The City of Virginia Beach found itself at an economic development crossroads in late 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic raged. Home to approximately 450,000 residents, the city boasts 38 miles of beachfront, four of the world’s fastest subsea cables, exceptional transportation infrastructure, and access to the third-largest container port on the East Coast. Virginia Beach also hosts two important US military installations (Naval Air Station Oceana and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story). Yet the once fast growing suburban-style community now faced a dwindling supply of developable real estate, flat population growth, and an urgent need to diversify beyond defense and tourism.
As the entity charged with growing the city’s tax base and expanding opportunities for residents, the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development (VBDED) sought a more focused and effective approach to guide its efforts. In January 2021, VBDED engaged TIP Strategies to develop an economic development strategic plan for the city. Over the course of eight months, the TIP team worked closely with VBDED and key stakeholders to identify promising opportunities to capitalize on the area’s strong economic base and considerable assets. The team also conducted a review of Virginia Beach’s commercial and industrial real estate market and developed a set of operational recommendations for product development and positioning. Finally, TIP examined the Hampton Roads region’s talent pipeline and how it aligns with the needs of current and future employers. The resulting strategic plan was built around four major goals: local business growth and entrepreneurship, domestic and international business development, sites and infrastructure, and talent and workforce. Informed by input from stakeholder engagement and economic assessments, the strategies and actions identified under each goal provided VBDED a roadmap to organize its programs and strengthen Virginia Beach’s economic vitality over the next five years.