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Governor Glenn Youngkin announces multi-location investment by DroneUp, creating 655 jobs in Virginia

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On August 24, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that DroneUp, LLC, a leading drone flight services innovator and aviation technology provider, will invest a total of $27.2 million in expanding its headquarters in the City of Virginia Beach and establishing testing, training, and R&D center at Richard Bland College in Dinwiddie County. Virginia successfully competed with Arizona, New York, North Carolina, and Texas for the projects, which will create 655 total new jobs.

DroneUp will invest $7 million to expand its headquarters at 160 Newtown Road in Virginia Beach, creating 510 new jobs. The company will also invest $20.2 million to establish new testing, training, and R&D centers for drone operators at Richard Bland College, creating 145 new jobs.

In addition to the headquarters facility and training center, DroneUp plans to establish three drone hubs at Walmart locations in the Commonwealth this year. DroneUp recently announced a multi-year commercial services agreement with Walmart, Inc. to provide drone delivery services at 34 sites, providing the potential to reach 4 million U.S. households by the end of the year. Walmart has a minority stake in DroneUp and a seat on its board, and in turn, DroneUp is the exclusive provider of drone services for Walmart.

“This is an impressive and highly impactful project for Virginia Beach, Dinwiddie County, and beyond that represents a new age of technology for our society. DroneUp is at the forefront of Unmanned Aircraft System development,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “This homegrown Virginia company is transforming product delivery through its partnership with Walmart. We are proud to partner with DroneUp as it extends its footprint across the Commonwealth and creates more than 650 cutting-edge jobs. The Commonwealth competed against multiple states for this expansion project, and I’m so proud of the multi-pronged effort to attract this investment to Virginia.”


“DroneUp’s expansion in Virginia Beach and new testing, training, and R&D center at Richard Bland College is an exciting step forward for the unmanned systems industry in Virginia and serves as a model for higher education partnerships and economic development,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick. “With the second-highest concentration of tech workers in the nation and world-class education institutions, the Commonwealth is well-positioned to empower DroneUp’s continued success.”

“The team at DroneUp couldn’t be happier with the support we’ve received from Governor Youngkin’s office and the Commonwealth of Virginia as a whole over the years,” said Tom Walker, founder and CEO of DroneUp. “Virginia is our home, and we are proud to be able to continue to bring innovation, talent, and economic opportunities to our great state. This investment and expansion will bring new career opportunities to our region and allow us to tap into the brightest minds around Unmanned Aircraft System development and design.”

“We are beyond thrilled that DroneUp has decided to make Virginia Beach its corporate headquarters and expand their operations by bringing more than 500 new jobs to our community,” said Virginia Beach Mayor Robert M. “Bobby” Dyer. “Their expansion is the latest shining example in our city’s history of fostering an environment where businesses can thrive.”

“We welcome DroneUp and their training center program to Dinwiddie County,” said Harrison A. Moody, Chairman, Dinwiddie County Board of Supervisors. “The campus of Richard Bland College is the ideal setting for their testing, training, and R&D center, and bringing 145 high-quality jobs to the County presents a phenomenal opportunity for our citizens. DroneUp’s work complements the ongoing efforts of Richard Bland College to develop a curriculum for an unmanned aviation program. Drone technology is cutting-edge, and we are proud to be a part of it.”

“Through strategic linkages with partners like DroneUp, Richard Bland College (RBC) continues to assert itself as a new model for higher education in the Commonwealth,” said President Debbie L. Sydow, Ph.D. “RBC and DroneUp share the vision of delivering a world-class drone pilot training program to expand the UAS workforce in Virginia and nationwide. Now the vision is becoming a reality as DroneUp prepares to welcome its first class to the drone testing, training, and R&D center at Richard Bland College.”

“This exciting announcement is a testament to Virginia’s Gateway Region, a top logistics center in the Commonwealth,” said Keith Boswell, President & CEO of Virginia’s Gateway Region Economic Development Organization. “We look forward to the economic impact this project will bring to our seven communities as individuals and companies travel from near and far to hone their drone technology and delivery skills.”

Tobacco Commission member Senator Joe Morrissey said, “It is wonderful to see an innovative technology company like DroneUp partner with Dinwiddie County and Richard Bland College to bring the future of last-mile delivery to our area, all while creating 145 new high-quality jobs. Additionally, I am excited to see that DroneUp will work with Richard Bland College to instruct students on the use of drone technology, a field that is only going to continue to grow. This is a big win for Dinwiddie County, and I very much look forward to seeing this project succeed.”

