- Visiting Chesapeake?
- Resources for New and Relocating Businesses
- Development, Land Use & Construction
- City Council
- City Budget
State of the City
Remarks by Mayor Alan P. Krasnoff
at the Annual Chesapeake State of the City Address
Chesapeake Conference Center – March 23, 2016
Before I begin, I want to express my appreciation to the Chamber for its support.
Each year, this event gives Chesapeake another forum to showcase our accomplishments and I am grateful for all the hard work that goes into making ours a success.
I want to thank Pastor Michael Brueseke for the invocation and a powerful message of opportunity and hope expressed through the good works of the Community Church of Western Branch, and to Deputy Secretary Areizaga-Soto for leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Virginia's Department of Veterans and Defense Affairs has never hesitated when it comes to making sure we do the right thing for our veterans, and they have my deep appreciation for their service to our country and our Commonwealth.
Since 1992, the Virginia Children's Chorus has never failed to amaze us.
Currently, 28 students from Chesapeake are members, and I want to thank each one of these talented young people and their parents and let them know how valuable and inspiring they are.
I also want to recognize and thank our constitutional officers and the members of City Council for their commitment to Chesapeake, and express my appreciation for our senators and delegates for their service in Richmond.
Also with us is Portsmouth Mayor Kenny Wright, and I want to welcome him to Chesapeake.
Unless you've been closely involved or actually in the arena, it's difficult to explain how tough the job can be, yet each one - whether a constitutional officer, council member or mayor, senator or delegate - has stepped up to serve.
Because they do, we are a stronger and more vibrant Chesapeake and Virginia, and I'd ask that they stand so we can thank them for their contributions.
Now I want to introduce my wife Phyllis, who - God willing - has agreed to sign on for four more years if we're successful in May.
There are many things she could do - not the least of which is split her time between our three grandchildren - but she is by my side, and I cannot thank her enough for her support and for reaching out to Chesapeake. Phyllis, you have my thanks, and you have my love.
Finally, I want to thank Dawn Glynn for her kind introduction.
You may know her as Towne Bank's president for Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Suffolk, but I know her as a Chesapeake native who grew up in Deep Creek and went to G.A. Treakle Elementary School.
The Dawn Glynn I know worked as a part-time teller while going to Old Dominion University. It was what she had to do and she did it, and began to climb a banking ladder that was not always female-friendly.
But climb she did, until she landed a role with Towne Bank as a founding director that began in 1998 in a two-car garage in Portsmouth and brought her to a conference center in Chesapeake.
In the greatest of senses, Dawn Glynn's accomplishments are hers alone.
In many respects, she did it by herself. But we - Chesapeake - take pride, knowing that one of our own has become one of the best.
But Dawn is not alone.
With us today is CarolineTaylor.
A registered nurse who graduated from Tidewater Community College in 1991, Caroline founded a company called Taylor Made Diagnostics in 1995.
Today, Taylor Made operates an occupational health clinic and mobile medical teams that have provided services to more than 1,700 federal, state and local employers.
Caroline's dream began with just $5,000 and vision, but she believed in what she was doing and knew - just knew - that hers would become a successful company.
Indeed, it has.
Recognizing her accomplishments, last May Taylor Made Diagnostics was named Chesapeake's Business of the Year, but the story doesn't end there.
Two weeks ago, Caroline got a letter from Washington with no stamp on it.
Usually, that would make most of us a little nervous. . . but Caroline's letter came from the head of the Small Business Administration. Inside was an invitation to visit the White House to celebrate her selection as the 2016 ‘Virginia Small Business Person of the Year,' and we cannot be more proud.
Like Dawn, Caroline's accomplishments are hers alone, but I hope you will join with me to give them the recognition they richly deserve for their accomplishments.
But no matter the path, Chesapeake has become fertile ground for growth and opportunities, and it shows in the metrics.
While other cities suffered through the Great Recession, Chesapeake never missed a beat.
Over $179 million in investments and more than 1,800 new jobs in 2015 alone marks a new level of confidence in how well we run a business called Chesapeake.
The business relationships we have forged and sustained over time are also a testament to our focus on cultivating partnerships that have yielded long-term benefits.
Seventeen years ago, INIT saw potential when it opened a small sales office in Chesapeake. Soon, INIT will begin construction of its new 70,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and a North American headquarters.
DB Schenker, another German-owned transportation company, recently announced its growing Shared Services Center and employment levels will rise from 135 to 185 people.
