Suffolk is still surprising

Published 10:06 pm Thursday, January 29, 2015

“It’s a good time to be in Suffolk.”

That’s the tagline the city has used in its marketing materials for the past several years, intended to capitalize on the city’s explosive growth and convince potential residents and new businesses that they should catch the wave and be part of a rising tide in this community that was for so long considered the rural cousin of the “real” Hampton Roads region.

The marketing effort replaced another long-used slogan that had played on the fact that so many people who visited the city wound up going back home with their preconceived notions about Suffolk having been changed during their visits. “Surprising Suffolk” was not the backwater place they’d heard about or remembered from their childhood. It was, in fact, a vibrant, growing community building itself to be a true competitor in the region.

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But even those who have lived in Suffolk all their lives occasionally still find themselves surprised at just how far the city has moved from that old portrayal. There are still some surprises left in Surprising Suffolk, and an event on Wednesday brought one of those surprising facets of the city into full view.

Suffolk is fast becoming one of the most important military communities on the East Coast, if not in the whole nation.

About 700 people work at the Navy Information Dominance Forces complex off College Drive in North Suffolk, and the facility celebrated its official opening on Wednesday during an establishment ceremony officiated by its commander, Rear Adm. Matthew J. Kohler and attended by Navy brass and Suffolk leaders.

The facility’s mission is to develop and advance the cause of “information dominance” for the U.S. Navy, meaning it will be tasked with helping the military better understand its adversaries and the environment in which service members face them. It is safe to assume that the modeling and simulation community in North Suffolk — a community engaged in some of the most advanced technological work being done in the nation — will be a major partner in the command’s mission.

Considering the vast and imposing presence of the military in other parts of Hampton Roads, it was, perhaps, not all that surprising that Suffolk would eventually gain a military foothold of its own. What might be surprising, however, is just how important that foothold is to national security.

Surprising Suffolk, indeed.