Tobacco Commission member Coley J. Drinkwater said, “This is a great day for Dinwiddie County, and I am excited that DroneUp chose to locate here and create 145 great new jobs that will have a lasting impact on our community. Dinwiddie is the perfect place to live and work, and I look forward to welcoming DroneUp as our newest business partner.”

“VIPC’s relationship with DroneUp spans several years and multiple pilot programs with our Virginia Unmanned Systems Center and funding opportunities through our Commonwealth Commercialization Fund and Virginia Venture Partners,” said Robert Stolle, President, and CEO of the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC). “They are a shining example of Virginia’s willingness to welcome and support innovation and job creation.”

“As an emerging industry, unmanned systems have been a priority for the Hampton Roads region for several years. We are proud to have DroneUp as a cornerstone of that industry cluster,” said Doug Smith, President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Alliance. “DroneUp’s investment at their Virginia Beach headquarters is a testament to their innovation and rapid success in a niche market. Their expansion into other locations in Virginia shows potential for even greater future growth. The Alliance congratulates our friends at DroneUp, the City of Virginia Beach, and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership on this exciting win for the Commonwealth.”

“Virginia Beach is the perfect place for DroneUp to continue leading in one of the world’s fastest-growing industries,” said Representative Elaine Luria. “When I visited DroneUp in May, we discussed how investing in technologies and workforce programs is good for business and Coastal Virginia. This expansion is a testament to the thriving workforce in Hampton Roads. I will continue to support businesses like DroneUp that lead in development and innovation and grow and diversify our economy in Hampton Roads.”

“It is an honor and a true testament to Virginia’s pro-business climate that DroneUp has decided to invest in our Commonwealth and expand its headquarters in Virginia Beach,” said Senator Jen A. Kiggans. “DroneUp’s expansion will create 510 new jobs and continue to develop this valuable industry right here in Hampton Roads. I look forward to watching their business grow and provide high-quality service to our residents!”

“The 85th District of Virginia Beach is proud to serve as the home for DroneUp, a global small business,” said Delegate Karen S. Greenhalgh. “Today’s announcement of plans to expand DroneUp’s headquarters, bringing 510 new jobs, is a tremendous investment into our city. Virginia Beach is a great place to live and to work, and we are looking up, thanks to DroneUp!”

“I am thrilled that this innovative technology company has decided to call Virginia its home,” said Representative A. Donald McEachin. “DroneUp’s expansion in our Commonwealth will create hundreds of new jobs in localities across my district, stimulate economic activity, and support other businesses in our communities. Tech is a burgeoning industry, and I look forward to seeing the impact DroneUp will have in Virginia.”

“This is a fantastic opportunity for DroneUp and the folks in Virginia Beach and around Richard Bland College,” said Senator Frank Ruff. “As innovations in the drone world continue to advance, the opportunity for training will also grow.”

“I am thrilled to hear the news of DroneUp investing $20.2 million in our community and bringing 145 jobs to the new training facility at Richard Bland College,” said Delegate Emily M. Brewer. “Innovative partnerships like this demonstrate how creativity in higher education can yield incredible opportunities. This year, one of my priorities was to facilitate budget language so the General Assembly could reduce regulatory barriers to making this training facility happen. I am also very grateful to Governor Youngkin for championing innovation in higher education and workforce development in our Commonwealth.”

In Virginia Beach, Virginia, DroneUp was founded in 2016 by Tom Walker. A privately held company, DroneUp quickly moved from an American small business start-up to a global leader. The company works with more than 20,000 drone pilots to serve its customer portfolio and is dedicated to connecting communities to drone technology globally. DroneUp is recognized as a drone flight services innovation leader, transforming organizations with drone delivery and technology solutions. The company develops SaaS platforms with patented mobile application technology available at the Apple App and Google Play Stores. With technology-driven customers, DroneUp inspires the future of drone services, providing intelligent access to airspace, automation innovation, streamlined process management, operational efficiency, and a commitment to safety.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the City of Virginia Beach, Dinwiddie County, Richard Bland College, and Virginia’s Gateway Region to secure the project for Virginia. Governor Youngkin approved a $928,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist with the project. The Governor also approved $4 million in funds from the Virginia Economic Development Incentive Grant. The Virginia Economic Development Incentive Grant was established as a self-funded program of performance-based incentives that the Commonwealth awards to exceptional economic development projects with large numbers of employees and very high wages relative to average wages for that particular area. The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission approved a grant for $111,000 from the Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund for the project, and funding and services to support DroneUp’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

