with tours of three local manufacturing operations.

Manufacturing Day is a national program that encourages companies across the U.S. to provide tours to local high school students and teachers. The goals are to illustrate the high-tech nature of the industry, encourage students to explore careers in manufacturing and STEM subjects, and build relationships between school systems and the manufacturing community.

A group of students, teachers, guidance counselors and school board members from WJCC were able to witness firsthand the advanced logistical operations of Wal-Mart Import Distribution Center and the high-tech food packaging operations of Ball Corp. and Printpack Inc.

“Our region is known for its strength in the hospitality industry. We wanted to let students know there are opportunities in other fields right here in their own community,” said Kate Sipes, one of the event organizers and business development and retention coordinator at James City County Office of Economic Development.

WJCC is also the first public school system in North America to sign up for the Association of Manufacturing Excellence “Adopt a School” initiative. This allows AME to partner with schools and local businesses to share best practices and help design curricula to improve career readiness.

“Manufacturing Day allowed students to see what modern manufacturing is — a sleek, technology-driven industry full of high-paid, fulfilling careers,” said Glenn Marshall, chair of AME’s Manufacturing as a Desirable Career Path program.

Just down the road, Newport News Shipbuilding also hosted a similar event to educate guidance counselors from the region on the advanced operations and rewarding careers available at the shipyard.

Virginia continues to be a leader in preparing students for advanced manufacturing careers with strong STEM education programs. To learn more, click here.

WJCC students, teachers and school administrators gather for a tour of Printpack Inc. as part of national Manufacturing Day.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science Bolsters the Commonwealth's Oyster Industry

Wednesday, 16 October 2013 11:08 by Info@YesVirginia.org

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) has played an important role in the recovery of the Commonwealth’s oyster industry through its research and educational offerings. 

The popular species of oyster found along the Atlantic Coast is named Crassostrea virginica, literally “Virginia oyster,” because of its predominance in Virginia waters, including the Chesapeake and its tributaries. Unfortunately, the wild oyster beds and natural reefs off Virginia’s coastline have been depleted over the last 100 years due to overfishing, pollution, disease and changing water temperature and saline levels.

These factors have caused the industry to migrate towards aquaculture techniques that involve cultivating oysters and closely monitoring their growth phases on and offshore.

VIMS partners with local oyster farms by sharing its scientific and industry research, providing education on sustainable aquaculture techniques, and guiding companies through the regulation process.

This has enabled small businesses to prosper, such as Rappahannock River Oyster Co. Recently featured in national news, the great grandsons of the founder quickly learned the ropes after taking over the 100-year-old family business in 2001.

Today, the company owns three restaurants and ships 100,000 oysters per week to restaurants all over the U.S., as well as Hong Kong. Rappahannock River Oyster Co. is helping to repopularize the Virginia oyster and offers four flavors. The “Rappahannock” is the sweetest variety and is grown in the Rappahannock River, while “Olde Salts” from the Chincoteague Bay is the saltiest.

According to Rappahannock River Oyster Co. Director of Operations, Captain Anthony Marchetti, “VIMS has laid the foundation to help develop quality seed that allows us to grow more oysters. Over the last five years, we’ve seen a 500 percent increase in the production of our Rappahannock oysters.”

That growth is occurring across the industry. According to VIMS, the number of aquaculture oysters sold by Virginia farms has increased from 0.8 million in 2005 to 28.1 million in 2012.

“Renewed interest in regional flavors and sustainable food practices has helped drive this market,” said Karen Hudson, VIMS Commercial Shellfish Aquaculture Extension Specialist. “It’s already an economically valuable industry and one that has lots of potential to grow. In 2012, there was an economic output of almost $20 million associated with single oyster aquaculture in Virginia.”

Click on the highlighted link to learn more about VIMS aquaculture programs or attend the Virginia Aquaculture Conference in November.

Captain Anthony Marchetti examines a successful crop of the company’s sweet “Rappahannock” oysters, fresh from the Rappahannock River. Photo courtesy of Rappahannock River Oyster Co. 

 

Danville Community College Prepares Virginia's Advanced Manufacturing Workforce

Thursday, 3 October 2013 16:37 by Info@YesVirginia.org

With the U.S. seeing a resurgence of manufacturing jobs, Danville Community College (DCC) has launched a new initiative, the Southern Virginia Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing (SVCAM), to ensure Virginia, and especially the Dan River region, is well-positioned to capitalize on this trend.

