Opportunity Zones to Spur Investment in Distressed Communities

The 2017 federal tax reform legislation created a new economic development tool that is designed to benefit distressed communities. The provision directs governors in each state to designate 25 percent of eligible low-income, high-poverty census tracts as Opportunity Zones. Long-term private investment in Opportunity Zones will be incentivized through certain tax deferral benefits.

There are 840 eligible tracts in Virginia, meaning Governor Northam will designate 210. The Department of Commerce and Trade is overseeing the process, with the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) as the lead agencies.

The DHCD website outlines the processes and criteria that will be used in making Opportunity Zone designations. Localities with eligible census tracts have been asked to provide feedback on priority tracts by March 2. The deadline for governors to submit their designated Opportunity Zones is March 21.

This program has the potential to have a meaningful impact throughout the Roanoke Region. You will can access a map of eligible census tracts to see which areas could be designated as Opportunity Zones. To provide general input as a stakeholder or interested party, take this brief survey through the DHCD website.

If you are interested in becoming an Opportunity Zone General Partner or Investor, fill out one of the letters below and return to DHCD at OZ@dhcd.virginia.gov.

Opportunity Zone General Partner/Fund Manager Letter

Opportunity Zone Investor Letter

2018 General Assembly Update

The Voice of the Region’s Business Community

Here’s a list of the bills your Chamber is currently following. If you become aware of a proposal that would impact your business, please email RGunn@RoanokeChamber.org.

Interested in becoming more engaged during session? Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) offers a valuable resource for tracking legislation by category, such as transportation, real estate, taxation, etc. Click here to learn more about this tool.

Additionally, committee meetings are now being live streamed and archived. This transparency measure will allow stakeholders and advocates to participate remotely. Click here to view recently released changes to House committee assignments.

Board for Contractors; tradesmen licenses; expiration date. Provides that licenses for tradesmen shall expire three years from the date of issuance by the Board for Contractors. The bill requires the Board to sync the expiration date of a tradesman license, which is currently on a two-year cycle, to updates to the Uniform Statewide Building Code, which are typically on a three-year cycle.
Worker retraining tax credit; manufacturing instruction for students. Modifies the worker retraining tax credit by allowing credit to manufacturers conducting a manufacturing orientation, instruction, and training program that is (i) provided to students in grades six through 12, (ii) coordinated with the local school division and certified as qualified for tax credit by the Virginia Economic Partnership Development Authority, and (iii) conducted either at a plant or facility used by the manufacturer or at a public middle or high school in Virginia. The credit would equal 35 percent of the manufacturer’s direct costs in providing the program, not to exceed $2,000 for any year.
Diploma seals; science, technology, engineering, and advanced mathematics. Requires the Board of Education to establish criteria for awarding a diploma seal for science, technology, engineering, and advanced mathematics (STEAM) for the Board of Education-approved diplomas. Under current law, such diploma seal is limited in scope to technology and advanced mathematics.
Teacher licensure. Makes several changes to the teacher licensure process, including (i) allowing an individual who seeks a provisional teacher license to satisfy certain licensure requirements during the period of provisional licensure; (ii) permitting the Board of Education to extend, for up to two additional years, the three-year provisional license of any teacher who requires additional time to satisfy the requirements for a renewable license; (iii) permitting teachers with a valid out-of-state license, with full credentials and without deficiencies, to receive licensure by reciprocity without passing additional licensing assessments; (iv) eliminating the requirements that teachers seeking initial licensure or renewal of a license (a) demonstrate proficiency in the use of educational technology for instruction and (b) receive professional development in instructional methods tailored to promote student academic progress and effective preparation for the Standards of Learning end-of-course and end-of-grade assessments; (v) permitting any division superintendent to apply to the Department of Education for an annual waiver of the teacher licensure requirements for any individual whom the local school board hires or seeks to hire to teach in a specific content area who demonstrates exemplary content knowledge in such area; and (vi) specifying that for the purpose of Board of Education regulations for the approval of teacher education programs, the term “education preparation program” includes four-year bachelor’s degree programs in teacher education.
Study; Standards of Learning Innovation Committee; experiential learning and workforce development opportunities in high-demand fields; report. Requests that the Standards of Learning Innovation Committee study experiential learning and workforce development opportunities for high school students in high-demand fields. The bill requires the Standards of Learning Innovation Committee to reports its findings no later than the first day of the 2019 Regular Session of the General Assembly.

