A study just released by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy (SBA)
ranks Hampton Roads #1 in the country with the highest percentage of “high-impact” firms when
compared to other large metropolitan regions. High-impact firms are defined in the report as
rapidly growing firms, accounting for almost all employment and revenue growth in the economy
although they represent only between 2% and 3% of all business firms.
“Having a higher percentage of rapidly growing companies than North Carolina’s Research
Triangle, Washington DC or Silicon Valley in California is a strong indication of the vibrant
technology-based industries growing here” says Rick Lally, CEO of Oceana Sensor and
Chairman of the Hampton Roads Technology Council (HRTC).
Released at the International Council for Small Business 2008 World Conference held in late
June in Canada, the SBA study High-Impact Firms: Gazelles Revisited defines high-impact
firms as those whose sales have at least doubled over a four-year period, analyzing the 1994 to
2006 period. To illustrate: over the 1998-2002 time period, the average size of high-impact
firms in the 1-19 employee firm-size class increased by 534%, the 20-499 firm-size class
increased by 322% and the 500-or-more class increased by 221%.
The study ranks regions, states, Metropolitan Statistical Areas, and counties by their percentage
of high-impact firms, also known as “gazelles”. The study finds that high-impact firms contribute
to the majority of overall economic growth and documents also, over the periods studied, that
nearly all job losses came from low-impact firms that are also large in size.
“The Hampton Roads economic development organizations have proactively partnered with the
private sector to enhance the defense and homeland security industry which resulted in the
creation of the Defense and Homeland Security Consortium (DHSC) in 2005”, according to
Warren D. Harris, Director of Virginia Beach Economic Development. “The Hampton Roads
area has a robust defense and security sector, and it is imperative the private and public sector
work in a concerted effort to address the issues that affect these firms and undertake initiatives
to expand this sector.”
DHSC volunteers are comprised of officials from the sponsoring city’s economic development
departments, educational institutions, workforce development organizations, federal contracting
industry professionals and organizations. DHSC has aggressive goals adopted to improve the
industry to benefit the entire community and support increased growth of local companies.
For example, each spring since 2005, DHSC has collaborated with Tidewater Community
College (TCC) to bring the "Navigating Business with the Federal Government" Seminar
Series to South Hampton Roads. The Peninsula Council For Workforce Development
(PCFWD) has joined with DHSC to bring the same 9-week series to the Peninsula starting this
fall, offering sessions by senior executives from successful local companies to share their
experience on what made them, and their companies, achieve their success.
One of the newest initiatives of the consortium, led by Catherine Giordano, CEO of Knowledge
Information Solutions and Co-chair of the DHSC, is collaborating to improve education and
training opportunities available in Hampton Roads for current and potential employees of the
federal contracting industry.
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