Becker Hydraulics USA - a major supplier to John Deere - opened its first American manufacturing operation last year in Chesapeake.
On the retail front, Lidl Grocer, a European specialty food company, will open one of its first American stores in a purpose-built 36,000-square-foot building in Western Branch.
With its corporate headquarters already established in Chesapeake, Hoffman Beverage recently approved an $18 million warehouse expansion that will create 148 new jobs.
The healthcare sector also grew, and Chesapeake has become home to its fair share of new facilities responding to medical needs.
Our public/private partnerships and infrastructure investments are also paying dividends.
Chesapeake's new Veterans Bridge is on a fast track to open in late 2016.
Our investment of over $345 million is the largest city-managed project in Virginia's history, and has already spurred new interest and development in the Dominion Corridor.
At the same time, we are very, very close to building a new bridge in Deep Creek and expanding the High Rise Bridge on Interstate 64.
With us today is Lieutenant Colonel John Drew, a Chesapeake resident and Deputy District Commander of the Army Corps of Engineers. Men like John Drew and his boss, Colonel Jason Kelly, have been instrumental in helping move the AIW Bridge forward, and they have my thanks.
I also want to express my appreciation to Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne and Jim Utterback, who is the regional administrator for Virginia's Department of Transportation. Together, they have been extraordinarily supportive of our efforts to build new bridges to the future.
Regarding the High Rise Bridge, last Thursday the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission gave the green light to a series of critically important projects. One of them was the High Rise, where $600 million has been committed to complete phase one by 2020.
We would not be here today except for the indefatigable work of Neal Crawford, who has served Hampton Roads as chair of the Accountability Commission's Funding Strategies Advisory Committee.
Neal Crawford's committee devised a fiscally-constrained plan. Without it, we would still be searching and talking. Instead, we are building.
All along, Delegate Chris Jones, who serves Chesapeake and our Commonwealth as chair of the House Appropriations Committee, has been leading us through the financial wilderness.
Our friend from Suffolk is actually the unsung hero in this little story. It was he who was instrumental in the creation of the accountability commission and insisted that we - Hampton Roads - be fair and equitable in all things.
For my part, I also want to mention a man who has played Chesapeake's Felix to my Oscar.
His name is Earl Sorey, who serves as Chesapeake's Assistant Director of Public Works. Earl is an engineer who likes precision. Earl likes plans that make sense. Earl likes numbers that add up.
I, on the other hand, am not an engineer. . . but together, we have become Chesapeake's Odd Couple when it comes to building bridges.
And when they are done - when the ceremonial ribbons are finally cut - Chesapeake will have created even more opportunities for success.
Quite obviously, Chesapeake is on the move, and we're just getting started.
The burning question, though, is why? What is it about Chesapeake that makes us unique?
- Could it be that we're the 10th hardest-working city in America?
- That we're one of America's 10 best-managed cities?
- That our bond ratings are the envy of many?
- That we're one of America's 50 best cities for a business environment?
Of course. Every one of those things matters. A lot.
But here's what we also know: companies trust us.
Oceaneering International could have built a brand-new 150,000 square foot facility anywhere, but they chose Chesapeake because we worked hard to bring them here, and we kept our word.
Marlyn Development from Virginia Beach is one of our premier builders of senior communities, and they're known for the accuracy of their market assessments.
In short, when Marlyn invests, it's a safe bet that it's a sound business decision.
Some may have heard a bit about it, but Marlyn is moving ahead with a $17 to $18 million project that will bring one large rooftop and many new faces with money to spend in Western Branch.
And why? Because they trust that Chesapeake, this mayor and this city council are going to do the right thing by them and a community I hope they will soon call home.
Another little company that's made the right move is Amazon, and they've obviously begun making same-day deliveries in Hampton Roads.
Given that a one or two hour guarantee is on the line, Amazon chose Chesapeake as one of its homes to roll out its newest offering.
And look! It's a book about a guy who chose Chesapeake!
We are, after all, a transportation hub for all of Hampton Roads, and picking Greenbrier makes good sense.
With us today are Paul Bouchard, Amazon's area manager, and Sarah Magee, the company's operations manager.
They and Amazon are here in Chesapeake because a guy named Jeff Bezos had a simple vision: that Amazon would never, ever realize its potential unless it planned for the long term.
As business men and women, as entrepreneurs or investors, you may easily grasp the Bezos vision. You may also see just numbers, and I understand that, too.
But I see opportunities. I see the human potential Chesapeake must have to grow and prosper, but also the very human need to help and give back. And what they value and their vision for Chesapeake is no less important.
