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14 March, 2011 - 23:00 By Staff Reporter

A guide to exporting to Virginia in the US

Washington Dulles Airport

Combine streamlined business regulations and fair corporate taxes.

Mix it with state-supported workforce training, export assistance and a strong work ethic. Top it off with a world-class port, international airport and unparalleled quality of life. You have Virginia.

Since its discovery 400 years ago, the Commonwealth continues to pioneer innovation, launching contemporary programs that bolster economic development approaches for the 21st century.

Just ask, which for four consecutive years has ranked Virginia the “Best State for Business.” The ranking examined all 50 states’ business costs, economic climate, growth prospects, labor, quality of life and regulatory environment.

Virginia also took top billing as CNBC’s “Top State for Business” in 2007 and 2009, and was labeled “America’s Most Business-Friendly State,” by Pollina Corporate Real Estate, Inc. in 2007 and 2009. Pollina is a top U.S. corporate site relocation expert.

Add to the trophy case such accolades as top-performing state government in America (Governing Magazine 2008) and the state where “a child is most likely to have a successful life” (Education Week 2007), and you’ll discover a great state in which to live, play, and do business.

Virginia’s leadership position can be attributed to a variety of factors, including a pro-business environment that offers lower operating costs and the benefit of connecting to the world economy unlike any other state. Companies enjoy a stable 6 percent corporate income tax that hasn’t increased since 1972, property tax exemptions and one of the lowest combined state/local/use taxes at 5 percent.

Virginia is headquarters to 32 Fortune 1000 firms and more than 800 companies from 45 countries call Virginia home. In addition to the Commonwealth’s pro-business environment, Virginia offers an exceptional infrastructure, strong education system, dynamic workforce, and strategic location (two- thirds of all U.S. consumers live within 1,200 kilometers of Virginia) —all of which provide a solid foundation for growth and make the Commonwealth a great place for global enterprise. Virginia possesses the qualities that corporate decision-makers everywhere are seeking in today’s global environment.

As home to both the Port of Virginia and Washington Dulles International Airport, the Commonwealth provides unparalleled access to the world economy. One of the largest ports on the East Coast, The Port of Virginia is the only East Coast port that provides 50-foot channels. And, unlike other U.S. ports, the Port of Virginia has room to expand. In fact, expansion is underway right now with the addition of a new marine cargo terminal that will handle more than twice as much cargo as currently moves through the Port. The $2.2 billion project is slated to open in 2017.

Fourteen airports serve Virginia, including Washington Dulles International Airport, another international gateway in Virginia that provides non-stop flights to any continent in the world. Like the Port, Dulles is undergoing significant development, including international scheduled freighter service and new air services to Beijing; Qatar; Kuwait; Tokyo; and Dublin.

Another important advantage is the Commonwealth’s rail network. Virginia is fortunate to have a strong rail line across the state that plays an integral role in its success. The Commonwealth is working with rail partner Norfolk Southern to create a new lane of travel, called the Heartland Corridor, which will assist companies in moving their product from the Port to the Midwest in just two days—the same amount of time it takes from New York and New Jersey.

Virginia's highway system features more than 70,000 miles of interstate, primary and secondary roads, including six major interstate routes: I-95, I-85, I-81, I-77, I-66 and I-64.

Access is key for any successful business—including access to key decision-makers, diplomats and the international community. Virginia’s close proximity to our nation’s capital affords Virginia businesses that access, which the Commonwealth also uses to leverage its global strategy.

Virginia understands and embraces globalism as an economic strategy. Many Virginia companies are involved in international trade. If they’re not, Virginia provides export assistance through its Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s Accessing International Markets and Virginia Leaders in Export Trade programs to demonstrate how crucial the world economy is to their success.

Virginia offers six foreign trade zones designed to encourage businesses to participate in international trade by effectively eliminating or reducing customs duties. Also, numerous subzones are provided and additional ones can be designated to enhance the trade capabilities of specific companies.

Virginia’s total exports reached nearly $19 billion of merchandise in 2008, a 12 percent increase over 2007. This volume qualifies Virginia as the 23rd largest exporting state. Virginia exports include manufactured goods, machinery, coal, and tobacco, while service exports include management, transportation and warehousing, professional and technical, and education industries.

Virginia’s manufacturing base continues to be strong, producing everything from steel beams, wood flooring and trucks to semiconductors, robots and rocket engines. As the birthplace of the Internet and one of the leading centers of software development, Virginia's high-technology economy continues to expand. And as one of four U.S. states currently licensed and capable of launching communications satellites and other commercial payloads into space, Virginia has all the right assets to continue our economic leadership throughout the 21st century.