One of the goals of SVCAM is to expand DCC’s advanced manufacturing training programs. The manufacturing jobs that have been reshored tend to be higher tech jobs that require a strong STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) background.

DCC has already increased the size of its popular Precision Machining Technology program. Graduates are in high demand from businesses in the region, and DCC has doubled enrollment capacity and added two new machining instructors.

With additional funding from the Virginia General Assembly and other industry partners, DCC plans to renovate its Charles Hawkins Engineering and Industrial Technology building and expand machining lab and classroom space from 6,500 to more than 20,000 square feet. SVCAM funding will also be used to expand DCC’s welding, robotics, industrial maintenance, electronics, polymer manufacturing, engineering technology, additive manufacturing and nanotechnology programs.

Another benefit of the SVCAM program is increased outreach to younger students. DCC has partnered with area high schools to establish a 33-hour dual enrollment program that allows juniors and seniors to earn credit towards an Advanced Manufacturing Certificate and gain valuable skills in one of four areas:  precision machining technology, electronics, industrial maintenance or welding.

The benefits of the SVCAM program are already paying off. North American Mold Technology recently announced plans to establish a new operation in Danville and create 120 new jobs. DCC’s ability to supply and train a high-tech manufacturing workforce was cited by the company as a key factor in their location decision and helped Virginia successfully compete against Ohio for the project.

DCC and its SVCAM program is another example of Virginia’s premier education system, offering valuable workforce training solutions that attract businesses to the Commonwealth. To learn more, click here.

 

Forbes.com Names Virginia America’s “Best State for Business”

Wednesday, 25 September 2013 12:38 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia won the top spot again in the Forbes.com 2013 Best States for Business ranking. Virginia has held one of the top two spots every year since the award’s inception, placing No. 1 from 2006-2009 and No. 2 from 2010-2012...

Virginia won the top spot again in the Forbes.com 2013 Best States for Business ranking. Virginia has held one of the top two spots every year since the award’s inception, placing No. 1 from 2006-2009 and No. 2 from 2010-2012.

Forbes.com uses six factors to determine its ranking, and Virginia is the only state to rank in the top five in four of the six categories. Virginia was ranked No. 1 for its regulatory environment, No. 2 for its labor supply, No. 4 for quality of life, and No. 5 for economic climate.

According to Forbes.com, “Virginia ranks first among the states in the regulatory category because of its business-friendly government policies and strong incentive offerings. The tort system is one of the best in the country for businesses, according to the Mercatus Center’s Freedom in the 50 States. Virginia is also one of 24 right-to-work states, which explains a union workforce that is only 4.4% of employment—fifth lowest in the U.S.”

The study also highlighted the strength of Virginia’s workforce, which has helped draw companies like Amazon.com and Microsoft to the Commonwealth. Virginia has the highest concentration of high-tech workers, according to TechAmerica’s Cyberstates 2013.

With concerns nationwide over the effects of sequestration, Forbes.com noted how well Virginia’s economy has performed. “Virginia’s $446 billion economy held up better than most states during the Great Recession thanks in part to spending by the federal government. But Virginia does have a widely diverse economy with strongholds in bioscience, logistics, manufacturing and technology. There are 31 companies (public and private) with more $3 billion in sales headquartered in Virginia.”

Virginia continues to garner top accolades due to the Commonwealth’s pro-business environment, competitive operating costs, world-class labor pool, premier logistics network and strong quality of life. To learn why companies have found success in the Commonwealth for more than 400 years, click here.

Denbigh High School’s Aviation Academy Recognized as PRIME School for Manufacturing Education

Tuesday, 24 September 2013 16:10 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Denbigh High School’s Aviation Academy in Newport News, Va., was added to the 2013-2014 list of Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (PRIME) programs for the upcoming school year. Only 11 schools across the country were added this year...

Denbigh High School’s Aviation Academy in Newport News, Va., was added to the 2013-2014 list of Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (PRIME) programs for the upcoming school year. Only 11 schools across the country were added this year.

PRIME is a program developed by the SME Education Foundation to prepare students for manufacturing careers by advancing education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects. It employs a community-based, real-world approach to education, forging partnerships between schools, higher education institutions, companies and the community.