Two men who exemplify that are Officer Bill Warren and Sergeant Chase Higginbotham. Bill Warren is a school resource officer responsible for keeping our kids and teachers safe. Chase is a deputy sheriff who is also responsible for keeping us safe in a different way, and both have found important ways to give back.
Chase founded and organized a Benefit Field Trial in Elizabeth City eight years ago to raise money for Special Olympics of Virginia, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and other local youth charities in Chesapeake.
So far he has raised over $60,000 and expects this year's event to raise close to $13,000.
Chase does all of the fundraising on his own time, and there is no doubt he's making a positive impact in our community.
When he served at Indian River Middle School, Bill Warren would walk the halls looking for kids who might need a watchful eye, but also for those to encourage.
But sometimes, encouragement needs to come in other forms.
Each year, too many children head back to school who may be eager to learn but don't have the tools they need to begin. . . and that's where Chief Kelvin Wright and so many other others stepped up.
In the first year, Chief Wright and his posse raised enough money to buy backpacks and fill them with school supplies for 100 kids aged 10 to 14.
In 30 minutes, they were gone.
The next year, they filled 200 backpacks. In 15 minutes, everything was gone.
Then they raised the ante to 300, and the same thing happened. And last year, the people who stand between us and danger in Deep Creek and South Norfolk gave away 400 backpacks.
Now imagine how those who give and those who receive feel when a child looks up to a man or women dressed in blue and says, "thank you."
Imagine that, and then let's do the same for every officer in the room.
20 years ago last Friday, two men entered a burning building on Indian River Road.
20 years ago last Friday, John Hudgins Jr. and Frank Young died serving Chesapeake, even as they told fellow firefighters - firefighters trained to help one another - to keep back.
Their deaths were the first in Chesapeake's history, and the tragic circumstances surrounding that fateful day have obviously been taken to heart. Equipment and procedures have been changed dramatically, and no other lives have been lost.
But what hasn't changed has been an abundance of courage in the face of challenges that would test an ordinary man or woman.
Late this past January, a deputy fire marshal named Billy Brown was at Fire Station 2 in Portlock when the call came that a house was on fire and someone might be trapped inside.
Although Billy Brown had not been an active firefighter since 1997, he quickly responded and was the first unit on scene.
What he encountered was a fire out of control, a life in danger, and a choice.
With no gear - not even a flashlight - Billy Brown was greeted at the front door with heavy smoke, poor visibility, a fire raging out of control, and seconds to act.
At great personal risk, Billy Brown found a woman lying on a mattress and dragged her from the room and down a hall to the front door.
Despite Billy Brown's efforts to rescue and resuscitate the unfortunate woman, she died at the scene.
Even so, nothing - absolutely nothing - can diminish Billy Brown's dedication to us and his willingness to put his life at risk to save another.
Today, Deputy Fire Marshal Billy Brown is with us, wearing the fire department's Medal of Honor, and I hope you will join me to thank him for his bravery and dedication to a profession that calls on the best.
Teachers are also givers of the first order. In Chesapeake, we ask them to be responsible for the educational wellbeing of almost 39,000 children. . . and they have risen to the occasion.
Thanks to their focus and dedication, every single school in Chesapeake is accredited. At over 93 percent, our on-time graduation rate is the highest in Hampton Roads and the drop-out rate is one of the lowest.
In short, kids in Chesapeake leave school a rung up on the educational ladder when it comes to learning, and that translates into more opportunities for success.
Obviously, there are many standouts among the almost 6,000 people who keep Chesapeake's schools open and running.
There's Bob Small, who's been recognized as a School Meals Hero by ConAgra Foods.
There's Donna Weingand, who was named the 2016 outstanding secondary school assistant principal by her peers.
There's Greenbrier Intermediate and the Deep Creek High School Science and Medicine Academy, both cited for their accomplishments.
And then there's Amber Dortch.
Amber began her career teaching Spanish at Indian River High School. In due course, she became an assistant principal there and in 2013, was asked to lead Hugo A. Owens Middle School in Deep Creek.
Needless to say, her enthusiasm is contagious, and her dedication is unquestioned.
In 2014, teachers came to school after a torrential rainstorm flooded parts of Hugh Owens Middle to find Amber Dortch mopping up water. In a business suit and dress shoes.
In the words of teacher Kim Turner, "she is a champion for our children every single day."
Amber will be the first to tell you she didn't do it alone, but test scores in all four of the SOL core areas have risen.
