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Mission Statement:

To participate in the Economic revitalization and development of the City of Norfolk by marshalling the resources of the private sector in support of the City and its agencies.

Several years ago, GNC held a strategic planning retreat and identified three initiatives that continue to be our primary focus; establishment of a full-time, high quality career/technical high school in Norfolk; establishment of a regional Governors School for STEM and an effort to attract and retain young professionals we dubbed Brain Drain to Brain Gain. All three share a common denominator and that is they are all about talent and more specifically, developing, attracting and retaining talent.

While each of these initiatives remain a work in progress, I'm pleased to report that considerable progress has been made in advancing all three in the past year.


GNC's partnership with Norfolk Public Schools to establish a high quality, full-time Career/Technical High School in Norfolk grew out of recognition that too many students across the country and here in Norfolk are losing interest in education and not graduating on time or at all. In addition, many who do graduate lack the skills and work ethic needed for many jobs that pay a middle-class wage. A high quality, full-time Career/Technical High School blends rigorous academic studies with equally demanding career/technical education studies and creates career pathways and programs of study designed to help students apply academic knowledge and skills to current and projected employment. The Norfolk School Board voted in April to build a new Career/Technical High School in Norfolk on the site of the current Lake Taylor High School and GNC, under the leadership of Tommy Johnson, continues to lead the private sector support effort that is critical to its' success.

I think it's appropriate to pause and acknowledge how far this initiative has come. It started with an idea at our retreat three years ago and through great leadership from Tommy Johnson and Maurice Jones before he left for Washington, D.C.; considerable due diligence, including multiple site visits to successful models, most notably Worcester Technical High School in Worcester, Mass. and the active engagement of major employers like Newport News Shipbuilding, has blossomed into something that we believe can be a game changer for Norfolk and a model for the region and the Commonwealth. Funding remains a challenge, but this is simply too important to the future of our City not to find a way to make it happen.


As important as it is to ensure that we develop a qualified talent pool to fill jobs at companies already here in our city and the region, it will not by itself be enough. Our region's future depends on successfully competing with regions throughout the country and the world in fostering innovative new enterprises, where most job growth happens. We've got to develop the innovators and highly skilled entrepreneurs that start new businesses and new jobs that will compensate for DOD cutbacks, which is why we believe establishment of a Governor's School for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, modeled after the hugely successful Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Northern Virginia but with a greater emphasis on engineering, innovation and entrepreneurship, is so critical.

Under the leadership of Chuck McPhillips, the list of private sector and community leaders that have endorsed the initiative and pledged their support continues to grow. We believe that the potential synergies and economies of scale of ultimately co-locating the Governor's School for Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the Career/Technical High School at Lake Taylor have considerable merit and will continue to work towards that outcome in the coming year.


Our Brain Gain initiative, whose goal is to attract and retain young talent for Norfolk and the region, continues to be led by Shurl Montgomery and a cadre of dedicated young professionals. With the assistance of the ODU Social Science Research Center, we conducted a survey of young professionals in the spring of 2011 to better understand the perceptions and expectations of young professionals regarding Norfolk and the region and to help inform an action agenda to help us attract and retain young professionals.

An overwhelming majority of respondents identified solving congestion, particularly between the Southside and the Peninsula, as either important or extremely important. Solving congestion takes funding - lots of it. The General Assembly's historic, bipartisan passage this spring of a comprehensive transportation funding bill provides a huge down payment on the revenue necessary to provide and maintain the transportation infrastructure that is so vital to our economy and quality of life.

An overwhelming majority of survey respondents also indicated support for passenger rail service from Norfolk to D.C. and for expanding light rail to the Virginia Beach Town Center and oceanfront, as well as adding bike lanes and bike paths to make biking a more viable transportation option. GNC continues to actively support regional efforts in support of passenger rail; efforts that recently culminated in the establishment of passenger rail service from Norfolk to D.C. and beyond, as well as a dedicated funding source for Virginia's Intercity Passenger Rail Operating and Capital Fund (IPROC) that will ensure that that service not only continues but grows in the future. We also continue to actively support and advocate for the Patriots Crossing and the Elizabeth River Trail, as well as for adding bike lanes and additional bike paths in Norfolk, and to look for opportunities to partner with our counterpart organizations in support of regional trails.

Respondents to the survey also ranked what they believed should be the top priorities for Hampton Roads to become a magnet that attracts young, creative, entrepreneurial people and retains talented college graduates and personnel leaving military service. In addition to fixing the area's transportation problems, expanding the types of jobs available in Norfolk and the region and increasing support for entrepreneurs and people who want to start new businesses were all highly ranked. This year, we assisted in facilitating the work of Councilwoman Terry Whibley's Small Business Task Force, which recommended an action agenda to support and build on the City's Smart Processing initiative, whose goal is to make Norfolk more small business friendly and we continued to support efforts to grow Norfolk's and the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem, including most notably HATCH, the mentor based accelerator for high growth companies. We've also begun to explore the potential for a Norfolk Accelerator/Innovation District. And finally, we have recently elected several young entrepreneurs to the GNC Board and will continue to add to those numbers in the coming months.

