Deserving of recognition

Published 8:51 pm Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The past seven years or so haven’t been kind ones to those in the field of economic development. With the economy either in outright recession or sputtering through an anemic recovery for that entire period, economic development officials in communities around the nation often have found themselves helpless to forestall the shutdowns and contractions of businesses large and small.

Here in Suffolk, the situation played itself out at U.S. Joint Forces Command, where nearly 2,000 government and civilian employees found themselves facing an uncertain future when Pentagon officials suddenly announced the disestablishment of that command in January 2011.

But city, state and federal officials have worked together since that bleak day to reduce the damage to personal and municipal pocketbooks that could have been expected from the loss of so many jobs, and the resulting establishment of a group of defense agencies within the city has given Suffolk back the jobs that might have been lost here. And those efforts have not ended, as the city and the Virginia Regional Center for USJFCOM Workforce Transition and Business Development continue to work to help businesses hurt by disestablishment reinvent themselves.

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At the center of all those local efforts has been Suffolk Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes, who recently earned national praise through a marketing firm’s “40 under 40” awards. A five-member team from Development Counsellors International, a New York-based firm that specializes in economic development marketing, picked Hughes from among 150 candidates to make its list of 40 young economic development professionals making a big difference throughout the nation.

It’s an honor that Hughes has earned through tireless work in the most challenging economic circumstances the nation has known in generations. The numbers attest to the fruits of his labor. Since he joined the department in 2005, Hughes has managed more than 120 new and expanding business projects totaling more than $403 million in capital investment and more than 3,250 new jobs.

Suffolk is fortunate to have a young man of Hughes’ caliber playing such a vital role on behalf of the city. The recognition he received was well deserved.