Passing the baton
John Reinhart, port board members talk legacy of growth
John F. Reinhart
Former CEO, executive director of Virginia Port Authority
Reinhart retired at the end of March as CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, a position he began in 2014. During his tenure, the Port of Virginia started and completed a nearly $800 million expansion of its terminals in Hampton Roads and launched a $350 million dredging project in late 2019
to create the deepest and widest port on the East Coast.
After the Great Recession, the state entertained plans to sell the port, which lost $120 million between 2009 and 2014, but Reinhart made it profitable again. “We turned around the port,” Reinhart recalls. “In 2013, the metrics weren’t there. We changed the way we did business.”
One step toward success, he says, was “creating a team that is aligned by values,” as well as “raising awareness of the port across the state. Grow the business and build the trust. Always listen to the customer.”
Reinhart said he plans to remain in the Hampton Roads region at least a year after retiring, although he is excited to spend more time with family in New Jersey. Stephen Edwards, Reinhart’s successor, is a “consummate professional with 30 years of experience,” he says. “He’s a great leader and somebody that I respect.”
As for the port’s future, Reinhart says that collaboration among the maritime community and the military, along with other stakeholders, will be key. “In there are the seeds for the future.”
John G. Milliken
Chairman, Virginia Port Authority Board of Commissioners
Milliken was appointed to the port authority’s board in 2014, and his second term ends in June 2022. A former Virginia secretary of transportation and retired Venable LLP law firm partner, Milliken is a senior fellow in residence at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government.
Speaking about retired CEO John Reinhart’s legacy, Milliken says, “When John Reinhart assumed the position of CEO and executive director in February 2014, the Port of Virginia was in bad shape. It had gone through the double trauma of the 2008 to 2010 economic collapse and the effort to sell the operation to a private company. Morale was at an all-time low and the port was losing money and customers.
“John quickly put a recovery plan in place, repaired its finances and instilled a new spirit in the staff. He developed an upbeat plan
for expansion and successfully convinced [Gov. Terry McAuliffe] and the Virginia legislature that success was to be found in growing, not retrenching. In his seven years, he positioned the port to be the premier U.S. East Coast gateway to the world’s markets.”
Milliken notes that the port’s expansion has allowed it to handle significantly more cargo efficiently. “The job now is to market our new assets, capacity and capabilities. Fortunately, we have a very good story to tell. As peer ports on both coasts struggle to handle increasing cargo volumes, Virginia is in a unique position to offer the most efficient and cost-effective service on either coast.”
President and CEO, Virginia Economic Development Partnership
Moret came to Virginia in 2017 and was instrumental in bringing Amazon.com Inc.’s HQ2 to Arlington and previously led Louisiana’s economic development efforts.
As state policy, VEDP’s president and CEO serves on the Virginia Port Authority Board of Commissioners as a nonvoting member, and the port authority’s top executive serves on VEDP’s board in return.
Having worked closely with Reinhart, Moret credits him with transforming the port, “positioning it to be a modern economic driver for many years to come and one of the commonwealth’s most important assets.” In addition to his work at the port, Reinhart was a valuable member of VEDP’s board.
“There are numerous examples of John sharing creative ideas with our team on how to secure major business development projects in situations where we would not have won without his personal involvement,” Moret says. “He has truly helped advance economic development across the commonwealth of Virginia, and we will see the results of his hard work for years to come.”
“As vessel sizes continue to expand and require more water depth to safely operate,” Moret expects the 2024 completion of the dredging project will place the port in a good position against competitors in Baltimore; Charleston, South Carolina; Miami; and New York. He also expects Dominion Energy Inc.’s offshore wind project off Virginia Beach to create more opportunities for growth at the port.