People make Suffolk great

Published 10:28 pm Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The theme of the Suffolk State of the City event earlier this week was “be inspired,” and it was easy to be just that while listening to Mayor Linda T. Johnson’s speech.

Inspiration is abundant in Suffolk, and it can come from numbers like the 712 new jobs and more than $114 million in capital investment — including nearly 1.2 million square feet in new and expanding businesses — that Suffolk has seen in recent years.

The inspiration can also come from greater fiscal stability and a higher credit rating than the city had back in the mid-2000s, when city leaders made a commitment to clean up their act.

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But to most people, numbers are a jumble. That’s why Johnson made sure to mention plenty of people in her speech, too.

In addition to the business numbers, she mentioned businesspeople like Corey and Jnel Duncan, Richard Chaing and Thomas Vandiver.

The Duncans own The Catering Place, the 2018 Suffolk Small Business of the Year winner from the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. Chaing owns Suffolk Executive Offices, which garnered a “Top to Watch” award from the Chamber this year. And Vandiver is founder and co-owner of The Neighborhood Harvest, which Johnson announced will soon expand its operations.

The stories of real business owners tell the story of Suffolk like numbers just can’t do.

There was plenty of other real-people inspiration in Johnson’s speech and an accompanying video, as well. There was Suffolk Public Schools teacher of the year Katelyn Leitner-Black; Suffolk native and prestigious EVMS professor Dr. L.D. Britt; Michael Davis and Ashton McCormick, a Team Hoyt duo of a blind runner and disabled rider that recently finished the Boston Marathon; Police Officer Josie Hall, who recently donated a kidney to a boy whom she did not know and who is featured on today’s front page; and so many more.

So, yes, there are a lot of great things about Suffolk. By many accounts, its quality of life, safety, recreational opportunities, business environment and other facets of life are second to none.

But it’s the people who truly make all of these things and more great to combine for a great city of Suffolk. Johnson got it right in her speech by taking out so much time to talk about Suffolk’s inspirational people. Any community that has these great people can do great things.