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.

Release Reels — An Entrepreneur’s Journey from Biking to Fishing

Thursday, 14 May 2015 09:50 by Info@YesVirginia.org
After a hectic career traveling all over the U.S. and Europe as a professional cyclist, all Wes Seigler wanted to do after retiring as an athlete was to relax at his parent’s home in Reedville, Va., and fish every day like he did as a kid...

After a hectic career traveling all over the U.S. and Europe as a professional cyclist,  all Wes Seigler wanted to do after retiring as an athlete was to relax at his parent’s home in Reedville, Va., and fish every day like he did as a kid.

While fishing on the Chesapeake Bay and offshore Virginia, Seigler and his friends soon encountered problems with the performance of the reels they were using. Drawing upon his experience perfecting his own bike gearing and after encouragement from contacts in the cycling industry, Seigler decided to design his own product.

Release Reels was established in 2009. Seigler quickly found himself in the world of POs, RFQs and SKUs and learning what it all meant on the go. He initially started manufacturing in China, but found his intellectual property was leaking into competitors’ products and decided to bring back the manufacturing stateside.

Release Reels makes premium saltwater fishing reels, and the tolerances are very high. The product has to perform perfectly and look sharp. In order to make sure the machining was spot on, he decided to manufacture it himself. Upon being told he couldn’t compete with Asia, Seigler responded, “We can, we just gotta be willing to work.”

The company now operates nine CNC machines and has 10 full-time employees. 100% of the assembly and machining is done in Virginia and 100% of the component parts are made in the U.S. Seigler sources specialty bearings from Florida, gears and springs from Wisconsin and screws from San Diego, all to ensure the product is made in the USA.

“We have to win all categories — that’s the mentality of our company,” said Seigler. Release Reels products outperform in every class — they are smaller and more powerful, while weighing less.

The company also maintains a lifetime warranty on all its products, which no one else in the industry does. “If you purchase a product, I believe you should be able to call somebody and talk to them,” remarked Seigler. “We can fix it inexpensively, since we do all the machining in-house. Customers love the interaction and that carries into their next purchase.”

Release Reels also works with Rappahannock Community College and hires interns with an interest in machining as a career. “Giving a chance to somebody that might not be university bound has been pretty cool. Manufacturing is not what it used to be, it’s technology driven. We run a clean shop and it’s a great environment where people can learn a lot,” said Seigler.

The company’s high standards and customer service have paid off. After beginning with production of 100 reels per month, the company is now selling almost 600 reels per month and building the infrastructure to grow beyond that. They have also expanded into international markets from Europe to Southeast Asia.  

“The international market is huge for us,” noted Seigler. “People love an American-made product. Japan has a large fishing industry with some of the top shops in the world there. Being accepted by those customers is a strong statement for the quality of our products.”

As we celebrate Virginia Business Appreciation Month, Release Reels is a great example of the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit alive in the Commonwealth. To learn more why Virginia is a great place to grow a business, click here.

Release Reels Founder and President Wes Seigler demonstrates the company’s premium saltwater fishing reels for a future customer. Photo courtesy of Release Reels.

NCS Technologies — A Case Study of Innovation During Sequestration

Thursday, 7 May 2015 10:33 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Founded in Northern Virginia in 1996, NCS Technologies made a name for itself as a nimble and responsive small business computer manufacturer and supplier to state and federal agencies, the military, the intelligence community and commercial markets. The company operates out of a modern campus in Gainesville...

Founded in Northern Virginia in 1996, NCS Technologies made a name for itself as a nimble and responsive small business computer manufacturer and supplier to state and federal agencies, the military, the intelligence community and commercial markets. The company operates out of a modern campus in Gainesville.

The company’s products include commercial-off-the-shelf laptops and desktops for offices and schools, high-performance servers for corporate networks, and rugged tablet computers and servers for the military. Over the years, much of the company’s business depended on government.

Like many companies that found a niche serving federal agencies, the impact of sequestration created significant challenges. However, as with all great companies, NCS was able to turn those challenges into opportunities and come out successfully on the other side.

