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At State of the City, Hampton mayor touts tech innovation

Mayor Donnie Tuck delivers Hampton’s 2023 State of the City. (Image: Laura Philion)
Mayor Donnie Tuck delivers Hampton’s 2023 State of the City. (Image: Laura Philion)

In front of a 500-strong audience Friday, Mayor Donnie Tuck focused on Hampton as a place “Where Innovations Begin.”

“Our city is 413 years old — yet we continue to innovate,” he said.

Tech companies expand in Hampton

Tech business — especially those using unmanned vehicle technology — boomed in Hampton this year, Tuck said. Huntington Ingalls Unmanned Systems Center of Excellence, Longbow Group, TruWeather Solutions and Advanced Aircraft all moved to or expanded operations in the city.

“Hampton is a strategic location for these businesses – and not just because of NASA,” Tuck said.

Partnerships with Hampton University, Virginia Peninsula Community College and the new REaKTOR accelerator all make Hampton a good location for tech savvy business, Tuck said.

The REaKTOR business incubator program, a venture of the National Institute of Aerospace and the Peninsula Technology Incubator, grew companies like Pancopia, which works to transform agricultural wastewater into usable irrigation water. The company projects $400 million in sales within the next 10 years.

Another REaKTOR lab, Gismo Power, launched in Hampton a month ago. Tuck said the company is pioneering a mobile solar electricity generator. The generator is on wheels and can fold up, and is meant for renters or apartment living.

Research technology in Hampton

Hampton’s growing research sector was another bright spot for the city.

Research grants expanded Hampton University’s programs in 2023 for nuclear fusion research, Alzheimer’s research in understudied populations and more money for the university’s Proton Therapy Institute that treats cancer.

In addition, NASA Langley Research Center is in the middle of building its first new wind tunnel in four decades — the Flight Dynamic Research Facility, slated to open in 2025. It will be a testing ground for the agency’s unmanned and autonomous flight systems.

In addition, Joint Base Langley-Eustis became home to the F-22 Formal Training Unit, making room for 500 new personnel.

Resilience and repair

And while research continues in Hampton, they also made headway addressing some of the impacts of climate change, said Tuck, who recently returned from the United Nations’ international climate change conference in Dubai.

The Resilient Hampton initiative broke ground at Lake Hampton in late summer to begin the first of three infrastructure projects to mitigate climate change effects in the city. The city is one of the first in Virginia to take advantage of an environmental impact bond, attracting private investors.

Plus, the city’s public works department started using drone video to capture pictures of sewers to use for repair.

“We are now one of a handful of localities in the nation using artificial intelligence, or AI, to read and interpret those images. Hampton is field-testing the software and teaching the AI to get better,” Tuck said.

The world changes fast.

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