To become part of the PRIME program, a school must have an exemplary manufacturing curriculum that has been in place for at least three years. The program must include both academic and hands-on fabrication instruction; access to local colleges with the opportunity to participate in postsecondary programs; and access to local manufacturing companies for company tours, job shadowing and mentoring opportunities.

PRIME is part of SME’s initiative to support the reshoring of manufacturing jobs to the U.S. and ensure we have a strong pipeline of skilled manufacturing workers to support future industry needs.

Denbigh High School’s Aviation Academy offers a four-year magnet program that prepares students for careers in engineering, aviation and electronics. Students take a number of classes at the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, including an FAA Pilot Ground School course. The academy provides students with cutting-edge electronics and technology equipment, and students are encouraged to pursue college dual enrollment opportunities. 

Denbigh High School’s Aviation Academy is another example of Virginia’s exemplary secondary education system, preparing graduates to enter the manufacturing workforce or pursue more advanced degrees at the Commonwealth’s leading higher education institutions. To learn more, click here.

Orbital Sciences Completes Launch from Virginia to the International Space Station

Thursday, 19 September 2013 14:00 by Info@YesVirginia.org
At 10:58 a.m. yesterday morning, Orbital Sciences successfully completed the second launch of its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft from Pad-OA of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia...

At 10:58 a.m. yesterday morning, Orbital Sciences successfully completed the second launch of its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft from Pad-OA of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

This mission is the first time a spacecraft launched from Virginia will visit the International Space Station.

Antares will deliver the Cygnus spacecraft along with 1,300 pounds of food, clothing and other cargo to the Expedition 37 crew on the International Space Station. 

The Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station on Sunday, September 22. Prior to its arrival, Cygnus will perform a series of tests and maneuvers to demonstrate its readiness to rendezvous with the space station. On Sunday, the crew of Expedition 37 will operate the station’s 57-foot robotic arm to grapple Cygnus and maneuver it into the docking station.

The purpose of this mission is to demonstrate the capabilities and readiness of Orbital Sciences’ cargo delivery system as part of its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program with NASA. Orbital Sciences successfully completed the inaugural test flight of Antares and Cygnus in April.

Subsequently, Orbital Sciences will carry out eight resupply missions through 2016, delivering approximately 20,000 kilograms of cargo to the International Space Station as part of its $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA.

These resupply missions will aid the crews of the International Space Station in carrying out scientific experiments in a microgravity research lab.

Following the historic LADEE launch just over a week ago, Virginia’s leadership in space exploration is evident. Through the MARS facility, Virginia offers one of only four commercial sites approved by the FAA for orbital space launches.

To learn more about Virginia’s thriving aerospace industry, click here.

Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft launch from Pad-OA of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.  Photo color-enhanced and courtesy of NASA/Bill Ingalls.

The MACH37 Cyber Accelerator Opens in Herndon, Virginia

Tuesday, 17 September 2013 16:10 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia’s new MACH37 Cyber Accelerator recently opened at the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) in Herndon, Va., just five months after the announcement of its creation...

Virginia’s new MACH37 Cyber Accelerator recently opened at the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) in Herndon, Va., just five months after the announcement of its creation.

The MACH37 accelerator program is designed to capitalize on Virginia’s expertise in the cybersecurity industry and help launch additional start-up companies developing innovative technology in this area.

The first five companies selected for this program are Cypherpath, Key Cybersecurity Inc., Pierce Global Threat Intelligence, CyberLingua, and Sikernes.

These companies will participate in two 90-day sessions. At the beginning of the first session, they will receive seed funding, followed by introductions to a network of cybersecurity experts and investors to help mentor and develop their products and technology. 

At the end of the first 90-day session, the companies will go before a professional panel on Demo Day. If the presentation is successful, selected companies will receive additional funding and be allowed to participate in the second 90-day session.

The MACH37 Cyber Accelerator is modeled after the Y-Combinator, an accelerator program in Silicon Valley that has helped develop more than 460 companies. The MACH37 program helps cybersecurity entrepreneurs bridge the gap between idea generation and commercialization. 

The program is named after the escape velocity of Mach 37, the minimum velocity needed to launch passed the earth’s gravitational field.

MACH37’s location at CIT is in the hub of the Dulles Technology Corridor, providing early stage companies access to a solid pipeline of high-tech employees.