NCS has bounced back to its full pre-sequestration workforce and used the opportunity to diversify its customer base. The company realized that its experience delivering advanced computing products and services to highly demanding government customers could be translated into innovative new products for other growing markets, including healthcare, advanced manufacturing, banking and financial services.

The company kept innovating during the economic downturn and developed the industry’s only zero client laptop. Zero client computers have no operating system or data stored locally. Everything is virtually saved in the cloud, making the data more secure in the event the computer is hacked, lost or stolen.

While global competitors have developed zero client desktops, NCS Technologies is the only company able to master the engineering challenges to fit those capabilities, including patented Wi-Fi capability, into a mobile laptop product.

“Our employees are our greatest investment in innovation,” said John Callahan, vice president of marketing. “They are truly knowledge workers, including electrical engineers, sales representatives, program managers, financial analysts, highly trained assembly-line associates, technical support and customer service employees. Prince William County and surrounding Northern Virginia offers us that range of workforce that helps us excel in a complex, ultra-competitive environment.”

As part of Virginia Business Appreciation Month, NCS Technologies represents the high-growth industry and technological innovation that is alive and well in the Commonwealth. To learn why companies have found success in Virginia for more than 400 years, click here.

The Cirrus LT from NCS Technologies is the world’s first mobile zero client laptop computer. Photo courtesy of NCS Technologies.

 

 

VEDP and CCAM Receive Achievement in Innovation Award from Business Facilities Magazine

Tuesday, 14 April 2015 17:07 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Business Facilities magazine recently announced its 2015 Economic Development Awards and VEDP was a recipient of one of five Achievement in Innovation Awards for the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing...

Business Facilities magazine recently announced its 2015 Economic Development Awards and VEDP was a recipient of one of five Achievement in Innovation Awards for the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing.

The Business Facilities article mentioned how difficult it was to narrow down candidates this year because best practices are being implemented across the country, making CCAM’s recognition all the more meaningful.                                                          

According to the Business Facilities’ editorial staff, “The states that are ahead of the curve have developed innovation hubs for targeted growth sectors and created an environment that makes their locations fertile ground for emerging businesses. This year, we’re focusing our spotlight on five programs that have exhibited consistent excellence in the development of innovation hubs and three successful initiatives targeting entrepreneurs.”

CCAM is an applied research center that brings together Virginia’s leading manufacturing companies and educational institutions to turn research into real-world technologies and solutions. It operates out of a 62,000-square-foot facility located adjacent to the 1,000-acre Rolls-Royce Crosspointe Campus in Prince George County, Va.

CCAM is focused on advancing and commercializing manufacturing technologies in six key areas — surface engineering, manufacturing systems, machining technologies, welding, additive manufacturing and composite materials.

Operating as a public-private partnership, its roster is made up of five university members and 33 corporate and industry members, including globally recognized leaders Aerojet Rocketdyne, Airbus, Alcoa, Canon, Chromalloy, NASA, Newport News Shipbuilding, Oerlikon Metco, Rolls-Royce, Sandvik Coromant and Siemens.

This award highlights what the more than 5,600 manufacturing companies located in Virginia already know — that the Commonwealth is a hub of advanced manufacturing and offers companies the innovative environment to grow. To learn more click here.

A view of CCAM, adjacent to Rolls-Royce’s Crosspointe Campus, in Prince George County, Va.

Virginia Ranked a Top State for LEED Green Building Certifications in 2014

Friday, 6 February 2015 13:55 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Once again, Virginia made the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual list of Top 10 States for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) in 2014...

Once again, Virginia made the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual list of Top 10 States for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) in 2014.

The Commonwealth was ranked No. 4 and had 150 projects LEED-certified in 2014. This included a total of 18.6 million square feet of space, and 2.33 square feet per capita.

The report made special mention of the University of Mary Washington’s Technology Convergence Center in Fredericksburg, Va., which is LEED Silver-certified.

USGBC is made up of 12,870 member organizations and 197,000 professionals worldwide. It manages LEED, the most widely recognized green building certification program in the world. According to USGBC, LEED certifies 1.5 million square feet of space each day in 135 countries.