Virginia Community College System; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Scholarship Pilot Program. Directs the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) to establish and administer a two-year Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Scholarship Pilot Program (the Program) for the purpose of providing access to postsecondary educational opportunities to students living in poverty. The Program would provide scholarships to select comprehensive community colleges in the maximum amount of $4,000 per year, to be applied toward the costs of tuition and books, to 200 selected students who meet TANF eligibility requirements.

Teacher licensure; approval of teacher education programs. Requires the Board of Education to include in its teacher licensure regulations standards for the approval of teacher education programs, including four-year undergraduate teacher education programs, from which graduates are eligible for licensure as teachers in the Commonwealth.
Dual enrollment courses; quality standards; universal transfer course credit. Requires the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (the Council), in consultation with the Department of Education and each public institution of higher education, to establish (i) quality standards for dual enrollment courses, including quality standards for course instructors, materials, and content; (ii) a process by which dual enrollment courses that meet or exceed such quality standards are certified as universal transfer courses that satisfy course credit or other academic requirements at any public institution of higher education; and (iii) a policy for the satisfaction of course credit or other academic requirements through the successful completion of universal transfer courses by entering students that (a) identifies the course credit or other academic requirements of each public institution of higher education that the student satisfies by successfully completing a universal transfer course and (b) ensures, to the extent possible, that the satisfaction of course credit or other academic requirements is consistent across each public institution of higher education and each such universal transfer course. The provisions of the bill replace existing provisions that require the Council and each public institution of higher education to establish policies relating to course credit for dual enrollment courses but that do not provide for quality standards or the universal transfer designation for such courses.
Teacher licensure; reciprocity; spouses of Armed Forces members. Requires the Board of Education to provide for teacher licensure by reciprocity for a period of one year for any spouse of an active duty member of the Armed Forces of the United States or the Commonwealth, provided that such spouse has obtained a valid out-of-state license, with full credentials and without deficiencies, that is in force at the time the application for such a one-year reciprocal license is received by the Department of Education. The bill provides that any such individual who receives a satisfactory evaluation at the conclusion of the year of employment under such one-year reciprocal license is eligible for a renewable license.
141 #1h
141 #3h
State Council of Higher Education for Virginia; These budget amendments requests additional general fund for the Workforce Credential Grant Program. $11m over 2018-20 biennium
248 #1s
Roanoke Higher Education Authority; This budget amendment provides general fund to create a GED Test Preparation Program; hire tutors for adult learners who return to school to improve writing and computer skills and to provide career counseling; support new program development for endorsements and credentials as identified in the GO Virginia, Region 2, Growth and Diversification Plan; and expand the Educational Testing Center to increase seat capacity and incorporate larger testing space for individuals with special needs. $1.37m over 2018-20 bienniuem
223 #1h

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; This budget amendment requests additional general fund to enhance research activities at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. $7.5m over 2018-20 biennium

M1 & M2
Community Development Services; Funding for the Virginia Growth and Opportunity (GO Virginia) Fund.
122 #2s
Virginia Economic Development Partnership; Provide general fund to VEDP for the Business Ready Sites Program. $4m over 2018-20 biennium
Public procurement; agreements with labor organizations. Repeals provisions requiring state agencies to ensure that neither the state agency nor any construction manager acting on behalf of the state agency, in its bid specifications, project agreements, or other controlling documents relating to the operation, erection, construction, alteration, improvement, maintenance, or repair of any public facility of public works, (i) requires or prohibits bidders, offerors, contractors, or subcontractors to enter into or adhere to agreements with one or more labor organizations, on the same or related projects, or (ii) discriminates against bidders, offerors, contractors, subcontractors, or operators for becoming or refusing to become or remain signatories or otherwise to adhere to agreements with one or more labor organizations, on the same or related public works projects.

