Archived Story

Suffolk enjoys an expanding economy

Published 9:52pm Friday, June 28, 2013

By Mayor Linda T. Johnson

Our fifth and final installment in the series from my State of the City address focuses on economic development.

Our “blueprint for success” demands we continue to focus on economic development as a priority, that we safeguard the economic assets we have in place, and that we look at new ways to bring industry and new jobs to Suffolk while supporting existing industry and business.

Across Suffolk’s 430 square miles, we have seen businesses growing and expanding, and new companies are choosing to move to Suffolk, because they know the value of doing business in a city that offers a trained workforce and high quality of life. As these businesses invest in Suffolk, jobs and opportunities are created for our citizens, new tax revenues pay for essential city services and help fund our schools, and both consumer choice and quality of life are enhanced.

Leading the charge on the economic development front is Kevin Hughes, our economic development director and national winner in the economic development industry’s “Forty under 40” award.

Not only has Kevin earned this prestigious designation as a nationally rising star in the economic development profession, he’s also thrust our city into the spotlight with his results-driven methods, great vision and work ethic.

His department also received an award of merit last summer from the Southern Economic Development Council, the nation’s largest and oldest economic development association, which recognized their outstanding marketing work for their 2011 Economic Activity Report.

This year’s economic activity report included the news that we had a total of 66 expanding and new businesses in 2012, bringing 1,957 new jobs and more than $94 million in new capital investment.

Those numbers once again validate CNN Money magazine’s inclusion of Suffolk in their national Top 10 “Where The Jobs Are” listing. For those of you that are keeping count, that’s 977 more jobs than even last year’s numbers.

Included in those figures are a large number of small businesses, and we recognize that they are the foundation of economic health of any community.

While all grand openings and ribbon cuttings are exciting, several last year were especially memorable. Back in July, Ace Hardware’s new Suffolk import redistribution center brought Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng to our city, as Ace cut the ribbon to become the first tenant to occupy space in the 900-acre CenterPoint Intermodal Center. They’ve also distinguished themselves for their green initiatives and have been declared a “zero landfill” facility.

Just a few months later, Congressman Randy Forbes joined me when Ace’s newest neighbors — the Navy Exchange Service Command — opened its new northeast distribution center.

Sumitomo, a global leader in the power transmission industry, opened a new 60,000-square-foot distribution center in the Virginia Regional Commerce Park last fall. This location enables the center to operate in a foreign trade zone and streamlines their international supply chain.

These were just a few of the many businesses and companies that celebrated grand openings in Suffolk last year.

I would be remiss in commenting on our successful businesses without mentioning Planter’s Peanuts, a company that essentially put Suffolk on the map internationally, and one that this year will be celebrating a century in Suffolk.

We have a long and happy history together. All you have to do is roll down your windows as you pass the Culloden Street plant and take a whiff of the delectable smell of roasting peanuts to understand the love affair.

Large or small, family-owned or with international ties, the businesses that have invested in Suffolk know one thing for certain — if everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.

The distinction our city has earned in recent years is the product of the hard work, determination and teamwork by our citizens to build Suffolk into an attractive place for business.

It is a tribute to the perseverance, planning and teamwork of an entire community — private citizens and public servants, business and industry, military and civilian — that values the rewards of hard work and shares hopes for an even brighter, more promising future.

I submit to you the current state of our city is strong, and our “blueprint for success” is one for which we can all be proud.

Linda T. Johnson is the mayor of Suffolk. Email her at council@suffolkva.us.

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