Here’s a pop quiz for you. What metropolitan area has the honors of starting the first hospital, chartering the first university, and creating the first canned beer in America? Here’s a hint: It’s the same region that saw the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams basketball team make an improbable run in the 2011 NCAA men’s basketball tournament to become the first team to go from the First Four to the Final Four.
It should be clear by now that Greater Richmond is a winner when it comes to producing firsts. While it may not be top of mind when you mention a city of firsts, RVA has been and continues to be a city of innovation and foresight. Today, the region is using its past to fuel the next generation of “firsts.”
“The Richmond area has a lineage going back 400 years of creativity and innovation and that carries into today,” says Greg Wingfield, president and CEO of the Greater Richmond Partnership, the regional economic development organization. Wingfield says that the region’s strong history of social and business “firsts” gives promise for tomorrow.
The Richmond area, he points out, took the lead on establishing the model for the first article of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution, planting the first crop of tobacco and creating the nation’s first ironworks as well as the nation’s first coal mining operation.
Area companies pioneered the first household foil (we all know it as Reynolds Wrap), the first cellophane, the first commercial streetcar system, and the first recyclable can. Industry leader CarMax opened its first used-car superstore featuring no-haggle pricing in 1993. Today, the company is the nation’s largest retailer of used cars operating 117 used-car superstores in 58 markets.
Medical firsts stem from researchers and doctors at VCU/MCV and include the oldest medical college building in the South, the first clinical transplant center, the first forensic DNA analyses, the first transplant matching system, and the first artificial heart implant on the East Coast.
Wingfield believes if you look at these modern-day accomplishments, you will see a correlation to the city’s roots.
The spirit of creativity and innovation in the area continues to grow along with its growing population (now over 1,200,000). As a magnet for labor that is drawing creative workers seeking their own “firsts,” it is fitting that Greater Richmond is now home to an expanding array of Fortune 1000 headquarters, pharmaceutical, chemical, biotech, and other 21st century manufacturers around every corner. Helping to drive more of these “firsts,” organizations like Greater Richmond Partnership are promoting business opportunities for firms large and small, new and established – many with a high probability of becoming the next success story that Richmonders will be adding to the region’s list of milestones in the years to come.
Along with this growth, Wingfield points out, are opportunities to also further community development, quality of life, the arts, and the quality of jobs. He points to events such as TEDxRVA in March as an example of the area’s continued focus on celebrating the past while creating its future. “It will have people talking about the arts, technology, and the medical field,” says Wingfield. “We have so many different creativity points that look at new and exciting ways of doing business.”