In addition, CIT is partnering with Virginia Tech to develop a cyber test range available to MACH37 companies. This remotely-accessible test center will be located nearby at Virginia Tech’s Hume Center for National Security and Technology in Arlington, Va.

The MACH37 Cyber Accelerator is another shining example of how Virginia’s public and private institutions partner to create an innovate environment for entrepreneurs to create new products and technology. 

To learn more about Virginia’s pro-business research and development opportunities, click here.

Governor McDonnell meets with members of the cybersecurity community during the MACH37 Cyber Accelerator grand opening event at CIT in Herndon, Va.

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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.

Performance Signs — From a Dorm Room to the Highway

Thursday, 21 May 2015 10:30 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Founder Robbie Morris was an engineering student at Virginia Tech when he started making decals for his brother’s stock car racing team. Robbie actually ran the decal machine out of his dorm room in the fall of 1995...

Founder Robbie Morris was an engineering student at Virginia Tech when he started making decals for his brother’s stock car racing team. Robbie actually ran the decal machine out of his dorm room in the fall of 1995.

While out on an engineering co-op, Robbie realized he enjoyed the creativity of the sign work much more than the structure of his engineering internship and decided to pursue the sign business full-time.

Today, Performance Signs makes a variety of signs, banners, vehicle lettering, vehicle wraps, window lettering and real estate signs for commercial businesses, public safety vehicles and highways.

Self-awareness is an important trait for entrepreneurs, and surrounding oneself with the right people and skillsets is critical. Robbie found the perfect business partner in his wife Katherine. She came on board full-time in 2004 and made improvements with her ability to manage, schedule and handle the day-to-day business, allowing Robbie to focus on the creative side.

Robbie and Katherine focused on building relationships with their customers and that paid off. “We were doing work for a sign company that supported a police department in Southwest Virginia,” said Performance Signs Founder Robbie Morris. “Those decals were an exact match for the Albemarle police department near us. We were able to approach them and found that there was a need for somebody to serve the public safety vehicles in our area. There’s a tightknit community among the police, fire department and rescue squad, and our relationship with that core group has helped us grow.”

When the recession hit, Robbie and Katherine looked at everything they did in order to be more efficient, from the number of phone lines they needed to the amount of equipment. They also took a calculated risk when a property became available. 

“All indications were that it would be crazy to buy something right now, but it completely came together for us,” said Robbie. “We really felt like God was moving in our lives and the timing was right. We did an SBA 504 loan. It was a lot of work, but through that process it helped us see our business in a new way.”

Robbie and Katherine closed on their building in the fall of 2009, and continuing their quest for efficiency, installed a solar-paneled roof on the 8,000-square-foot facility. Depending upon the time of year, the solar panels generate anywhere from 55-100 percent of the building’s electricity. 

Robbie and Katherine’s tenacity allowed them to successfully bounce back from the recession. The company has doubled sales since 2010 and grown from four to 12 people.

Performance Signs was also just selected to participate in the inaugural class of Ones to Watch, a business mentoring initiative run by the U.S. Senate Productivity and Quality Award Program for Virginia.

As we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation Month, Performance Signs stands as another great example of the innovation and creativity of Virginia entrepreneurs. To learn why Virginia is a great place to grow a business, click here.

Performance Signs CEO Katherine Morris and Founder Robert Morris outside their company headquarters in Ruckersville, Va.

MAAP Unmanned Aerial Test Site at Virginia Tech Declared Fully Operational by FAA

Monday, 18 August 2014 15:57 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Last week, a group of government, academic and business leaders gathered at Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute to celebrate the FAA declaring the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems test site program fully operational...

Last week, a group of government, academic and business leaders gathered at Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute to celebrate the FAA declaring the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems test site program fully operational.

In December 2013, the FAA announced that Virginia Tech was selected as one of six test sites across the country to conduct research as part of an initiative to establish safety standards for integrating UAS, such as drones, with commercial aircrafts.

Virginia Tech led the submission of a joint proposal for Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland, along with Rutgers University and the University of Maryland, called the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership. MAAP is headquartered at Virginia Tech’s Institute of Critical Technology and Applied Sciences, with test sites located across Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland.