Local alternative minimum wage. Establishes a procedure by which a local alternative minimum wage may be imposed in any locality. If imposed by ordinance of the local governing body, the alternative minimum wage requirement shall become effective on the July 1 that follows delivery of a certified copy of the ordinance to the Commissioner of Labor and Industry. A local alternative minimum wage requires every employer to pay to each of his employees, for work performed by them within the locality, wages at a rate to be determined by local ordinance beginning July 1, 2019. In subsequent fiscal years, the maximum local alternative minimum wage shall be adjusted based on changes in the consumer price index. If the federal minimum wage exceeds the levels specified in an alternative local minimum wage requirement, the federal minimum wage will prevail.

Minimum wage. Increases the minimum wage from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour effective July 1, 2018, to $10 per hour effective January 1, 2019, to $11 per hour effective January 1, 2020, to $13 per hour effective January 1, 2021, and to $15 per hour effective January 1, 2022, unless a higher minimum wage is required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). For 2023 and thereafter, the annual minimum wage shall be adjusted to reflect increases in the consumer price index. The measure also provides that the Virginia minimum wage applies to persons whose employment is covered by the FLSA.
Banks; loan applicant verification. Requires banks that receive a loan application form that names an existing customer as the applicant to contact the customer and verify that the customer has applied for the loan.
County food and beverage tax. Increases from four percent to eight percent the maximum tax that any county is authorized to impose on food and beverages sold by a restaurant, commonly referred to as the meals tax. The bill also removes the requirement that a county hold a referendum before imposing a meals tax.
Certificates of public need. Creates a three-phase process to sunset certificate of public need requirements for many categories of medical care facilities and projects, with the requirement for a certificate of public need eliminated (i) for the establishment of a new imaging service or addition of new equipment for imaging services beginning July 1, 2019; (ii) for ambulatory and outpatient surgery centers beginning July 1, 2020; and (iii) for hospitals and all other categories of projects other than nursing homes and facilities and equipment for open heart surgery and organ or tissue transplant services beginning July 1, 2021. The bill also creates a new permitting process for categories of facilities and projects exempted from the certificate of public need process that requires the Commissioner of Health to issue a permit but allows the Commissioner to condition a permit (a) on the agreement of the applicant to provide a specified level of care at a reduced rate to indigents, accept patients requiring specialized care, or facilitate the development and operation of primary medical care services in designated medically underserved areas of the applicant’s service area or (b) on compliance of the applicant with quality of care standards. The bill allows the Commissioner to refuse to issue a permit if he determines that the project for which the permit is sought would be detrimental to the provision of health services in underserved areas of the Commonwealth.
Certificate of public need. Makes several changes to the Medical Care Facilities Certificate of Public Need Program.
Virginia Grocery Investment Program and Fund. Creates the Virginia Grocery Investment Program and Fund to provide funding for the construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades, or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, and innovative food retail projects, defined in the bill, in underserved communities.
Right lane restrictions for tractor trucks on Interstate 81;pilot program. Directs the Department of Transportation to conduct a pilot program establishing zones on Interstate 81 where tractor trucks would be required to travel in the right lane only. The bill establishes requirements for any such designated zone.
Interstate 73 Corridor Development Fund and Program. Establishes the Interstate 73 Corridor Development Fund and Program and reallocates to the I-73 Fund the $40 million from state recordation taxes that is currently allocated annually to the U.S. Route 58 Corridor Development Fund and Program. All provisions of the bill are contingent upon construction of and payments for Route 58 being completed.
Commonwealth Transportation Board; factors for project selection. Requires travel time reliability to be one of the factors used by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in its statewide prioritization process for project selection.

Interested in touring Prague and Vienna?

Please join us for a trip orientation on Monday, February 26, 5:30 p.m. to learn more about the October 8 Prague and Vienna & optional Budapest excursion. Oliver Bergeron, CI Destinations, president, will brief attendees on the experience, what’s included, optional tours and more. $2,999 per person/double occupancy.