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Lawsuit against Chesapeake Walmart over warning signs and more Va. headlines

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The State Capitol. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

 

• A worker at the Chesapeake Walmart filed a $50 million lawsuit claiming the company failed to act on her prior complaints about the coworker who killed six store employees and took his own life in last week’s mass shooting. The suit, which says “employers have a responsibility to understand the warning signs and take threats seriously,” alleges the gunman repeatedly asked colleagues if they had received active shooter training.—Virginian-Pilot

• As many in the Virginia politics world mourned the death of Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin, Gov. Glenn Youngkin said he had not yet made a decision on when to schedule a special election to fill the vacant Richmond-area congressional seat. —Washington Post

• State Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, is a possible candidate for the seat, but he said it’s too early to talk politics.—Richmond Times-Dispatch


• As bipartisan tributes to McEachin rolled in, Del. Marie March, R-Floyd, took a different tack by attacking the late congressman for supporting abortion rights.—Cardinal News

• An assault charge against a former D.C. deputy mayor was dropped at the request of Virginia prosecutors after a witness said the gym parking lot altercation that sparked it was “definitely a mutual thing.”—Washington Post

 

by Staff Report, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Virginia reports first pediatric flu death of season as cases remain high

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VCU Emergency hospital entrance in Richmond, Va. Parker Michels-Boyce for The Virginia Mercury

 

Virginia recorded its first influenza-related pediatric death on Wednesday of the 2022-23 flu season.

According to a release from the Virginia Department of Health, a child between the ages of 5 and 12 in the state’s southwestern region died “from complications associated with influenza.”

“Flu can be a very dangerous illness,” said State Health Commissioner Colin Greene. “With Virginia and many other states experiencing high or very high levels of flu activity, I urge everyone who is eligible to receive the flu vaccine to do so as soon as possible, consulting your physician as needed.”


Flu and other respiratory illnesses have been hitting children across the nation hard this year, with sharp upticks in cases weeks ahead of the typical flu season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that as of Nov. 19, the U.S. had recorded 12 pediatric flu deaths. Five occurred during the week ending November 19, the most recent period for which national data are available.

 

 

In Virginia, hospitals have reported full or nearly full pediatric units for weeks due to the surge in respiratory illnesses among children.

The Virginia Department of Health’s most recent Weekly Influenza Activity Report, which also covers the week ending Nov. 19, rated Virginia’s influenza activity level “very high.”

During that week, the agency reported that 8% of all emergency department and urgent care visits were for flu or flu-like illness. One-fifth of all those visits were for children in the 0- to 4-year age group.

While VDH data show a downtick in medical visits for flu over the past few weeks, a spokesperson for the Division of Surveillance and Investigation said, “it is still too early to say if we have reached the peak yet.”

Virginia had one pediatric flu death during the 2021-22 season and none during the 2020-21 season, when the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing and large portions of the population were working from home and socially distancing.

The most severe years for pediatric flu deaths in Virginia over the past two decades were the 2009-10, 2017-18, and 2019-20 flu seasons. Six children aged zero to 17 years died from influenza in each of those seasons.

 

by Staff Report, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Same-sex marriage protected under bill passed by U.S. Senate with GOP support

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate approved legislation Tuesday that would enshrine protections for same-sex and interracial marriages, codifying many of the rights that would disappear if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn those landmark decisions the way it overturned the nationwide right to an abortion this summer.

The 61-36 bipartisan vote sends the bill back to the U.S. House, where lawmakers expect to give it their final stamp of approval soon before sending it to President Joe Biden. The House voted 267-157 in July to approve the original bill but must vote again after a bipartisan group of senators added in religious liberty protections.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, wore the same tie Tuesday he wore to his daughter’s wedding and recounted a conversation he had with his daughter and her wife following the death of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“I remember that awful feeling around the dinner table, and I distinctly remember the question my daughter and her wife asked, ‘Could our right to marry be undone?’” Schumer said.


