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.
The City of Norfolk is nearing completion of a broadband fiber ring that parallels the Norfolk Innovation Corridor. Norfolk’s fiber ring (I-Net) connect to the Southside Fiber Ring, which at its buildout will be a 103-mile long dark fiber ring connecting government, business and education centers in the five southside cities with each other as well as one or more transatlantic cables that have landed (or are expected to land) in VA. Beach. The regional fiber ring will leverage the transatlantic fiber capabilities, whose speed vastly exceeds anything now available in the region, while creating opportunities for regional government and higher-ed collaboration in addition to boosting regional economic development.
In order to maximize the potential of this technology zone, there needs to be a governing body whose sole purpose is to support the development of the Norfolk Innovation Corridor through strategic planning, fundraising, programming and promotional efforts in coordination with the City. Examples of similar governing bodies include The Enterprise Center, which serves as the governing body of the Chattanooga Innovation District and Cortex, which serves as the governing body/master developer of the Cortex Innovation Community, a 200 acre urban innovation hub in St. Louis, MO. Getting the right people and organizations, including in particular the anchors, at the table is critical to the success of the Norfolk Innovation Corridor.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Norfolk and the Greater Norfolk Corporation was executed in 2019. The MOU calls for GNC to establish an independent, non-profit affiliate to carry forward the initiative launched by GNC to develop and enhance the Norfolk Innovation Corridor as a key strategy for improving the competitiveness of Norfolk.
Status: The Norfolk Innovation Corridor (NIC), an independent non-profit body was created in November, 2019. The NIC has officially launched their website (www.norfolkinnovation.com) on November 19, 2020.