Hugo Owens Middle is fully accredited, and Dr. Owens would be bursting with pride at what's been achieved in a school that honors his legacy of hard work and commitment.
For her efforts and unstinting dedication, Amber Dortch is one of just 40 teachers and principals throughout America to receive the prestigious 2015-2016 Milken Educator Award.
She is a product of a great school and now she leads one, and I hope you will let Amber Dortch know how proud we are of her and her very special Hugo Owens Mustangs.
I have always said that the hallmark of a great community is the strength of its schools, but it helps that we live in a place that values learning.
In Chesapeake, our libraries have become magnets for just that. And if you doubt their importance, consider that over 70 percent of people who live in Chesapeake have a library card.
If you're counting, that's almost 164,000 library cards in circulation, and it's a remarkable tribute not just to the people who visit a library, but also to the 184 employees who keep track of over 500,000 resources and are always ready to help.
I've already mentioned veterans and how important they are to our community.
In terms of numbers, Chesapeake is home to one of the most active community colleges in the country when it comes to services and educational opportunities for veterans, and now we have a new VA clinic in Chesapeake.
Understandably, there are those whose needs are greater. For those veterans, soon they will be able to turn to a place called Cypress Landing, where they will find the safe haven we owe them for their service to us.
And then there are men like Edward Vincek.
In 1943, an 18-year-old boy walked into a Marine Corps recruiting station, signed up and took an oath to protect and defend our country against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Two years later, a farm boy from Saratoga, New York found himself halfway around the world on LST 634, one of about 70,000 Marines waiting to invade an eight square mile island called Iwo Jima.
After 36 days of hellish fighting - where 7,000 Marines were killed and another 20,000 wounded -Eddie Vincek was one the few able to leave Iwo Jima carrying his own gear.
In short order, Corporal Vincek found himself stationed back in Tidewater, where promptly fell in love with a girl from Norfolk County named Mary.
But Mary knew her own mind: I'll marry you, she said, but I'm not going to live in New York where it's cold. So here they are today - 70 years later - happily married and living in Chesapeake.
But besides a war bringing him to Mary's doorstep, Eddie Vincek is very clear that service in defense of others gave him a different perspective on life.
Eddie Vincek's vision calls for him to give back. And to this very day, he still does.
Eddie has been an active member of St. Mary's Catholic Church for 66 years. He is the only charter member of the Grassfield Ruritan Club still alive, and never hesitates to volunteer.
Each month, he and Mary also deliver Meals on Wheels to those in need who - in Eddie's words - may not have anyone else to check on them or offer a caring ear.
And when the Red Cross calls, he answers. In his lifetime, Eddie Vincek has given 126 units of blood, and he remains a regular donor.
To me, Eddie Vincek is a man who - at the tender age of 91 - still sees a need and stands ready to fill it.
My guess is that Eddie Vincek and his wife would just as soon be eating lunch at the Lawrence Pharmacy in Deep Creek. Instead, I am grateful they are here, and hope you will join me to thank them for their service to our city.
Across town, a woman named Nischelle Buffalow has also stepped up to help others.
For the past six years, the Buffalow family has held what amounts to a Thanksgiving open house on B Street.
There's food, of course, and lots of it, and if you need clothes, you'll find that, too.
It's an amazing effort and unless you see it for yourself, it's hard to imagine how it can possibly work. But year after year, Nischelle Buffalow has put smiles on faces.
Last year, Nischelle took outreach to a higher level with an equally successful Warm and Fuzzy Coats and Socks drive to help clothe 100 kids in South Norfolk.
In Western Branch, Dave and Jane Daulton have opened their hearts and their front door to children born with Down Syndrome.
It started when their son, Tommy, was diagnosed in 1984 and led them on a journey to seek out and adopt children with Down Syndrome.
Today, nine children from throughout the world call the Daulton home theirs, where in Jane Daulton's words, they have been able to grow and blossom.
Dave is overseas working for Father's Heart, a non-profit dedicated to helping orphans and homeless children, but with us are Emily, Marina Joy, Molly, Anya, Ben, Philip, Tommy, Jack, Laney and Jane Daulton.
Neither Nischelle nor the Daultons spend time looking for recognition but they deserve it, and I hope they will all stand to accept ours.
The point, I think, is that what may draw us here is a celebration of our business successes, it's just as important to recognize those who contribute in other ways to the fabric of Chesapeake.
They've turned stumbling blocks into stepping-stones.
