Saturday, December 9, 2023

Virginia Peninsula Chamber Spotlights Area’s Assets

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NEWPORT NEWS – Bob McKenna, president and CEO of the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, is straightforward when explaining the reasons behind the organization’s “Spotlight on the Peninsula” series.

“We’re a champion of the great assets of the Peninsula,” he told an audience of more than 30 at the most recent event, held June 28 at Virginia Technical Academy on Omni Boulevard in Newport News.

To bring those assets to light, the chamber has developed five C’s for the series: champion, connector, convener, conduit, and collaborator.

“That’s what ‘Spotlight on the Peninsula’ is all about,” he said.

In addition to being a champion of the area’s assets, the monthly series, which began in 2018, connects people through networking opportunities, convenes meetings, is a conduit for information, and allows people and companies to collaborate on all sorts of projects.

“But the most important today is we’re a champion of the great assets that we have on the Peninsula,” he said.

One of those is Virginia Technical Academy, which was founded by David Gillespie in 2014 as Blue Crab Technical Academy, a skilled trades school. Four years later, the name was changed to Virginia Technical Academy and became a post-secondary school. It is approved and certified by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), and offers classes in HVAC, plumbing, electrical, appliance repair, and building and property maintenance.

“We are working on getting ACE (American Council on Education) accreditation in July,” he said.

Most of his students are not pursuing a college degree, and he also has many in the midst of a career change. But the goal is the same, prepare them for the workforce as soon as they graduate. The first five years have been quite successful.

“We have a 98 percent job placement rate,” he said.

The chamber’s next event, titled “2023 Rising Tide: Accelerating the Regional Economy” is scheduled for July 18 at 8:15am at the Holiday Inn on Omni Boulevard in Newport News. The guest speaker will be Dr. William M. Donaldson, the director of Christopher Newport University’s Small Business Institute.

Recent topics in the “Spotlight” series included sports tourism in the area and an update on the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel expansion project.

Derrick Williams, a government affairs relations senior analyst for Cox Virginia, said the series fits well with its mission, which is why the company has been a sponsor of the series since its inception.

“As a company, we want to make sure we stay close to the communities where we live, work, and serve,” he said. “Those are some of the reasons we do invest in the community. We want to be a partner in the community, and let people know that we’re here to help support them.”

He has been with the company for 12 years, and noted how it started as a small company, and still is family owned and privately held. His involvement in the events give him a sense of pride.

“We’re here to help small businesses, large businesses, any business, grow and develop,” he said. “We started as a small business, so we look at this as investing in the future. It’s very important for us to invest in the communities we serve.”

For more information on Virginia Technical Academy, go to For more on the chamber, go to

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