LEED-certified buildings are a win-win for the environment and economy. They provide healthier spaces to live, work and play, and lower energy costs in a sustainable way.

“LEED-certified building and the innovations they have driven contribute substantially to our national economic growth, create jobs and improve the quality of life in the communities where they are found,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair of USGBC. “We commend the business and community leaders, policy makers and green building professionals in each of these states for making the commitment to create a healthier, more sustainable future.”

Virginia’s leadership as an innovator in this area illustrates the strong quality of life and cutting edge environment the Commonwealth offers to companies and their workforces. To learn why businesses have succeeded in Virginia for more than 400 years, click here.

VCU’s da Vinci Center Offers Real-World Interdisciplinary Training

Tuesday, 16 September 2014 09:10 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Where can a student work on a live project alongside classmates from the Schools of Arts, Business, Engineering, and the Humanities and Sciences? VCU’s da Vinci Center...

Where can a student work on a live project alongside classmates from the Schools of Arts, Business, Engineering, and the Humanities and Sciences? VCU’s da Vinci Center.

Companies in the greater Richmond area submit a product innovation problem to the da Vinci Center. Art, design, business and engineering students then work on cross-functional teams to develop an innovative solution, sponsored by the company.

The da Vinci Center prepares Virginia students to enter the workforce and hit the ground running, armed with the innovative and entrepreneurial thinking they will need to tackle everyday problems on the job. While students major in one area of study, the program allows them to see through the lens of multiple disciplines. It also emulates the way different departments work together to solve problems in a corporate environment.

Housed in the Pauley Pavilion, part of the School of Engineering, the center offers a multi-use space that facilitates product development from idea generation to market validation. Students have access to rapid prototyping machines and computer modeling and 3D object scanning equipment.

VEDP’s own economist, Michael Gilbert, was a da Vinci Center participant during his time at VCU. He worked on a minimally-invasive surgery trainer for physicians at MCV.

“The experience gained was invaluable,” said Gilbert. “Working on a cross-functional team with students from the School of the Arts, School of Engineering, and School of Business provided me insight and skills I still use today. Developing intellectual property on the team and through the course as an undergraduate is something I will never forget.”

The center offers two programs — an Undergraduate Certificate in Product Innovation and a Master of Product Innovation. The center is currently accepting applications for its spring 2015 class.

The da Vinci Center is yet another example of the cutting edge programs Virginia’s colleges and universities offer to prepare the workforce of tomorrow. To learn more about the Commonwealth’s premier higher education system, click here.

A group of students at VCU’s da Vinci Center develop a surgery trainer for MCV physicians. Photo courtesy of VCU da Vinci Center project team.

Virginia a Top State for Private Equity Investment

Monday, 30 June 2014 15:44 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Virginia was ranked No. 7 for private equity investment in 2013, according to the Private Equity Growth Capital Council’s fourth annual investment report...

Virginia was ranked No. 7 for private equity investment in 2013, according to the Private Equity Growth Capital Council’s fourth annual investment report.

Last year, 66 companies across the Commonwealth received $14.7 billion in private equity investment. Virginia moved up in the rankings from 16th place last year.

This signals that investors see value in Virginia’s entrepreneurs and growing companies. Private equity is typically used as growth capital to fuel expansion, as well as to assist companies in strategic turnaround situations.

“Private equity investment is long-term capital at work,” said Steve Judge, president and CEO of the Private Equity Growth Capital Council. “The companies in states across the country that receive private equity investment are able to expand their businesses, develop new innovations and hire workers, and this report highlights the important contributions of private equity in the U.S. economy.”

Virginia also saw two congressional districts break the top 20 in private equity investment. Virginia’s 4th Congressional District received $4.7 billion and Virginia’s 11th Congressional District received $4.5 billion. China-based W.H. Group’s acquisition of Smithfield Foods Inc. represents a majority of District 4's investment.

According to the PEGCC report, private equity firms have invested $129.1 billion in Virginia-based companies from 2004-2013. The report further states that there are 568 private equity-backed companies headquartered in the Commonwealth, which support more than 309,570 jobs at facilities both in and out of state.

