McAuliffe tours Manassas, talks jobs


Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and 7-year-old Kylie choose their favorite doughnuts from a display case at Paradise Donuts in Manassas. [Uriah Kiser /]
Paradise Donuts Owner Keith Buck, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffee, and Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish taste Paradise Donuts. [Uriah Kiser /]
Paradise Donuts ribbon cutting in Manassas. [Uriah Kiser /]
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe addresses a crowd of business owners at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. [Uriah Kiser /]

Jobs, transportation on McAuliffe priority list 

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe had his choice of flavor of doughnut in Manassas on Tuesday.

The executive was on hand for the grand opening of Paradise Donuts on Route 28. McAuliffe shook the hand of new franchise owner Keith Buck, a 24-year veteran of the Naval Reserve, who opened the shop after two years of work.

“My goal is to make Virginia the most vet-friendly state in the country,” said McAuliffe.

His appearance came on the heels of him signing new legislation into law Monday at the Woodbridge Campus of Northern Virginia Community College, at that allows military veterans the ability to get college credit for prior military training.

The governor said Virginia has more military veterans under age 25, and all have unique skill sets that are needed to fill jobs in today’s workforce.

Many of those jobs — at least 30,000 of them in Northern Virginia — are in the IT field, McAuliffe told crowd gathered at the Hylton Performing Arts Center for the Prince William Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the Chamber event Tuesday.

“Jobs in big data, personal medicine, that’s what the new economy will look like,” McAuliffe told a crowd of business owners.
Jobs in web coding and cybersecurity will also play a role/ Moving away from traditional four-year degree programs and focusing on two-year training and certification courses will put more people to work faster, he added.

And while Virginia — a state that is so heavily reliant on federal defense spending — has seen the government ratchet back those dollars, McAuliffe said he’s convinced a new FBI headquarters will be built in the state. He’s also lobbying President Barack Obama for a new cyber defense facility that would house national defense and intelligence under one roof.

The governor also spoke about reducing the number of SOL tests Virginia school children must take, expanding Obamacare in the state, ending veterans homelessness. He also talked about improving transportation along Interstate 66 by adding HOV lanes, and improving Metro.

“In transportation, I”m all in. We just authorized the new cars for the Silver Line because it does no good if the train shows up, and its full,” said McAuliffe.

Plantation tours, National Night Out, at Manassas Museum in July

manassas museum

The Manassas Museum will be hosting free book talks, historic walking tours, Liberia Plantation tours and a National Night Out event in July.

More on July’s events at the museum, from a city release:

Historic Downtown Manassas Walking Tours; Thursdays and Fridays at Noon
Stroll through Historic Downtown Manassas and learn about the town’s history during a Manassas Museum Walking Tour.  Costumed interpreters share stories about Historic Downtown during the Civil War and about the rebirth of the area after war and fire.

Liberia Plantation Tours; Sundays at Noon (8601 Portner Avenue, Manassas, VA) –
Step back in history at this historic 1825 plantation house where Civil War soldiers and presidents tread. Liberia will be open every Sunday at 12 Noon (as restoration work permits).

Museum at the Market; Saturdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. through October –
(Lot B, Prince Williams Street and West Street) Stop by the Farmers’ Market and enjoy hands-on history for all ages.

A New Exhibit: Protecting Manassas; Through July 15; free –

The exhibit features historic and modern artifacts from the City of Manassas police, fire and rescue services, and features activities for young visitors. The exhibit coincides with this summer’s 2015 World Police and Fire Games, an athletic competition held throughout the region.

Free Book Talk: Jonathan Roberts: The Civil War’s Quaker Scout and Sheriff; July 12 at 2 p.m.
When author Gregory P. Wilson began researching his family history, he never expected to uncover a great-great grandfather as unique and fascinating as Jonathan Roberts.

Pre-K Tuesday; July 14 at 10 a.m.; ages 3-5 with adult; $10 per child

Children ages three to five and a caregiver may enjoy storytelling, crafts, songs, and outdoor exploration during the Pre-KTuesday program at the Manassas Museum. Register at or by calling 703-368-1873.

Free Book Talk: Cut From Strong Cloth; July 19 at 2 p.m.
In her new book, Cut From Strong Cloth, author Linda Harris Sittig tells the story of a strong Civil War-era woman whose dreams of entrepreneurship are thwarted by family and the threat of war.

Free Book Talk: For Brotherhood and Duty: The Civil War History of the West Point Class of 1862; July 26 at 2 p.m.

Brian McEnany’s curiosity about the Civil War and about the West Point class that graduated 100 years before he did, resulted in his new book, For Brotherhood and Duty: The Civil War History of the West Point Class of 1862.

National Night Out – Towne Ball; August 4 from 6 to 8 p.m.; free

See how baseball began during the annual event on the museum lawn held in conjunction with the Manassas City Police.

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Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire, Caarmo to offer car diagnostic device

There’s new technology out there that will help you understand what’s going on with your car.

