Bringing International Business and Jobs to Greater Richmond

Richmond Grid

RVA continues to shine on the global economic stage, thanks in part to the behind-the-scenes efforts of the Greater Richmond Partnership, Inc. (GRP).

The GRP uses targeted marketing strategies and leading-edge marketing tools, like the award-winning RichmondWorldView.com, to augment the region’s historic reputation as a place for global trade.

“We were one of the first global business locations in the New World,” said Greg Wingfield, CEO and President of the GRP, referring to the Virginia Company landing at Jamestown in 1607. “We have been doing business globally for over 400 years.”

Attracting more international business to Greater Richmond has been a key goal of the GRP since its inception in 1994. To date they’ve helped locate more than 82 foreign-affiliated firms. Over 50 percent of the 235 prospective businesses the GRP is currently working to bring to Greater Richmond are internationally owned.

The GRP’s business attraction program, which includes trade missions, a Global Assistance Program and a robust network of contacts and partners here and around the world, has helped increase the number of international firms building a presence in Greater Richmond.

Recent additions to the region include Elephant Auto Insurance, a UK-owned company located in Henrico County, and Israeli-owned Sabra Dipping Co., located in Chesterfi eld County. Both are thriving here and continue to expand their operations. In addition, Morooka, a Japanese firm, recently announced its plans for their first U.S. Track Carrier manufacturing plant to be located in Hanover County.

In the City of Richmond, there are companies such as German-owned abakus solar AG who are proving why RVA was picked as the “Best Small American City of the Future” by Foreign Direct Investment (fDi) magazine. In total, there are more than 150 other internationally owned businesses located throughout Greater Richmond.

In pitching the region as an ideal place to do business, the GRP marketing team is charged with spreading the word about Virginia as a top state for business. They discuss the region’s moderate-cost of business, the positive legal environment, the ease of incorporating, its ideal location and access to market, quality of life, and the highly educated workforce.

“This is a smart community,” says Wingfield, noting that 31 percent of the region’s 650,000 workers have a four-year degree and another 22 percent have some college. “That gives you a very productive and educated workforce which is a key selling point.”

The GRP focuses on five key industry clusters: advanced manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, finance and insurance, as well as creative and professional services, and these require more workers with the requisite skills.

Wingfield sees a need for greater alignment in workforce strategy to continue attracting international businesses to the area, “While we have an educated workforce, we don’t have a long term strategy to educate for specific industry clusters. For me, that is the biggest challenge we have in the Richmond region.”

Within a six-month period between spring and fall of 2012, the marketing team will have promoted the region in the United Kingdom, Japan, China, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Canada and Brazil. Several of these trips are coordinated with the State’s economic development team and the region’s local economic development partners.

Unlike other communities of Greater Richmond’s size, the GRP maintains representatives in Cologne, Germany, and London to maintain the region’s visibility in Europe, even when the staff is working in Richmond. This presence allows the team to help qualify businesses interested in expanding their presence to the U.S. and develop relationships. The GRP also works to develop partnerships with European economic organizations to build a mutual network for business opportunities.

“You have to put in the time to develop and earn credibility in the market…The GRP has done that,” says Stephen Baril, an attorney with Sands Anderson and a recent Greater Richmond Partnership board member.

Baril had the opportunity to meet with several prospective businesses while in the UK with the GRP. He saw direct results when BGB Technology Inc. announced in June their plans to build a facility in Chesterfi eld County.

The UK firm, a manufacturer of electrical and optical slip ring assemblies for equipment like wind turbines, plans an initial investment of more than $2 million and 15 new hires.

Remarking on his UK trade mission experience, Baril said “One of the things that I came away with was a keen appreciation for the outstanding job that the GRP does in representing Greater Richmond abroad.”

Used by permission of Grid magazine