It was the middle of a heat wave when my fellow food and beverage colleagues and I got off the plane in Norfolk, Va. that July day. We’d been invited by the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance to see what the area had to offer food and beverage companies who might be considering new locations to set up shop.
When you land in Norfolk, one of the first things you notice is the presence of military personnel. With more than 85,000 uniformed military personnel calling the Hampton Roads region home, it’s clear that nearby Virginia Beach isn’t the only thing attracting people to the eastern region of the state.
When we were in town there was a heatwave rolling through but in between the more than 3,000 miles of shoreline and both the Alleghany and Blue Ridge mountain ranges, there are in fact four seasons, which makes for excellent conditions for the numerous food and beverage companies that call this region home.
All Roads Lead to Hampton
According to the Alliance, one in eight manufacturing jobs in Hampton Roads is in the food and beverage space. If you're considering looking into the region, one of the most important aspects to keep in mind (that also doubles as a great trivia question) is the name Hampton Roads isn't one town, but actually seven cities rolled into one region. Those cities include: Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton and Suffolk. These municipalities are in relatively close proximity, but are distinctly different.
Food Processing's 2018 Processor of the Year Smithfield Foods has its headquarters there, which we visited during this trip. High Liner Foods/Icelandic USA employs more than 500 people in the area as does Anheuser-Busch-InBev. Employing in the 300-400 people range, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters/Keurig, Kraft Heinz, and Unilver/Liption Tea all have plants in the area.
While the four-season climate isn’t unique to the region, what helps gives the area an edge over many of its coastal cousins is the aforementioned military presence. With slightly more than 85,000 uniformed personnel living in the area, 14,000 of which exit annually, the Hampton Roads region is a hotbed of opportunity for those who are exiting the military and re-entering civilian life.
As a military hub with above-average quality labor, competitive operating costs, and a below average wage rate, this region of Virginia seems to offer a competitive advantage over its inland counterparts.
During the visit, we toured the Virginia International Gateway (VIG) and saw rail mounted gantries (RMG) up close and in action. VIG is the first of the Port of Virginia's functional automated container terminals.
Aggressive Growth Through Materials Movement
What’s deep, docked, dredged, and includes a 750-mile radius from which 75% of the U.S. population lives? If you guessed the Port of Virginia, you’d be right.
Because of its location as well as its position as the only U.S. East Coast port with Congressional authorization to dredge to 55 feet, the Port of Virginia is a significant economic force, supporting both jobs and commerce across Virginia and the mid-Atlantic.
The Port of Virginia also boasts another impressive designation. The area is certified as a delivery point on the ICE Futures U.S. Coffee “C”® futures contract, making it the second largest coffee port on the U.S. East Coast. And the coffee industry is definitely aware of the perks of being in this region. Within the 25-mile ICE exchange port designated radius there are 11 coffee roasters as well as several exchange-certified warehouses.
Editor's note: I'll be covering the trip to Virginia over a series of blog posts and articles. Stay tuned to this website or be sure you are a Food Processing E-News Subscriber to keep up on new content.