But innovation and productivity cannot happen without education and a strong work ethic. Virginia’s workforce is one of its greatest assets. Virginia ranks among the top 10 states best positioned for robust growth and innovation over the next decade, in terms of being knowledge-based, globalized, entrepreneurial, IT-driven, and innovation-based, according to the "2008 State New Economy Index” published by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. In addition to customized recruiting and training services through a partnership between the Virginia Department of Business Assistance and the Virginia Community College System, which operates 23 colleges throughout the state, Virginia businesses also have access to a wealth of knowledge capital thanks to a strong partnership with the many internationally recognized research and development (R&D) facilities in the Commonwealth. Federally funded R&D facilities, coupled with the research from Virginia universities, provide Virginia businesses access to leading researchers and cutting-edge technology. From the automotive industry to medical research to the next generation of high technology, these research facilities have something to offer every industry sector.

Twenty-nine federal R&D functions are located in Virginia, including 15 Department of Defense research centers, the new Homeland Security Institute, NASA Langley Research Center, and DOE’s unique Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. More than 200 private sector R&D facilities are also located in Virginia.

Virginia is a right-to-work state. At 5 percent, the Commonwealth has the second lowest unionization rate in the country and one of the lowest unionization rates in the private sector at 2.50 percent. At nearly 5.2 million and growing faster than the national average, the Commonwealth’s prime working population, ages 16-64, ranks 6th in the nation.  On average, more than 18,000 military personnel separate from the armed services in Virginia annually, adding a skilled, disciplined supply of potential recruits to the state’s labor supply.

One of the highest concentrations of doctoral scientists and engineers in the nation are employed in Virginia, and more than 500,000 students are enrolled in more than 90 in-state institutions of higher education.

Don’t take our word for it. In the past few years, companies such as Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen have discovered the benefits of doing business in Virginia. In September 2007, Volkswagen of America, Inc. announced plans to invest more than $100 million to relocate its U.S. corporate headquarters to Virginia. The new facility serves as the U.S. headquarters for Volkswagen of America, Inc., and includes the U.S. headquarters for Audi of America, Inc., Audi Financial Services, Volkswagen Credit and other affiliated operations.

“This move is part of our company’s new corporate strategy, of connecting even more closely with our customers, and encouraging fresh ideas and bold thinking,” said Stefan Jacoby, CEO of Volkswagen of America. “Virginia’s workforce and business culture are in line with that strategy and its location is convenient to vitally important markets for all our brands. We are excited to become part of the Virginia community.”

A month later in November 2007, Rolls-Royce announced an investment of $100 million to build a state-of-the-art aeroengine facility in Virginia. Over time, the company plans to invest up to $500 million to support future advanced manufacturing as opportunities arise for its defense and civil aerospace businesses.

“From the beginning of this competition, Virginia understood our business needs and worked hard to put forward a world-class proposal,” said Sir John Rose, Rolls-Royce Chief Executive. “Rolls-Royce has had a strong relationship with Virginia since 1990, and this new facility builds on that partnership.”

For more information about how your business will succeed in Virginia, contact the Virginia Economic Development Partnership at (804) 545-5700 or visit

Virginia’s Leading Industry SectorsVirginia enjoys a multitude of assets that provide the environment and resources that companies seek in order to succeed. The advanced manufacturing, information technology, energy, and life sciences sectors are particularly strong and growing business clusters in which Virginia possesses competitive advantage.

Manufacturing remains a bedrock component of the U.S. and Virginia economy. Although it is not the dominant employer it was a generation ago, manufacturing drives technology, productivity, and innovation across all industry sectors. Within Virginia, some 265,000 workers are employed in the manufacturing sector at leading manufacturing companies such as Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, DuPont, Stihl, IKEA and AREVA.

As for information technology (IT), Virginia currently enjoys national and international acclaim in the areas of  IT systems development, software development, data center operations, and telecommunications. About 147,300 workers are employed in Virginia’s IT sector. In 2008, IT accounted for 4 percent of total employment in Virginia, compared to 1.5 percent for the U.S.Virginia’s close proximity to the federal government’s activities, coupled with Virginia’s pro-business climate, has helped forge Virginia’s technology industry dominance. It is also why CSC and SAIC recently moved their headquarters to Virginia. In fact, every major federal government civilian and defense contractor has a substantial presence in Virginia.

Basic infrastructure assets for the IT sector are also a strong attribute for Virginia: more than half of the world’s daily Internet traffic flows through the Commonwealth; communications infrastructure has the capacity, security and quality to meet industry needs; and Virginia has the 8th lowest electricity cost in the nation with multiple energy providers that can guarantee abundant, quality power. No other state has this combination of assets.