“It’s a scary but necessary acknowledgment that despite all the progress we’ve made, the constitutional right to same-sex marriage is not even a decade old and exists only by the virtue of a very narrow 5-4 Supreme Court decision,” Schumer continued. “And we all know the court has changed since that decision.”

Retiring Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, retiring North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito, Maine’s Susan Collins, Iowa’s Joni Ernst, Wyoming’s Cynthia Lummis, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, retiring Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Utah’s Mitt Romney, Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, and Indiana’s Todd Young voted for the bill.

Both of Virginia’s Democratic senators, Mark Warner, and Tim Kaine, voted in favor of the bill.

“Marriage is not only a spiritual bond between two individuals, but it’s also a binding contract that cements essential benefits, rights, and privileges,” Warner wrote in a statement following the vote. “This bill will ensure that gay marriages are recognized across the country, thereby protecting same-sex couples from discrimination that would otherwise block their access to health care, paid family medical leave, hospital visitation, and parental rights — among many others.”

Repeal of Defense of Marriage Act

The legislation would repeal the 1996 law known as the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The federal law also allowed states to ignore same-sex unions legally performed in other states.

The new law would ensure that if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn the cases that have legalized same-sex and interracial marriages, the federal government would continue to recognize those unions, a step necessary for hundreds of federal benefits, including Social Security and veterans benefits.

The bill, known as the Respect for Marriage Act, would require states to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages performed in states that keep the unions legal, though it wouldn’t require states to keep same-sex or interracial marriages legal if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn those cases.

Cathryn Oakley, Human Rights Campaign state legislative director and senior counsel said during a briefing in mid-November the bill is a “very important” part of the legislation LGBTQ rights advocates have been pressing Congress to pass for years.

She also sought to clarify misconceptions about whether the legislation will allow any two people to enter a same-sex or interracial marriage anywhere in the country should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the cases protecting those rights.

“Congress has done everything in this bill that it can responsibly do,” Oakley said. “What they do not have the ability to responsibly do, is to tell states that they must marry two people of the same sex.”

Oakley said U.S. lawmakers “are taking the maximum responsible action that they can take at this point” under the powers they have within the U.S. Constitution.

State bans

More than 30 states have constitutional amendments, state laws, or both that ban same-sex marriages, according to the Congressional Research Service. “Many states still have unenforceable constitutional amendments or state statutes that ban marriage for same-sex couples,” the report said.

Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin are among the states with state constitutional amendments that would prohibit same-sex marriages.

Under Democratic control, Virginia in 2021 began the multiyear process of removing its defunct ban from the state constitution, but Republicans blocked the change earlier this year after retaking control of the House of Delegates.

Va. Republicans block effort to scrap 2006 gay marriage ban

Indiana and Pennsylvania are among the states with laws that would prohibit same-sex marriages. The Iowa Supreme Court overturned Iowa’s ban in April 2009, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage.

Those laws and state constitutional provisions are currently unenforceable under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling, establishing same-sex marriages as protected under the Constitution. But they could go into effect again were the justices to overturn that case. States that still have laws banning interracial marriages on the books cannot enforce those laws under the 1967 Loving v. Virginia ruling.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft criticized his state’s senior senator, Blunt, for voting for the legislation, saying he was “flabbergasted” by the move and noting that the state’s constitutional amendment bars the unions.

Ashcroft said during an interview with The Missouri Independent that he tried to call Blunt to lobby him in opposition to the bill but had been unable to reach him, so he sent a letter instead.

The legislation the U.S. Senate approved Tuesday was spurred by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this summer to overturn the two cases that kept abortion legal nationwide, protected as a constitutional right, for nearly half a century.

Justice Clarence Thomas sparked concern when he wrote in his concurring opinion in the abortion case that the justices “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents” that included similar legal reasoning as the abortion cases.

Thomas listed Griswold v. Connecticut, the case that established married couples have a constitutional right to decide if and how to use birth control; Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that legalized same-sex marriage; and Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned state anti-sodomy laws, as three cases he specifically thought the court should revisit.

LGBTQ rights advocates immediately called on Congress to ensure that any future Supreme Court rulings wouldn’t completely erode marriage rights.

Republicans on board

The U.S. House approved the legislation in July, and the U.S. Senate was on track to vote on the marriage equality bill before the November midterm elections, but Schumer held off at the request of a bipartisan group of senators who added religious liberty language and were working to get at least 10 Republicans on board to pass the chamber’s legislative filibuster.

