Norfolk mayor announces expansion at State of the City
Fairfax-based military contractor WR Systems will expand its Norfolk campus, Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander announced at the city’s annual State of the City address on Thursday.
The Norfolk campus currently houses more than 320 employees and will add several hundred jobs, Alexander said.
“In making the decision, they shared that Norfolk’s position as a strategic military and coastal location are critical for their continued express,” Alexander told a crowd of about 900 people at Hilton Norfolk The Main.
Additional details were not available from the company Thursday.
At the annual event highlighting Norfolk’s economic development progress, Alexander talked about several ongoing initiatives but started his speech by noting the recent crime and violence in Hampton Roads, which poses a threat to the city’s tourism, with more than 200 homicides in the region in 2021 and a spate of fatal shootings over the past month.
“We will not tolerate crime in the city of Norfolk and Hampton Roads,” Alexander said. He quickly moved on to highlighting more positives from the year.
The mayor talked about the impact of the military, noting that 72 ships homeport in Norfolk, along with 35 aircraft squadrons and 90,000 active duty military members, which all contribute to nearly $25 billion in defense spending. He also mentioned previously announced multimillion expansions to local shipyards.
Alexander noted the city’s efforts to curb flooding and improve coastal resiliency and announced that the city learned last week that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have another $150 million in funding from President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law to support the Coast Storm Risk Management project in the city. In January, the city learned it would get $249 million in funding. The funding will be used for the design and construction of a multiphase coastal storm risk management project, that when completed, will help reduce and manage flooding for portions of the city. It will be done with storm barriers, natural and nature-based features, tidal gates, floodwalls, levees, pump stations and other measures. The total funding is now just under $400 million.
First announced earlier this week, Alexander noted the expansion of Norfolk-based Embody, a biotech company that will invest $5 million in a 10,000-square-foot expansion and 92 new jobs, mostly in research and development, manufacturing and sales and marketing positions. The company was started in 2014 and develops collagen-based technologies for soft tissue repair. The expansion will increase product research and development capabilities. “We’re going to continue to essentially scale our commercial operations, treat more patients, support more hospitals,” he said.
Alexander talked about the St. Paul’s area redevelopment project and plans developer Bruce Smith has to build 206 apartments with 4,200 square feet of commercial space and a new city parking garage on Bute Street. The project will replace three public housing neighborhoods downtown.
Alexander said the $500 million Headwaters Resort & Casino is set to break ground this summer and take two years to build. Another project on the horizon is CMA CGM Group’s $36 million expansion in Norfolk, creating 400 jobs.
In October 2021, Norfolk began work on its $2.6 million cruise ship gangway at the Half Moon Conference Center, which will accommodate larger cruise ships, Alexander said. Carnival cruises will start stopping in Norfolk again in May and Norwegian Cruise Lines has 25 ports of call planned. Another tourism accomplishment he noted: Breeze Airways plans to invest about $5 million in a Norfolk-based operations center and add new flights this summer. The airport employs about 17,000 and has a $2 billion economic impact, Alexander said. Another transportation project coming up includes the $3.7 billion passenger rail expansion, which will bring a third passenger train to Norfolk.
Meanwhile, the Patriotic Festival is moving to Norfolk this year for Memorial Day weekend and is expected to have a $23 million economic impact, Alexander noted.
The mayor also talked about the addition of MetroNet, which will bring new internet options to the city, a $90 million investment to build a 100% fiberoptic network that will be complete in the next few years. He also noted that Cox has $100 million of broadband network enhancements planned for the region and will start the planned work in Norfolk.
City officials are still reviewing three proposals for the redevelopment of Military Circle, a high-profile project that has superstar musician Pharrell Williams, NFL star Emmitt Smith and Gold Key | PHR CEO Bruce Thompson, among others, vying for the opportunity to build a multiuse development.