Virginia’s energy industry covers traditional sectors such as power generation and mining, as well as emerging areas like smart grid technology and renewable fuels.  The economic output of Virginia’s energy industry is $16 billion. Energy supports an additional $7 billion in economic activity in Virginia.

Virginia is home to 384 energy companies with 618 locations. The top sectors for companies in Virginia’s energy industry are fossil fuel (192), traditional power generation (91), mining equipment (30) and renewable energy (27). These four sectors comprise 88 percent of Virginia’s energy companies.

The energy industry employs more than 30,000 workers in Virginia.

Virginia has a unique and competitive, balanced portfolio of public- and private-sector assets to offer. In addition to the presence of energy industry leaders such as AREVA, Babcock & Wilcox, Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, and Alpha Natural Resources, which is the third largest coal producer in America, the Commonwealth holds a geographic position as one of the most compelling locations for development of offshore wind as a generation source (and as the center of all of the supply chain components) for the eastern seaboard, and significant biomass resources across southern and western Virginia for commercializing new energy products and services.

Energy-focused education and training programs are also strong in Virginia. Provided by the Virginia Community College System, curricula include wind turbine service technicians, engineering technology, industrial electronics, mining technology and welding.Life sciences is another growing industry sector in Virginia. In 2008, the life sciences industry accounted for 1,195 firms in Virginia, including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Merck, Wyeth Consumer Healthcare (Pfizer), and Covance Laboratories.According to the National Science Foundation, nearly 20,000 doctoral scientists and engineers are employed in Virginia—the tenth largest concentration in the nation. In terms of employment, in 2008, the life sciences industry accounted for more than 28,500 jobs in Virginia. The research and testing subsector clearly comprises the largest share of life sciences overall employment at 41 percent. In second place is pharmaceuticals, which makes up 27 percent (7,693 jobs) of the industry’s employment, followed by medical laboratories at 18 percent (5,238 jobs), and finally, medical devices and equipment at 14 percent, or 3,964 jobs.

The economic output of Virginia’s life sciences industry is $6.7 billion.  Life sciences supports an additional $4.5 billion in economic activity in Virginia.

Easy Access to Domestic and Global MarketsVirginia offers unparalleled transportation opportunities to move companies’ people and products anywhere in the world with ease. Centrally located on the U.S. East Coast, Virginia’s  integrated transportation system of highways, railroads, airports and seaports ensures that its corporate community can reach every one of its markets and get shipments from suppliers more efficiently.

By land, 14 railroads operate on more than 3,400 miles of railway in Virginia, of which more than 3,100 miles are Class I. Two of the nation's largest railroads operate in Virginia: CSX Corporation and Norfolk Southern Corporation, which is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. The Commonwealth is working with Norfolk Southern to create the Heartland Corridor, a new rail line that will assist companies in moving their product from the Port to the Midwest in just two days—the same amount of time it takes from New York and New Jersey.

The Commonwealth's highway system features more than 70,000 miles of interstate, primary and secondary roads, including six major interstate routes: I-95, I-85, I-81, I-77, I-66 and I-64.

In terms of air travel, 14 commercial airports serve Virginia, including two of the nation's busiest: Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National. Dulles provides non-stop flights to any continent in the world.

By sea, the Port of Virginia offers world-class shipping facilities and a schedule of about 3,000 sailings annually to more than 250 ports in 100 foreign countries. The port, offering one of the largest intermodal networks on the East Coast, handled 2 million TEUs (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) in 2008, and moved more than 31 percent of its total business by rail. Due to natural harbor depth and Suez-class cranes, the Port of Virginia is the only East Coast location capable of handling post-Panamax vessels as first port of call. The Commonwealth also is home to the Virginia Inland Port in Front Royal, Virginia, an intermodal collection point for containers from West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia and elsewhere. The Port of Richmond is another central multi-modal freight and distribution center located on the James River, adjacent to I-95, offering weekly container service to northern Europe and the United Kingdom, and bi-monthly container/refrigerated container service to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Iceland.

How We Help Businesses Help ThemselvesThe Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), Virginia’s economic development marketing arm, understands the complicated demands of the site selection process and offers years of experience to help companies make the most informed decisions in a streamlined and timely manner.

VEDP will assign an experienced business development manager or international investment manager to guide clients through the process and provide access and information to statewide programs, partners and resources. VEDP divides its business development efforts into two markets—domestic and international. After an initial conversation to better understand the company’s needs, an assigned manager will prepare a summary of the most current market, economic and demographic information. He or she will also supply individually tailored research of suitable land and buildings, labor availability and other issues. The manager also will work with local utility companies and other business development partners on the company’s behalf to ensure an easy process. If necessary, he or she will coordinate with other government agencies, assisting with such matters as meeting environmental regulations or designing workforce training programs. Plus, VEDP employs experts in business development finance, technical services and research to help companies further streamline the selection process.