The ability of Virginia companies to attract this amount of private equity investment is another testament to the level of innovation and success that entrepreneurs find when they locate their businesses in the Commonwealth. To learn why Virginia is a top state for business and investment, click here.

Photo courtesy of Private Equity Growth Capital Council

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Ranks Virginia a Top State for Performance, Innovation and Talent

Monday, 6 May 2013 17:18 by Info@YesVirginia.org
In its fourth annual Enterprising States study, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave Virginia top marks in three out of six categories. Virginia was ranked No. 3 in Overall Innovation and Entrepreneurship, No. 5 in Overall Performance, and No. 5 in Overall Talent Pipeline...

In its fourth annual Enterprising States study, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave Virginia top marks in three out of six categories. Virginia was ranked No. 3 in Overall Innovation and Entrepreneurship, No. 5 in Overall Performance, and No. 5 in Overall Talent Pipeline.

This year’s theme, Getting Down to Small Business, focused on the importance of small businesses to lead the economic recovery, and looked at how states can implement policies to support entrepreneurs.

The study noted the importance of accelerator initiatives, economic gardening activities, business plan competitions, workforce development curricula and international trade programs—all of which Virginia does. Governor McDonnell’s 2012 Year of the Entrepreneur initiative and Virginia’s Business One Stop program received special recognition in the report.

Virginia was able to obtain a No. 3 ranking in Overall Innovation and Entrepreneurship due to its leadership in science and technology. According to the study, Virginia is the No. 1 state in STEM job concentration and has the No. 1 share of high-tech businesses.

The Commonwealth’s high standard of living and No.1 ranking in adjusted median family income helped Virginia to achieve a Top 5 spot in Overall Performance.

The report also noted Virginia’s well-educated workforce, including strong high school advanced placement scores, educational attainment, and higher education efficiency—all contributors to Virginia’s success in obtaining a Top 5 ranking in Overall Talent Pipeline.

These top rankings confirm Virginia’s position as a leading place for small businesses and entrepreneurs. The Commonwealth recently received an “A” for its small business friendliness from The Kauffman Foundation and Thumbtack.com.

With March unemployment at 5.3 percent, the lowest number since December 2008, the Commonwealth’s focus on small business and job creation is yielding positive results. To learn why Virginia continues to be a great place to start a business, click here.

CCAM Member Company Sponsors Seminar for Virginia’s Engineering Students

Friday, 12 October 2012 09:32 by Info@YesVirginia.org
Chromalloy, one of seven Organizing Members of the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), announced its sponsorship of an industrial casting seminar for Virginia State University students. Chromalloy is a leading supplier of repairs, replacements parts and maintenance for gas turbines used in the aviation industry...

Chromalloy, one of seven Organizing Members of the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), announced its sponsorship of an industrial casting seminar for Virginia State University students. Chromalloy is a leading supplier of repairs, replacements parts and maintenance for gas turbines used in the aviation industry.

This program is one of the first educational initiatives launched through CCAM, an applied research center that partners top Virginia universities with leading Virginia manufacturers.

The three-day seminar is designed to educate engineering students on the latest techniques used in the casting manufacturing process. VSU students will learn a variety of processes, including wax injection and the assembly of molds, investment, pouring, and final part finishing, as well as proprietary processes developed by Chromalloy.

Located on Rolls-Royce’s Crosspointe Campus in Prince George County, Va., CCAM represents a public-private collaboration offering faster commercialization of technologies for Virginia companies and enhanced educational opportunities for Virginia’s students. Research partners include Virginia State University, University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, and manufacturing partners include Canon Virginia Inc., Newport News Shipbuilding, Rolls-Royce, Sandvik Coromant, Siemens, and Sulzer Metco.

CCAM is one example of Virginia’s commitment to innovation. Home to 11 Federally Funded R&D Centers and 19 Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) Laboratories, including DARPA and NASA Langley Research Center, click here to learn why companies continue to select the Commonwealth as a leader in technology.

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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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