In closing, Norfolk and the region is at an economic crossroads. Because Hampton Roads lags behind the rest of Virginia in business startups, our local economy has grown at a steady but relatively anemic 2 percent a year since 1970, feeding on a relatively consistent diet of Department of Defense spending. But with or without sequestration, defense spending is going down. In addition, key local industries such as the ship repair/shipbuilding industry are having a difficult time finding qualified men and women to fill the growing number of positions that are opening up due to an aging workforce.

Clearly, there is an urgent need for a regional catch-up strategy; a strategy that will ensure that the companies already here in the region have the qualified people they need to prosper and grow AND that we develop, attract and retain the highly skilled innovators and entrepreneurs who will create the new high-tech products that will spawn new companies and new jobs and in so doing, grow our economy, which is why it's so important that we continue to focus on these three initiatives. All three are potential game changers for Norfolk and the region and with your continued support and help in the coming year, we can make them a reality.

Brain Drain to Brain Gain:

Press Release
For Immediate Release
January 10, 2010
Media Contact: Barry Bishop

Brain Drain to Brain Gain Initiative of the Greater Norfolk Corporation brings over 125 business leaders together to support young professional retention and attraction

- Business leaders in Norfolk have launched a public initiative to make Norfolk and the region a magnet for talented young professionals.

“This is a great new initiative for the new year,” says Lisa Chandler, President of the Greater Norfolk Corporation. “The Brain Gain Task Force has done its homework and now is ready to roll out a survey to the region’s young professionals.”

The month of January has been proclaimed by Mayor Fraim as “Brain Gain Month” in the City of Norfolk. The survey will be available on the website through the end of January. Volunteers will be donning Brain T-shirts and making the rounds with iPads and business cards urging citizens to “Give us a piece of your MIND” by going online.

“Your feedback will drive a community action plan to make desired improvements that will attract and retain young professionals; in short to turn “brain drain” into Hampton Roads’ Gain” says Shurl Montgomery, chair of the Greater Norfolk Corporation’s Brain Gain Committee.

In addition to approximately twenty GNC leaders on the task force, young professionals have joined in to be represented in the efforts. A group of active and engaged young professionals graciously donated their time to organize and engage the community in an effort to develop the survey on brain drain. Additionally, Old Dominion University's Social Science Research Center is responsible for activating this survey and We Are Titan's are the host for this initiatives website.

The survey will provide data of what young professionals are looking for in work, lifestyle and amenities to increase the competitiveness of Hampton Roads to attract and retain these coveted individuals that are being courted by other cities.


Next Stop Norfolk:

The Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is working to increase access to passenger rail transportation to Virginia’s major population centers. Projections show that the Hampton Roads region will be one of the Commonwealth’s most populated regions by 2035. While Amtrak currently provides service to Newport News, no direct intercity passenger rail train service exists today to connect South Hampton Roads with Richmond, Washington, D.C. and points north.

DRPT is changing that. Using state Rail Enhancement funds, DRPT is working with Norfolk Southern, CSX and Amtrak to extend Richmond’s Amtrak Virginia regional service, which began in July 2010, to Norfolk. When complete, residents in and around Norfolk will have a one-seat ride from Norfolk as far north as Boston. The estimated start date for this new service is 2013.

This page will provide monthly progress updates as DRPT, NS, CSX and Amtrak work together to advance this project. Once infrastructure improvements are complete and service begins, information on the service will be found at

Project status as of January 2012

Project partners continue bi-weekly update meetings to advance the project in the most efficient manner possible.

Discussions continue regarding the Norfolk multi-modal station facility improvements and design to support the new service, The Tide light rail line, HRT Ferry, HRT Bus and Amtrak connector bus service. Partners involved in these discussions include DRPT, Amtrak, Norfolk Southern and the City of Norfolk and its consultants.

DRPT, Norfolk Southern and CSX continue to work together to coordinate work at the Petersburg Collier Connection project site.

CSX has submitted design plans of the Petersburg Collier Connection to DRPT for review and comment for the Norfolk Southern connector track. Internal DRPT review is complete, and the Agency is ready to issue s Notice To Proceed for construction.

All grading work on the Norfolk Southern segment of the Collier Connection is complete. Subbalast and ballast has been placed, and Norfolk Southern track work is close to completion. Final track elevation adjustments will be made upon completion of the CSX connection work.

Survey and design is underway for the Port Lock yard improvements.

Field surveys continue on the design of the 460 corridor signal and crossover improvements.

The Amtrak technical service agreement has been executed and work is underway on service design.

Construction for the Harbor Park passenger platform and track is underway. Most work on the passenger platform has been completed. The passenger platform track is in place and elevated to the platform grade. Actual platform concrete work is complete. Work is underway to finish work on the ramps leading to the platform. A final segment of this track is awaiting signal structure relocation by Norfolk Southern.

Construction continues on the Norfolk train turning and servicing facility. Major drainage and other utility work for the facility have been completed. Grading and site preparation for majority of the project is complete. New track has been laid on some segments of the turning and the servicing facilities. An employee building has been erected, and is ready for use.

Design for the Norfolk Southern running track between Walnut Hill and Poe is complete and the contract for construction has been awarded. Groundbreaking is now scheduled for middle of January. The City of Petersburg approved the sale of the right of way at the December 13, 2011 Council Meeting.

DRPT, Norfolk Southern and City of Petersburg are coordinating efforts to minimize impacts to vehicular traffic on Johnson Road during the new highway bridge construction. Two citizen information meetings have been held as part of the project community outreach.