The ceremony included a simulation flight involving an unmanned, multi-rotor helicopter called the Smart Road Flyer. It was modified for transportation research by Dr. Kevin Kochersberger, a professor with the College of Engineering and the Virginia Center for Autonomous Systems, and engineering students from the Unmanned Systems Laboratory at Virginia Tech. The simulation gathered information from a mock accident scene on an interstate highway.

This scenario illustrates the wide-ranging future capabilities of UAS. Potential uses of this technology include disaster response, search and rescue missions, utility and pipeline inspections, agricultural monitoring, wildlife management, cargo delivery and weather observation.

This is another win for Virginia’s burgeoning aerospace industry. With flights to the International Space Station taking off from MARS/NASA Wallops Flight Facility and UAS launched from MAAP at Virginia Tech, the Commonwealth has the assets to stake its claim as a national aerospace leader. 

To learn why more than 250 aerospace companies have chosen to call Virginia home, click here.

Dr. Kevin Kochersberger (right) describes a UAS simulation flight at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute during the MAAP First Flight Ceremony. University President Timothy Sands, Virginia Delegate Joseph Yost, Governor Terry McAuliffe, and MAAP Executive Director Rose Mooney (left to right) discuss the future of unmanned and autonomous aviation at the event. Photo Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Virginia Schools Rank High on the Forbes and Money Top Colleges Lists

Tuesday, 12 August 2014 09:46 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia’s higher education institutions once again ranked high on the Forbes America’s Top Colleges 2014 list. Forbes partnered with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity on its seventh annual ranking.

Virginia’s higher education institutions once again ranked high on the Forbes America’s Top Colleges 2014 list. Forbes partnered with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity on its seventh annual ranking.

Three Virginia schools made the Top 25 in the Best Public Colleges category:  University of Virginia was No. 5, College of William and Mary was No. 6, and Virginia Tech was No. 23.

In the Overall category, eight Virginia colleges made the Top 200 list: Washington and Lee University (No. 33), UVA (No. 40), College of William and Mary (No. 41), University of Richmond (No. 96), Virginia Tech (No. 117), Virginia Military Institute (No. 129), Hampden-Sydney College (No. 171), and James Madison University (No. 188).

Washington and Lee University was also ranked No. 15 on the Best Liberal Arts Colleges list.

Forbes is a unique ranking because instead of focusing on the metrics of how competitive an institution is to get in to, it focuses on what students get out of college in terms of ROI. The five factors that determine the ranking include student satisfaction, post-graduate success, graduation rates, academic success and student debt.

Money also gave Virginia high marks on its Best Colleges for Your Money 2014 ranking. The Commonwealth scored well in the Best Public Colleges category with UVA at No. 3, VMI at No. 4, Virginia Tech at No. 12, JMU at No. 17 and the College of William and Mary at No. 20.

In the Overall category, 10 Virginia institutions made the Top 200:  UVA (No. 16), VMI (No. 18), Washington and Lee University (No. 39), Virginia Tech (No. 42), JMU (No. 53), College of William and Mary (No. 60), George Mason University (No. 101), University of Mary Washington (No. 107), University of Richmond (No. 120), and Hampden-Sydney College (No. 156).

Money only included schools with an above-average six-year graduation rate, and then based the ranking on a number of factors in three main categories — quality of education, affordability and outcomes.

Virginia’s substantial higher education system includes more than 100 in-state institutions that are preparing 450,000 students to enter the workforce. From large universities, to small private colleges, to the 23-member Virginia Community College System, the Commonwealth’s world-class education system stands ready to support industry demand with a strong pipeline of highly skilled workers.

To learn more about Virginia’s premier education system, click here.

A view of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. UVA was ranked No. 3 on Money’s Best Public Colleges list. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corp.

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Holds Its First Commencement Ceremony

Friday, 9 May 2014 12:07 by Info@YesVirginia.org

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine will hold its first-ever commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 10 at 8:30 a.m. at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke.

The ceremony will be held for the school’s first 40 graduates, who are all continuing on to a residency. U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, who as a former governor of Virginia signed legislation to support the creation of the new school, will be the keynote speaker.

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute serves as a model of collaboration between public and private partners. The institute combines Virginia Tech’s sciences, bioinformatics, and engineering with Carilion Clinic’s highly experienced medical staff. The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute collaborates with 75 institutions around the world, and has 168 research employees.

