• 61°

City sells success story

Suffolk’s Director of Economic Development gets the opportunity to tell a story quite often. The story has an exciting plot, intrigue, successful characters, and in the case of Suffolk, a very happy ending.

During Thursday’s meeting of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce’s Suffolk Division Board, Kevin Hughes got yet another chance to share Suffolk’s story and detail the tremendous success the city has had over the past decade.

“Since 2000, Suffolk has seen over $1 billion invested in capital projects and seen over 7,000 jobs created,” Hughes said. “We have plenty of great stories to tell, but we have even more potential just ahead of us.”

Hughes detailed the business and industrial sectors of the local economy his office is focused on, both in recruiting new business and helping existing companies flourish.

The diversity of these sectors, Hughes said, is one of Suffolk’s strengths.

“Even during the rough economic environment, we have seen growth,” Hughes said. “And that comes from making sure we have a diverse economy and not reliant on one type of industry.”

That diversity encompasses such industries as modeling and simulation, healthcare, wholesale distribution, retail, hospitality, food and beverage processing and others.

The city’s zoning plan also helps attract growth by ensuring that potential new industries are located in areas with the infrastructure they need to survive, he said.

“With these areas laid out we can better target the investment of city services to better help potential industries,” Hughes said, highlighting industrial park areas in North Suffolk and around downtown. “This also helps ensure we continue to have a strong agricultural base in other areas of the city, which is so important.”

In response to questions from attending board members, Hughes said the city is extremely competitive in recruiting new business, whether being competitive versus other states or against neighboring cities in Hampton Roads.

“When it comes to retail businesses, they look at rooftops and population,” Hughes said. “They also look for quality of life, education, tax base and so on.”

Highlight Suffolk’s potential for continued gains in retail business, he said population trends and estimates showed the city had a 28.6-percent increase in population between 2000 and 2008. Compared to other cities in the Hampton Roads area, Suffolk by far had the largest increase.

While Hughes admits most of the questions he gets throughout the city are about what may be coming, it is the existing business growth that is most encouraging.

“We are excited with the number of businesses who have expanded and who are planning expansion,” Hughes said. “Everybody wants to know what’s new and who’s coming, but we are extremely proud of the success of our existing businesses.”