Sens. Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat; Collins; Portman; Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat; and Tillis wrote at the time they were “confident that when our legislation comes to the Senate floor for a vote, we will have the bipartisan support to pass the bill.”

The religious liberty protections now in the bill would protect “all religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution or Federal law,” according to a summary of the changes.

The legislation would insulate religious organizations, certain religious nonprofits, and their employees from being required “to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.”

It would prevent changes to tax-exempt status since “a church, university, or other nonprofit’s eligibility for tax-exempt status is unrelated to marriage, so its status would not be affected by this legislation,” according to the summary.

The bill passed its first procedural vote in the Senate in mid-November when 12 GOP senators joined Democrats to move past the legislative filibuster.

GOP amendments

Before the Senate approved the bill Tuesday, lawmakers voted down three Republican amendments.

Senators voted 48-49 to reject a proposal from Utah Sen. Mike Lee that would have barred the federal government from taking “any discriminatory action,” like eliminating a tax benefit, for any person who “speaks or acts, in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief, or moral conviction, that marriage is” between one man and one woman or two individuals as recognized under federal law.

Lee argued ahead of the vote that lawmakers “would do a disservice to all Americans if we elevate the rights of one group at the expense of another.”

Liberty University, a private evangelical university in Lynchburg, Virginia, that is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit universities, ahead of the vote, sent an email to students urging them to call their representatives and tell them to vote in favor of the Lee amendment.

Calling the Respect for Marriage Act “a smoke-screen” and “very deceptive,” the email from Interim President Jerry Prevo told recipients that the law “fails to protect those of us who believe marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Liberty did not respond to questions from the Mercury about the email.

The Senate voted 45-52 to reject a proposal from Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford that would have changed who was required to comply with the law from any person acting under “color of state law” to a state, territory, or tribe.

Lankford said Tuesday that the “color of state law” language could refer to any organization that a state contracts with to perform a government function, such as private prisons, adoption agencies, foster care agencies, or homeless shelters.

Lankford’s amendment would have also removed a section of the bill that would allow people “harmed” by a violation of the law to sue. Lankford said the legislation didn’t define what “harmed” would mean.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s amendment to eliminate the section of the bill that would allow anyone “harmed by a violation” of the law to sue in a U.S. district court was rejected following a 45-52 vote.

Rubio argued in a written statement that while the legislation included language that “would protect nonprofits whose ‘principal purpose’ is the ‘study, practice, or advancement of religion,’ it would not protect other faith-based organizations.”

Baldwin urged senators to reject the three amendments ahead of the vote, saying they would “upend the months of good-faith negotiations and they would disrupt our carefully crafted bipartisan compromise.”

The religious liberty language added to the bill, Baldwin said, ensures protection for “religious liberties afforded under our Constitution and federal law.”

“We are not pushing this legislation to make history,” she said. “We are doing this to make a difference for millions upon millions of Americans.”

 

by Jennifer Shutt, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Granules India to establish pharmaceutical packaging facility in Prince William County, Virginia, creating 57 new jobs

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RICHMOND, VA – Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that Granules India Ltd., a vertically integrated pharmaceutical company, will invest $12.5 million to establish a pharmaceutical packaging operation in Prince William County. The new facility will be part of the company’s Consumer Health division and will return previously outsourced services in-house. Granules will lease 79,000 square feet of the Parkway 66 property at 7413 Cushing Road in Manassas and build out packaging lines and clean rooms to package and ship pharmaceuticals. Virginia successfully competed with Maryland for the project, which will create 57 new jobs.

“Virginia continues to attract pharmaceutical manufacturing, and Granules India’s new packaging operation in Prince William County is an important addition to the pharmaceutical ecosystem in the Commonwealth,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “The company’s decision to expand its footprint in Virginia is a testament to our infrastructure and robust workforce, and we look forward to further development of this partnership.”

“When a global company like Granules India establishes a second Virginia operation, it reinforces our business-friendly climate, collaborative environment, and skilled workforce,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick. “The Commonwealth’s pharmaceutical sector has gained significant momentum in recent years, and we thank Granules for continuing our success in this booming industry.”