The technology, created by Caarmo, is a diagnostic device that will let drivers know if there is something wrong with their vehicle. It also sends the diagnostic information to a certified auto technician.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire has partnered with Caarmo to become one of the first 18 auto repair shops to offer the device to their customers.

“We know how important it is to keep our customers informed and on the road. By offering Caarmo devices to our customers, we hope to ensure that their vehicles are getting the best care possible,” said Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire owner ST Billingsley.

Caarmo CEO Vinay Raman, said that the device – which is smaller than a pack of cards –is simply plugged in to the diagnostic port found in every car, and immediately begins to collect information on the vehicle.

“One of the biggest expenses that people have is their vehicles. And that can be for businesses or consumers. They spend a lot of money, and a lot of time on them – but they don’t know what’s happening. So we’ve created sort of a really sophisticated ‘Fitbit’ for a car,” said Raman.

For $80 a year, customers with the device will be able to see their car’s information, service reminders and GPS tracking. The auto technicians at Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire will also be able to see the car’s diagnostic information for a mechanic’s portal. So if a customer’s car is having an issue, a technician will be able to call right away – either to provide reassurance or to schedule maintenance.

“[We put] these devices in the vehicles to let them know, ‘Hey your car is operating just fine’ or if a check engine lights comes on – some people kind of freak out when they see that – we can take a look at that and say, ‘Based on the make and model of your vehicle, let me give you a sense of what’s actually happening.’ It gives you more of a sense of what’s going on than just a light on your dashboard – you have an expert on the phone,” said Raman.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is looking to begin providing the Caarmo devices to customers in the coming months.

*This promoted post was sponsored by Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire.

Is housing in Prince William affordable?

Row houses line streets in Woodbridge’s Belmont Bay neighborhood. (Mary Davidson/

Housing can be expensive.

And for those that are economically challenged, the cost of housing in the Northern Virginia region can be a major hurdle that impacts their lives.

According to a Prince William rental market comparison, a one bedroom apartment runs $961, a two bedroom runs $1582 and a three bedroom runs $1,801 per month.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that the average wage for individuals in Prince William is $832 per week – $3328 per month. This is lower than the national average according to the BLS, which is $1027 per week – $4108 per month.

So for individuals paying for housing in Prince William, many pay 28% to 54% of their monthly income, depending on the size of the space, utilities and fees added to the initial housing cost.

According to Andrea Eck, a housing specialist for Northern Virginia Family Services, those that pay more than 30% of their income towards housing are ‘precariously housed’.

“I bet if you took a look at your housing costs, it would probably be more than 30%, and that’s because it’s expensive to live here…We serve a low income population – typically people that are 30, 50 or 80% or below area median income. And based on the family’s income, their rent does not exceed 30% of their income, because we know that anybody who pays more than 30% of their income on housing is precariously housed,” said Eck.

While there are residents that are able to afford the housing costs in the county, there are some that cannot.

A 2015 report from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments stated that there are 409 homeless individuals in the county – 136 of which are children. These are the individuals that populate the area’s tent cities and homeless shelters.

What programs are available in the county?

The homeless are not the only individuals in need of access to affordable housing.

Bill Lake, the director of Prince William’s Office of Housing and Community Development, works with residents in need providing rental assistance, also known as Section 8 housing.

“We help low income families with their rental obligations, to help them find affordable, decent, safe and sanitary homes. Our families receive a voucher – they go out and find housing. The housing is inspected to meet certain housing quality standards…they negotiate with the landlord what the rent would be, and we have to do something called ‘rent comparables’ where we have to make sure that the rent is being charged is [appropriate] for the area,” said Lake.

While the housing vouchers are assisting with the need for affordable housing in Prince William County, there is a gap between need and what is available.

“We have a waiting list of over 8,000 families, and we’re serving now about 1,900,” said Lake.

“Vouchers are limited, and the wait list is not open,” Eck commented.

Additionally, the Office of Housing and Community Development puts forward $55,000 per year towards assisting homeless individuals in finding housing.

Alongside the Office of Housing and Community Development, NVFS does have housing services, including their 92-bed SERVE shelter in Manassas, and their takeover in operations of the Hilda Barg shelter in Woodbridge, according to Eck.

NVFS also owns properties where residents can pay a reduced rate, but this is limited as well, said Eck.

What can be done to provide more affordable housing options?

According to Eck, there are several things that can be done in the county to ensure residents have access to affordable housing.

“On the housing side specifically, I think Prince William County has made some great strides by shifting to a rapid re-housing philosophy in our home shelters…and something critical to that process is a housing locator…the reason why housing locators are so important is that they build that network of property managers and private landlords that are willing to work with us and the barriers our clients face,” said Eck.

Eck stated that the board of supervisors has supported affordable housing initiatives by contributing to area non-profits like NVFS.

“Our local county board of supervisors is very supportive of the non-profit community that is working to address this issue, so there are contributions made to non-profit partners doing this work…I think their continued support of the work that is being done…is obviously very critical,” said Eck.

Creating job opportunities and maintaining access to public transportation are critical pieces of alleviating the problem.