In addition, the institute’s unique, patient-centered learning model and small class size allows students to learn through real-life situations with ample student participation. Only 15 percent of medical schools in the U.S. have a patient-centered learning curriculum.

Virginia has a number of nationally recognized medical training and research institutes around the state, including the VCU School of Medicine and the UVA Department of Biomedical Engineering and School of Medicine, and now adds another major medical school in the western part of the state.

Virginia’s nationally acclaimed universities and community colleges, ensure businesses have a knowledgeable and highly trained workforce. The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute is a great example of how Virginia is preparing for jobs of the 21st century. To learn more about Virginia’s more than 100 in-state institutions of higher education, click here.

A view of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute—located in Roanoke, Virginia.

Bioplastics — How One Virginia Company is Making Plastic out of Feathers

Friday, 28 March 2014 11:45 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Eastern BioPlastics has successfully commercialized a process to make plastic out of chicken feathers. By using what was formerly a waste product, the company is making plastic components in a sustainable way...

Eastern BioPlastics has successfully commercialized a process to make plastic out of chicken feathers. By using what was formerly a waste product, the company is making plastic components in a sustainable way.

Co-founders Sonny Meyerhoeffer and Dr. Justin Barone established the company in Mount Crawford, Va., in 2008. They combined Meyerhoeffer’s background as an entrepreneur in the poultry industry with Barone’s engineering expertise as a professor at Virginia Tech to accomplish a difficult task — commercializing R&D into an effective process.

The company replaces up to 50 percent of the petroleum component of plastics with fiber made from chicken feathers. This chicken feather fiber, called feather fiber intermediate, has a number of advantages over petroleum. It is a renewable resource and makes use of something that was previously viewed as a waste product. In addition, the chicken feather fibers are very strong yet lightweight, making them ideal for plastic products.

Eastern BioPlastics has developed a proprietary technique that cleans and processes the chicken feathers in a cost-competitive way. The feather fiber intermediate is blended with polyolefins in a resin, and then extruded into pellet form. These pellets are then sold to original equipment manufacturers that use injection molding to form any number of end products for use in the automotive, furniture and sports equipment industries. The company is currently beta testing this product with customers.

Eastern BioPlastics has also developed a second product called Environmental BioProtector. Feathers are extremely oil absorbent; news coverage of massive oil spills illustrates how birds suffer because the oil becomes trapped in their feathers. The company has developed a product using chicken feathers to help clean up oil spills, from large-scale disasters to consumer use for car oil leaks. Environmental BioProtector is USDA certified and made of 99 percent bio-based material, making it one of the most eco-friendly and low cost oil absorbing solutions on the market today. The company has been selling this product since May 2013.

Creating an entirely new product in 2008 was no easy feat, especially during the economic downturn of 2009-2010. According to co-founder Meyerhoeffer, “Back then nobody wanted to take a chance on anything new. We had to figure out how to break in and create a market with a brand new product.”

When asked why he kept going during these early days, Meyerhoeffer responded, “I was never led to quit and we stayed at it because we knew there was something there that was better. You have to persevere through the tough times. I think a lot of entrepreneurs are that way. You know you’ve got something viable and it’s just about continuing through to the end.”

The founders of Eastern BioPlastics exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation that’s alive and well in the Commonwealth. To learn what Virginia offers and why it’s a great place to start a business, click here.

Eastern BioPlastics co-founder Sonny Meyerhoeffer displays his Bioplastic Composite Resins made from chicken feathers. 

Virginia’s Focus on Cybersecurity Remains Strong

Thursday, 6 March 2014 14:22 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Governor McAuliffe recently announced the launch of Cyber Virginia, a plan to establish the Virginia Cybersecurity Commission and augment Virginia’s leadership in cybersecurity...

Governor McAuliffe recently announced the launch of Cyber Virginia, a plan to establish the Virginia Cybersecurity Commission and augment Virginia’s leadership in cybersecurity.

The Commonwealth has a strong legacy in cybersecurity, and is well-positioned with the infrastructure to grow this sector. Virginia has the highest concentration of high-tech workers, according to Cyberstates 2013, and up to 70 percent of the world’s Internet traffic flows through Northern Virginia every day. Growth in the Commonwealth’s data center industry remains robust — investment topped $1 billion in 2012 — positioning Virginia as the place to be for companies moving towards cloud computing.