“The addition of a U.S. packaging facility will result in Granules being among the few pharmaceutical companies to be vertically integrated from API to packaging, which will bolster the robustness of Granules’ supply chain while also enabling the company to react even faster to consumers’ growing needs for pharmaceutical products,” said Dr. Krishna Prasad Chigurupati, Founder and Managing Director. “The company chose Virginia because of Prince William County’s responsiveness which allowed Granules faster access to commercialization. In addition, Prince William offers a dynamic and diverse workforce that is eager to work along with the site’s proximity to several major seaports. Granules also chose to expand within Virginia to leverage its existing manufacturing footprint and workforce.”


“Granules Consumer Health gained a competitive advantage by locating their packaging facility in Manassas, and we welcome them to our business-friendly community,” said Ann B. Wheeler, Chair of Prince William Board of County Supervisors. “As the front door to Northern Virginia, Prince William County’s strategic location elevates the growing importance of supply chain logistics and distribution for global companies.”

“As we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, a robust domestic medical supply chain is critical to ensure a secure, reliable, and safer system for patients and our national security,” said Congressman Rob Wittman. “Investments like this, especially right here in Virginia’s First District, are exactly how we continue to expand and excel in this space while adding additional jobs to the Commonwealth of Virginia. I commend the Governor for continuing to advance Virginia as a national leader in domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing.”

“I’m excited to welcome Granules India to the 13th district! Prince William County has an experienced, well-educated, and motivated workforce, and I believe we will have a long and successful partnership with Granules,” said Senator John J. Bell. “I thank Granules for their confidence in choosing to do business in the Commonwealth, and I want to congratulate and thank everyone from the Governor’s team who was involved in bringing this partnership to fruition.”

Founded in 1984 and headquartered in Hyderabad, India, Granules India serves leading brand and generics companies in over 75 countries with eight manufacturing facilities around the world. The company manufactures active pharmaceutical ingredients, pharmaceutical formulation intermediates, and finished dosages, and its products include common consumer drugs such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and guaifenesin (a key ingredient in Mucinex). Granules employ 130 at a pharmaceutical R&D and manufacturing facility in Fairfax County.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Prince William County to secure the project for Virginia. Former Governor Northam approved a $200,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist Prince William County with the project.

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Separation of Virginia history standards and curriculum causes questions

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The history and social science standards are at the center of conversation for the education community in Virginia. (Mechelle Hankerson/ Virginia Mercury)

 

As communities and experts review Virginia’s K-12 history and social science standards, many anxiously await its companion guide, the curriculum framework.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow last month told the Board of Education that she decided to decouple the curriculum framework from the draft history and social science standards because the combination led to “vague” and “confusing information” for general public consumption.

“In the last few years, especially since school closures, the standards document has become much more front and center as a document that parents rely on and that community members rely on as a public and digestible and understandable document that says this is what’s being taught at which grade level and to what depth,” she said. “And a 400-plus page document plus framework does not accomplish that goal. It is not easily understandable for the public.”


But as the standards proposed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration went before the board in a contentious, nearly eight-hour-long meeting earlier this month, the absence of the curriculum framework sparked criticism and uncertainty because of the inability of the board and the public to review the two together.

“I think we’ve created the conditions for confusion,” said board member Alan Seibert, a Youngkin appointee, at the Nov. 17 business meeting.

Board Member Bill Hansen, another Youngkin appointee, agreed, “I do think that what’s not here is what caused the anxiety out there and lacking communication, context.”

The role of the curriculum framework

A curriculum framework details the specific knowledge and skills necessary for students to meet the state’s educational standards in various subjects.

Balow has said the curriculum framework, which will be based on the standards, is the “bridge between the materials that are used and the teaching that happens every day,” while the standards document is more “public-facing and states the broad learning goals.”

The August standards the Board of Education considered included the curriculum framework in a 402-page document. In contrast, the November standards that excluded the framework clocked in at only 53 pages.

Balow said she had considered combining everything into a single package in October, but the result was not “feasible as a publicly consumable document.”

Additionally, she said that decoupling the two allows staff to work on the curriculum framework while the draft standards are being revised.

“It is really important to me that we reach out during the curriculum framework phase and engage teachers as one of our primary audiences and one of the primary communities that we seek input from because that’s who uses the curriculum framework,” said Balow.

Some board members, including President Daniel Gecker and member Anne Holton, both appointees of former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, expressed concerns about the decoupling at the October 20 meeting.