If companies wish to do a little site selection homework on their own, Virginia offers one of the country’s most technically advanced, online site selection search tools—VirginiaScan. VirginiaScan allows the user to search VEDP’s database of more than 1,800 qualified sites and buildings across the Commonwealth. In addition to site and building specifications, VirginiaScan enables the user to search for an ideal business location using Virginia workforce statistics, existing business data and a host of other information that is driving today’s business site-selection process.

Virginia also offers a variety of performance-based incentives ( that are designed to target the needs of companies and the development plans of communities and the Commonwealth. From tax credits to tax exemptions to workforce training, Virginia continues to demonstrate its willingness to invest in those who invest and reinvest in the Commonwealth.

Virginia Offers Unbeatable Quality of LifeVirginia offers an unparalleled quality of life. Home to about 7.8 million people, the Commonwealth boasts boundless outdoor and cultural activities and one of the nation's highest concentrations of historic resources, providing limitless opportunities for recreation and relaxation in Virginia.

Considered one of the most livable states in the nation, the Commonwealth is blessed with beautiful mountains, rivers and beaches and offers abundant outdoor opportunities in 34 state parks, 40 natural areas and 32 national parks. Virginia's highways and towns are filled with historic markers and attractions, including those at Colonial Williamsburg, the Jamestown Settlement, Yorktown National Battlefield Monument, Monticello, the National D-Day Memorial and numerous Civil War sites. Virginians also enjoy a wide array of cultural activities, through institutions such as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Chrysler Museum, the Virginia Opera and the Barter Theatre.

The Commonwealth is also proud to host more than 340 golf courses located throughout the state, many of which are consistently ranked as some of the best in the country by Golf Magazine and Golf Digest.

Virginia’s schools are good, too. Virginia’s schools exhibit excellence at all levels, from elementary and secondary schools to community colleges, universities, and graduate schools.

Just ask Newsweek, which in 2009 ranked 91 Virginia high schools among the best in the nation. Researchers at Editorial Projects in Education Inc. rated Virginia fourth in the nation in overall educational quality in the 2009 “Quality Counts” report. Virginia ranked higher than the U.S. average in the report that measured state education in several categories including academic achievement, school finance, and standards, assessments and accountability.

Public high schools in Virginia graduate about 82,000 students annually. More than 80 percent of these graduates will continue to a two- or four-year degree program or have other continuing education plans.

In 2008 the number of Virginia public school students taking the Advanced Placement (AP) exam continued to increase by 18 percent over the previous year and Virginia’s 11th and 12th graders at both, public and private institutions, are taking the fifth most AP exams in the nation.  Virginia has the third-most schools with International Baccalaureate programs in the United States, and with six military schools in the Commonwealth, Virginia has the largest concentration of military schools in the nation.

More than 590,000 middle school, high school, and adult students are enrolled in one or more Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses and programs in Virginia, and more than 500,000 students in Virginia are enrolled in its more than 90 in-state institutions of higher education. Virginia’s higher-education community is diverse, ranging from public universities to small private liberal arts colleges.

Virginia’s Knowledge BaseVirginia companies benefit from a wealth of internationally recognized research and development (R & D) facilities that operate in the Commonwealth. Federally funded R & D facilities, coupled with research from Virginia universities, provide Virginia businesses access to leading researchers and cutting-edge technology. From the automotive industry to medical research to the next generation of high technology, these research facilities have something to offer businesses across the industry spectrum.

Twenty-nine federal R&D functions are located in Virginia, including 15 Department of Defense research centers, the new Homeland Security Institute, NASA Langley Research Center, and DOE’s unique Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. More than 200 private-sector R&D facilities are also located in Virginia, as well as eight unique research parks that offer private companies opportunities for co-location and cooperative relationships with Virginia universities, federal labs, and other research consortium.

Four nationally prominent private, non-profit research institutes have established significant centers in Virginia in recent years: SRI’s Center for Advanced Drug Research in the Shenandoah Valley, The National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton; The Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Loudoun County; and Carilion Biomedical Institute in Roanoke.

More and more, companies seek the benefits of intellectual capital that Virginia's university communities offer. The educational attainment of a workforce, ability to provide an adequate supply of skilled talent, and access to research and technology strengths continue to be deciding factors in many site selection projects.

Virginia formed a University-Based Economic Development (UBED) group that provides companies with a point of contact at every public university, which facilitates easy access to public college and university resources. UBED's involvement in the Commonwealth’s economic development efforts ensures a direct collaboration between the university, businesses, non-profit organizations, and government.

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