Virginia’s close proximity to the federal government’s cybersecurity operations also played a role in establishing its leadership position. The Commonwealth is home to the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communication Integration Center, and DARPA.

Virginia’s premier institutions of higher education are poised to maintain the Commonwealth’s leadership in technology through a healthy pipeline of skilled technology workers. Twenty-two of Virginia’s 23 community colleges offer training programs in cybersecurity.

In addition, the NSA and U.S. Department of Homeland Security named five Virginia schools as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education: George Mason University, Hampton University, James Madison University, Marymount University, and Norfolk State University. Virginia Tech was named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research.

To highlight a couple of these programs, Virginia Tech offers the Hume Center for National Security and Technology, which researches intelligence applications of cyberattacks and defense. The university also provides students with real world experience through its IT Security Lab. In partnership with the Naval Postgraduate School and L-3 Communications, Virginia Tech hosts the Cybersecurity Innovations Laboratory at its Arlington campus.

In one of our recent blogs, we mentioned George Mason University’s expertise as the author of the VEDP Cybersecurity Export Market Report. GMU is home to the International Cyber Center and founded the Center for Secure Information Systems in 1990, which was the first academic center in security in the U.S. and one of the NSA’s original Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.

To learn more about Virginia’s leadership in cybersecurity and the overall technology industry, click here.

A view of the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington, which houses the Northern Virginia location of the Hume Center for National Security and Technology.

FAA Selects Virginia Tech as Test Site for Unmanned Aircrafts

Friday, 3 January 2014 16:03 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The FAA recently announced that Virginia Tech was selected as one of six test sites across the country to conduct research on unmanned aircraft systems...

The FAA recently announced that Virginia Tech was selected as one of six test sites across the country to conduct research on unmanned aircraft systems.

This initiative will help the FAA establish safety standards that will allow UAS, such as drones, to share airspace and integrate with commercial airlines. Test sites were selected for their geographic and climate diversity, as well as existing infrastructure and aviation experience.

The test site at Virginia Tech will focus on UAS failure mode testing, and identify and evaluate operational and technical risk areas.

Virginia Tech led the submission of a joint proposal for Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland called the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership. In order to enhance the region’s competitiveness, the governors of each state agreed to support the initiative, and Virginia Tech will partner with Rutgers University and the University of Maryland, College Park.

Virginia has already shown its support for UAS and securing the Commonwealth’s position as an aerospace leader. In December, Governor McDonnell announced Virginia Tech would receive more than $2.6 million in Federal Action Contingency Trust funds to operate the UAS test site.

In addition, the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership successfully completed its first flight in October with a team from the Virginia Center for Autonomous Systems, a research partnership between Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science and the College of Engineering. The team attached sensory equipment provided by American Aerospace Advisors to an unmanned 250-pound helicopter. Using ultraviolet and infrared cameras, the group was able to gather data on the health of five acres of tobacco crops.

This type of research could help farmers quickly survey their land to gain a better understanding of crop health, reduce pesticide use and improve yield. Agriculture is expected to be a prime growth market for UAS technology.

This win for Virginia Tech illustrates the Commonwealth’s premier higher education system, as well as its leadership in the aerospace industry. To learn more click here.

A team from Virginia Tech prepares to launch an unmanned 250-pound helicopter for a research mission to determine if UAS can gather meaningful data for crop management.  Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program Celebrates 30 Years

Thursday, 28 February 2013 13:21 by Info@YesVirginia.org
The Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program (CGEP) recently celebrated its 30-year anniversary at an event in Richmond, Va., hosted by CGEP and VEDP...

The Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program (CGEP) recently celebrated its 30-year anniversary at an event in Richmond, Va., hosted by CGEP and VEDP.

CGEP offers Master’s degrees and certificate programs for engineers and scientists seeking to further their education while remaining in the workforce. Students can pursue degrees in Computer Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Engineering Administration, Environmental Science & Engineering, and Systems Engineering.

What is most unique about the program is its distance learning model, which includes both online courses and televised courses offered at more than 25 sites across Virginia. CGEP uses the latest interactive video conferencing technology, allowing for two-way audio and video to provide an interactive classroom experience for students.

In addition, graduate students can personalize their program by taking advantage of courses offered by any of the five participating universities, which include George Mason University, Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech.