They've worked to offer hope.
They've worked to build trust.
And they did it because they believed in a place called Chesapeake.
For whatever reason, they were compelled to help write a new chapter for our city.
And thankfully for us, they did.
But believe me when I say there was a time when I thought Chesapeake's story and the state of our vibrant city would not end well.
In 2008, in the depths of the Great Recession, it might have been easier as mayor to say no. But we didn't.
Instead, we came together to focus on the basics: Make sure our schools are among the best. Keep our city safe. Get our fiscal house in order, and keep it that way.
That simple plan has catapulted Chesapeake to a new level and created new perspectives, but it's also forced us to make tough choices today that will pay dividends far into the future.
Some, of course, will say Chesapeake has been timid. That we're afraid to take chances. That we're risk-averse. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Time and again, Chesapeake has demonstrated that, to paraphrase Jeff Bezos, we should always start with those who call Chesapeake home and work backwards.
If we think long term, we can do things that we couldn't otherwise dream of or accomplish.
When it came to eBuild - our new on-line system that allows true digital access to 86 permitting and planning processes - we said we believe it's worth it and invested in Chesapeake's future.
eBuild has been a collaborative effort that's brought together a group with different perspectives, but it's worked.
Commissioner of the Revenue Ray Conner and Treasurer Barbara Carraway have come together at a virtual table with staff from throughout the city to create a completely new model.
Our investment in eBuild may have seemed steep to some, but no other community has done as much, and it's paying dividends.
All along, our go-to guy on this has been Peter Wallace.
This year, Peter is serving as president of the Metropolitan Information eXchange, which grew out of a symposium sponsored in 1966 by IBM.
This may sound awfully nerdy, but it's a big deal because membership is limited to just 65 people who have been carefully chosen by their peers, and one is Peter Wallace.
Peter also heads our information technology group and he has my thanks for making sure we didn't rush in, that we didn't over-promise and under-perform, and that I could keep my word when I said that 24/7, Chesapeake would be open for business.
In just two months, 37 percent of Chesapeake's requests for permits have come through eBuild, more than $393,000 have been collected, over 1,200 inspection requests have been filed online, and we've making life easier and simpler for people to do business.
It's a new model, and it's working.
And who would dare argue with Dr. Nancy Welch when she said we can do more to make Chesapeake a healthy city? Not me, which is why we are matching expectations and setting a high bar to do more.
No city is immune from health-related conditions that continue to test us, which is why I am excited for the opportunity to support Healthy Chesapeake, a new community-based non-profit organization.
Our community's health - your health - is vitally important to Chesapeake, and it's up to everyone to embrace healthy lifestyle choices.
For myself, I know how hard it can be, but I also know the attention we pay to what we eat, how we exercise and how we live matters.
To help address those needs, Healthy Chesapeake is a finalist for a Robert Wood Johnson Fellowship grant to develop successful strategic plans to establish a multigenerational aquatic and life skills center as an expansion of the Clarence Cuffee Center in South Norfolk.
Healthy Chesapeake envisions an Olympic-sized pool available to school teams, a place to teach swimming safety, and a pool for therapeutic and recreational use.
It will also include space for Dr. Welch's health department, and a wide array of services - everything from community gardens to tutoring and senior and child day care - all designed to revitalize a community and Chesapeake.
These may sound like out-of-the-world plans, but Healthy Chesapeake and Nancy Welch truly believe this vision is within our community's reach and will mark us as a leader when it comes to supporting healthy lifestyles and a much more vibrant community. It has this mayor's support and I hope it will have yours.
In the same way, we need to redouble our efforts to support and expand Chesapeake's system for parks and recreation. Years ago we made the promise, and now it's time to keep it.
Will it be expensive?
Of course, and some may think it frivolous. But in the long run - and knowing that recreation plays a major role in how we define the quality of our lives - the price tag and the time it will take to build a regional parks system will be worth it.
And whether it's about building a new bridge or a new park, the bottom line is that we have never been in the business of picking winners or creating losers.
Instead, Chesapeake is about creating opportunities for everyone to grow and prosper, and building platforms for success that have made us a community of choice for families and companies alike.
Oddly enough, one of our greatest strengths may also be our stubbornness and a determination not to forget our past, but learn from it.
In that sense, our next great challenge will be to stay true to our roots and diversity as we plan for tomorrow.
While no one knows who the author may be, a line from chapter 13 of Hebrews may say it all: " For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come."
That is our focus. That is our vision.
And with God's blessings, it will come true.