Join us on this amazing tour of Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. A tour where history comes to life. Explore Central Europe’s centers of culture and arts under the guidance of your own tour manager who acts as your own personal concierge. These three riverside cities straddling mighty rivers promise centuries of tradition and culture. This tour has the perfect balance of structured tours and leisure time. Spend three nights in the Old Town of Prague, three nights in Vienna’s city center and (optional) two nights in the amazing city of Budapest. Everyone who attends the presentation at the Chamber on February 26 at 5:30 p.m. and takes the trip will receive a tour to Kutna Hora ($129 value per person) for free.

Highlights include: Vienna City Tour, Schoennbrun Palace, Old Town Prague, Cesky-Krumlove, Prague Castle/City Tour, Royal Palace, St. Vitus Cathedral, Strahov Library, Kutna Hora (optional)

Also includes: Round trip airfare from Dulles, Airline fuel surcharges, taxes, and fees, 6 nights in first class hotels, 8 meals (6 breakfasts/2 dinners), sightseeing per itinerary, admissions per itinerary, professional tour manager, baggage handling, hotel transfers.

Optional 2 Day post tour to Budapest: ($599) includes Fisherman’s Bastion, the Church of St. Mathias in Buda, Heroes’ Square in Pest, the elegant Chain Bridge (with breakfast daily and one dinner)

Please RSVP for Monday, February 26 by emailing Michele Peppers at MPeppers@RoanokeChamber.org.

Virginia Business Systems Named an Elite Dealer by ENX Magazine

Richmond, VA – Virginia Business Systems (VBS) of Virginia has been named one of the country’s Elite Dealers by ENX Magazine. The award is presented annually by the publication to the top office equipment dealers in the U.S. According to the publisher, Susan Neimes, the prestigious 2017 Elite Dealer awards were selected from a record number of entries. “Our roster of high-ranking performers continues to grow. I am particularly impressed with the caliber of this year’s entries, and their forward-thinking initiatives only underscore the health and vitality of the office technology industry”, Neimes said.  “Among Elite Dealers, success is not about surviving, it’s about thriving – and balancing growth, innovative marketing and sales programs with a commitment to their employees and their community.”

Virginia Business Systems has been named an Elite Dealer for the last 17 years. Proud of their achievement, Jim Dotter, President of Virginia Business Systems said, “Our companies have continually been at the forefront of developing cost effective, efficient, quality solutions for our client’s document management needs.  It’s not just about equipment and software; it is about knowledge, service and fast forward solutions.” Mr. Dotter continued, “This award could only have been possible through the commitment of our team. Our employees continually strive to deliver the best in quality, technical support and dedication to our clients.”

This year’s Elite Dealer honorees encompass dealerships with revenues of less than $5 million a year to those with revenues of more than $50 million. Elite Dealers are the entrepreneurs, innovators, top sellers, and celebrated members of the communities in which they work and provide office technology, software, and services to businesses and organizations of all sizes. Top dealers also do a terrific job of donating time and money to their local and national charitable organizations and causes, have a nurturing work culture, treat their employees well, and offer innovative marketing programs.

Virginia Business Systems and its sister company Edwards Business Systems (EBS) of Pennsylvania have been in business since 1954 and are one of the country’s largest independently owned Office Equipment Dealers, recognized by all of the vendors for excellence in sales and service. VBS and EBS, with over 180 employees, are in their third generation of management and ownership, continuing the family commitment of meeting and exceeding the needs of their clients. Virginia Business Systems is headquartered in Richmond and serves Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Roanoke, New River Valley, Harrisonburg, Shenandoah Valley and Hampton Roads. VBS recently acquired a dealership in Winchester, VA to further expand its footprint and service its clients.

Chamber News February 2018

New members, upcoming events and more! Check out your Chamber’s latest newsletter sponsored by the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority. For more information about sponsoring this newsletter in 2018, please contact Starr Anderson at SAnderson@RoanokeChamber.org.