Norfolk Technology Zone

At GNC’s request, Norfolk City Council designated the area along the Elizabeth River stretching from ODU to NSU, including the EVMS/CHKD/Sentara Medical Center, Fort Norfolk, Downtown Norfolk, the Neon Arts District and the Harbor Park area as a “technology zone” under State law, thereby qualifying start-up tech firms locating there to receive a BPOL tax abatement.  The goal of the technology zone incentives is to foster the development and location of new technology businesses in the city, which will increase capital investment and create jobs. Designating the innovation corridor that connects our most prominent academic, medical and business anchors as a “technology zone” was an important first step, but only the first step in fully activating this zone, which is why we assembled a select group of thought leaders in the fall of 2018 to conduct a strategic discussion and to shepherd this critical initiative. As originally adopted, the technology zone provided BPOL tax abatement only for new Norfolk technology companies that located in the zone.  Norfolk City Council, with GNC’s support, updated the ordinance the  Spring of 2019 to include existing technology companies that expand in the zone, including spinoffs from existing Norfolk firms, to qualify as new businesses.  In addition, the Zone borders were expanded and two additional technology industries were added to the list of qualifying industries.

Ultra-high speed internet (broadband)

Given our overlapping interest in enhanced broadband, GNC and our counterpart at Virginia Beach, Virginia Beach Vision, established a joint Broadband Task Force that is focusing on how we can best leverage the budding Southside Fiber Ring which, at “build out”, will constitute a 103-mile-long fiber ring connecting government, business and education centers in the five Southside cities with each other as well as to one or more of the transatlantic cables that have either landed or are expected to land in Virginia Beach. The goal of this dark fiber open access ring is not to compete with the private sector.  The public sector (i.e., the 5 southside cities), will build the fiber highway and then allow private-sector companies to provide businesses with ultra-high-speed broadband at an affordable price.  Achieving this broadband connectivity will facilitate economic development/job creation, particularly in the area of big data.

Sea Level Rise

At a joint GNC/Virginia Beach Vision Officers meeting in the fall of 2018, two areas of common interest were identified – Broadband and Sea Level Rise/Coastal Resilience.  Rather than duplicate efforts, we agreed to collaborate in both areas.  GNC members joined Vision’s Sea Level Rise Task Force (already in existence) and Vision members joined our Broadband Task Force chaired by Dave Iwans. Status The Task Force has identified 4 primary focus areas: Support ODU’s efforts to become the global brand in this space Weigh in on city specific projects to mitigate sea level rise (each organization) Jointly advocate for state and federal funding Focus on marketing piece; i.e. communicate that we are open for business Action taken to date:  Joint letter of support to the Economic Development Administration for ODU’s, The College of William & Mary and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s application for funding to support the Open Seas Technology Innovation Hub.

Develop, Attract and Retain Talent

Market/Promote Norfolk as a University Town Norfolk is home to a EVMS, NSU, TCC Norfolk Campus, ODU and Virginia Wesleyan University.  It’s a strength that we have not fully capitalized on and with that in mind, Scott Miller, President of Virginia Wesleyan University, has been the catalyst for an effort to promote the City of Norfolk as a University Town, with a goal of attracting the brightest students, retaining them after graduation and thereby growing the number of well-educated young adults in Norfolk and the region.  A committee composed of representatives from the above institutions of higher learning, the City Manager’s office, GNC and led by Kurt Krause at Visit Norfolk, has begun its due diligence work. Status:  As part of its due diligence, the Committee will meet late this summer/early fall with Deborah Diamond, President of Campus Philly, a non-profit organization that fuels economic growth by encouraging college students to study, explore, live and work in the greater Philadelphia region.  Campus Philly is a potential template for our effort to market/promote Norfolk as a University Town.   LIveNFK Summer Intern/Associate Program LiveNFK Summer Intern/Associate program, a collaboration between the Downtown Norfolk Council (DNC) and the Greater Norfolk Corporation, has been recognized by the International Downtown Association with an Award of Excellence for Leadership Development.

Entrepreneurial Minute

GNC continues to focus on enhancing our entrepreneurial ecosystem in order to diversify and grow our local economy.  The importance of shining a light on entrepreneurs and celebrating their success can’t be overstated.  Thus, we showcase a successful entrepreneur and his/her company at most of our Board and Executive Committee meetings:  i.e. the Entrepreneurial Minute.

St. Paul’s Quadrant Redevelopment – Partner with the City

The City of Norfolk has embarked upon a long-term effort, the St. Paul’s Transformation Initiative, to transform the 200 acres east of downtown Norfolk from run-down public housing communities into vibrant mixed-income, mixed-use areas.  Specifically, the goals of the Initiative are to:   Increase self-sufficiency, financial independence and successful outcomes for families in the St. Paul’s area through the provision of suitable housing choices and the supportive services of People First. Deconcentrate poverty and develop high quality mixed-income, mixed use communities of choice. Provide access to excellent educational opportunities in partnership with Norfolk Public Schools, local college and universities and early childhood education institutions.