“I think for policy and process reasons, it’s crucial that we keep them together,” Holton said.

Balow, however, has argued the current approach isn’t much different from the process taken during the last revision of the state’s expectations seven years ago.

“The standards document was adopted — I believe it was about a 60-page document — in 2015, and almost one year later the curriculum frameworks were before the board,” she said on Oct. 20.

Virginia Department of Education spokesman Charles Pyle also said in an email that “the 2018 Science (Standards of Learning) were approved in 2018. The corresponding curriculum framework was approved the following June.”

A ‘both and’ approach

Some teachers and parents, however, have been critical of the decoupling.

Chad Stewart, a policy analyst for the Virginia Education Association, said instead of decoupling, “it really could be a ‘both and’ approach where there are additional materials put out for the public to understand this curriculum while you maintain some of the more important technical frameworks for teachers to really implement the highest quality instruction they possibly can for this content.”

Kathleen Smith, a former educator in Petersburg and administrator in the state education department, said separating review of the curriculum framework from the standards will leave teachers with insufficient time to prepare lessons. That may be particularly difficult for general elementary school teachers who teach every core subject.

“I can’t even fathom how one would think I could develop lesson plans without a curriculum framework,” Smith said. “It’s nice to have those because I can go in, grab my resources, and it just makes life easier, but if you decouple them, you’re taking away a primary resource for teachers. You’ll lose more people in the field than you have now.”

A recent report by the state’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found 10,900 teachers left the workforce ahead of the current school year, exceeding the number of new teachers entering it. Teachers said their dissatisfaction was linked to higher workload due to vacancies and a lack of parental and public respect.

Stewart said the curriculum framework is perhaps even more important than the standards because “it helps guide teachers in the pedagogy and sequencing and development of their lesson.”

He added that the framework also helps teachers think quickly through critical questions they need to ask their students.

Assessments based on the new standards will not begin until the 2024-25 school year.

Special meeting expected in January

Virginia Department of Education staff is currently drafting the curriculum framework before it goes out for public comment, according to a Nov. 17 presentation to the Board of Education.

The board delayed its review of standards at the same meeting until January. The draft is expected to include public feedback and content from the August version.

Balow said the framework is also subject to public and board input.

 

by Nathaniel Cline, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Vigil in Chesapeake after Walmart shooting and more Va. headlines

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The State Capitol. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

 

• “The suspect in a Southern California triple homicide who died in a shootout with police was a Virginia law enforcement officer who investigators believe drove across the country to meet a teenage girl before killing three members of her family.”—Associated Press

• At a vigil last night in Chesapeake following last week’s mass shooting at a Walmart, the city mayor called the moment Chesapeake’s darkest hour. Gov. Glenn Youngkin told attendees that “we must not evolve into a sense of national despair.”—WTKR

• A century ago, families on Hog Island moved to Oyster, Va., to escape the rising seas. Now climate change means Oyster is being threatened as well, sparking questions of whether those families should stay or go.—Washington Post


• The Virginia Crime Commission is considering how law enforcement can test drivers for DUI impairment from marijuana after possession of small amounts of the drug became legal.—Daily Press

• Another group that aims to revive the beloved but now-discontinued Northern Neck Ginger Ale owned by Coca-Cola is asking Westmoreland County for support. “We’re trying to get Coke’s attention. Either bring it back or sell it back to us. I believe having it in Virginia will be the best way to go.”—News on the Neck

 

by Staff Report, Virginia Mercury


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“Can’t Feel At Home” an original play by Dr John T Glick. The story of families displaced from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the 1930’s to allow for the construction of Shenandoah National Park and[...]
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Christmas Tree Sales @ Royal Plaza Shopping Center
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Christmas Tree Sales @ Royal Plaza Shopping Center
Kickoff for tree sales — Boy Scout Troop 52 is ready to help you find that perfect tree. We are located at the Royal Plaza in front of Rural King. We will be selling trees[...]
7:30 pm “Can’t Feel At Home” @ Court Square Theater
“Can’t Feel At Home” @ Court Square Theater
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“Can’t Feel At Home” an original play by Dr John T Glick. The story of families displaced from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the 1930’s to allow for the construction of Shenandoah National Park and[...]
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“Can’t Feel At Home” an original play by Dr John T Glick. The story of families displaced from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the 1930’s to allow for the construction of Shenandoah National Park and[...]