During the 2011-2012 academic year, total enrollment in CGEP increased by 10 percent to 6,759 students. CGEP attributes this growth to increased offerings in online coursework, allowing busy graduate students to take classes anywhere, anytime.

CGEP is another example of the innovative programs offered by Virginia’s prestigious higher education institutions to ensure a solid pipeline of skilled employees is ready to fulfill industry needs. 

To learn more about CGEP or Virginia’s higher education offerings, click on the highlighted links.

Virginia’s Wind Industry Gains Speed with Two Federal Announcements

Monday, 17 December 2012 16:12 by Info@YesVirginia.org
In the last few weeks, Virginia’s wind industry has won validation with two positive announcements from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Department of Energy (DOE)...

In the last few weeks, Virginia’s wind industry has won validation with two positive announcements from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Department of Energy (DOE).

On November 30, the BOEM announced federals waters off the Virginia coastline qualified as one of only two wind energy areas (WEAs) for the upcoming competitive lease sale process. This is the first-ever wind energy lease sale on the Outer Continental Shelf.

The Commonwealth’s WEA encompasses 112,800 acres located about 23.5 nautical miles off Virginia’s coastline. According to the BOEM, this area would have the capacity to produce more than 2,000 MW of wind generation, enough electricity to power 700,000 homes.

On December 12, the DOE announced that a Virginia team led by Dominion Virginia Power was one of seven projects awarded an initial grant of up to $4 million for the engineering, design and installation of an offshore wind turbine demonstration facility.  

Dominion will install two Alstom 6-megawatt turbines off the Virginia coastline using an innovative “twisted jacket” foundation that requires less steel. In addition to Alstom Power Inc., the Dominion team includes KBR; the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME); the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute; and Newport News Shipbuilding.

Virginia-based Fugro Atlantic has also been selected by the DMME to conduct a geological survey to study the seafloor of Virginia’s WEA in the Outer Continental Shelf.

Recognition from both the BOEM and DOE highlights the Commonwealth’s strengths in the offshore wind industry. Virginia is well-positioned as a leader in this renewable energy field, offering the ideal combination of strong Class 6 winds, shallow waters off the coast, an experienced maritime workforce, a robust transportation network, and access to a fully operational high voltage transmission grid close to shore.

Often called the “Energy Capital of the East Coast,” Virginia is home to more than 380 energy companies and has seen more than $4.6 billion invested in energy projects over the last decade. To learn more about Virginia’s burgeoning energy industry, click here.

A rendering of the Dominion offshore wind turbine demonstration facility, consisting of two Alstom 6-megawatt turbines. Courtesy of Dominion Virginia Power.

National Tire Research Center Displays New Tire Testing Machine “Flat-Trac LTRe”

Friday, 26 October 2012 15:23 by Info@YesVirginia.org
This week, the National Tire Research Center (NTRC) hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the unveiling of its new tire testing machined called the “Flat Trac LTRe”...

This week, the National Tire Research Center (NTRC) hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the unveiling of its new tire testing machine called the “Flat Trac LTRe.”

This high-performance, $11.3 million machine is the only one of its kind. It allows speeds up to 200 mph on car, truck and motorsports vehicles and tests tire performance during acceleration, brake and burnout events, as well as wheel torque capability.

Located in the Virginia Motorsports Technology Park adjacent to the Virginia International Raceway track in Halifax County, the NTRC provides easy access to real-world testing right on a premier race track.

NTRC is an applied research and testing facility established in 2010 through a public-private partnership between the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, General Motors, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.

By combining the industry leadership of General Motors with the research prowess of Virginia Tech, NTRC will focus on developing safer tires that are environmentally friendly, providing higher fuel economy with lower emissions.

Southern Virginia has become quite a hub for the automotive industry. NTRC has partnered with nearby Southern Virginia Vehicle Motion Lab (SoVa Motion), a facility also operated by Virginia Tech that rounds out the region’s offering to automotive manufacturers by providing shock and suspension testing, on-vehicle sensing, and full-motion driving simulation.

Virginia's advanced manufacturing capabilities cover all aspects of the automotive industry. To learn why automotive companies have invested more than $1 billion in the Commonwealth over the last decade, click here.

Dr. Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, addresses the crowd at the National Tire Research Center ribbon-cutting event in Halifax County.

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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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