“I also think that availability housing in and of itself isn’t the only issue. We also know that jobs help to create stable communities, when folks are working, earning a living wage. So ongoing efforts to build a robust job training [program] and supportive services that go along with it [are important]…Ongoing support of our public transportation system is pretty important as well because, the folks that we work with really rely on public transportation to be able to get to those jobs and those job training programs,” said Eck.

System 2040 plan maps out changes for VRE service

121212 VRE

The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) has a plan that includes adding train lines, stations, and even reverse commute capabilities.

While mass transit is one of the major methods that many area residents use to get to work in the area, there is still a lot of congestion that VRE is trying to combat, according to Director of Public Affairs Bryan Jungwirth.

In order to handle congestion and provide more service to riders, VRE has created a System 2040 plan with service improvements and additions up through the year 2040.

One big component of the plan is reverse commuting, which would alleviate some congestion on the roads for commuters coming in to Prince William and Manassas for work.

Currently there are only three trains that are classified as a reverse commute, according to Jungwirth – one from Union Station in Washington, D.C. at 6:25 a.m. to Broad Run, an additional Union Station to Broad Run in the afternoon and a Broad Run to Union Station train in the afternoon.

“We’ve got some trains that actually can be characterized as a reverse commute, and they’re on the Manassas line,” said Jungwirth.

In the immediate future, VRE will be adding more cars to existing trains.

“The best things we’re definitely going to do – max by 2017 – are adding more cars onto more trains and make the trains longer, which will increase capacity. And that will help with the whole [Route] 66 construction issue,” Jungwirth commented.

There are several station expansions and new platforms on the agenda from VRE, with a Fredericksburg train line being added this summer and Gainesville-Haymarket extension coming, said Jungwirth.

Also coming up in the next few years, are VRE’s plans to add two more tracks and potentially adding a line that goes from Manassas to Alexandria.

“[System 2040] tries to address all of this different elements, because we’re going to need two more tracks going across the Potomac [River] – so either a new bridge or the extension to the existing long bridge. And then we need more train storage up in the [Washington] D.C. area, and we’re looking to expanding where we store our trains. Parking lot expansions – we’re looking at those as well…We could potentially get additional capacity on the Manassas line…we’ve thought about ways we could run more service on the Manassas line and doing what we call a fish-hook kind of service to Alexandria, but it would take a lot of construction to make it even feasible,” said Jungwirth.

Reverse commuting capabilities should start to become a bigger focus towards the end of the System 2040 plan, said Jungwirth.

“I won’t say that reverse commutes aren’t on our list of things to do, because it is in the System 2040 plan, but it’s the latter part of the plan, so we’re talking out to 2030, 2040…all of these other infrastructure improvements would need to occur before that were to happen,” said Jungwirth.

Manassas man charged with sexual battery of female minor


On June 27, Prince William police from the Special Victims Unit responded to a call for a sexual assault on Lady Jane Loop in Manassas.

According to Prince William police, the victim – a 9-year old girl – was sexually assaulted by 46-year old Manassas man Charles Forsyth, who is a known family member.

The assault took place on more than one occasion between January 2014 and June 2015, according to Prince William police, following an investigation.

Forsyth has been charged with four counts of aggravated sexual battery, six counts of indecent liberties with children, two counts of forcible sodomy and one count of display of grooming or obscene material to children, said Prince William police.

He is being held without bond.

OPTiMO opens 8,500 square foot facility in Manassas


072914-First-on-plOPTiMO Information Technology – a software and technology solutions provider – have opened a new 8,500 square foot facility in Manassas.

OPTiMO, which was founded in 2008, works within federal, defense and commercial markets, and decided to make the move to serve customers in the Washington, D.C. and Virginia area.

According to OPTiMO’s CEO Michael Miguelez, the company chose to open their new location on Battlefield Parkway in Manassas because of its accessibility and commuting time.

“We’re delighted to be in Prince William County. We established our first Virginia location in Vienna in 2012 to better serve our federal clients, but we rapidly outgrew that facility.  We wanted a location with easy access to Washington, DC that is supported by a solid internet infrastructure, with room to support our growth, while supporting a manageable commute for our engineering teams – Prince William County has it all,” said Miguelez.

20 engineers are currently working at the new facility.

Additionally Miguelez stated that the young professionals coming from nearby universities influenced their location decision.

“Prince William County was a clear winner in our site evaluation. We gain direct access to a talent pipeline of young professionals with both Northern Virginia Community College and the George Mason University Science & Technology Campus nearby,” said OPTiMO’s vice president of engineering Jarrod Norton. 

According to the Prince William County Economic Development department, the county’s IT sector is growing rapidly.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire receives Boy Scouts award

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire and other area businesses were given an award for their involvement and continued support of the Boy Scouts.

The award was part of the Boy Scout’s 2015 Community Friends for Scouting campaign, which raises money for Boy Scout programs throughout the year.

During the ceremony, HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire was recognized for their continued involvement and for their silver sponsorship.

“At HomeTowne we’re proud that we can support local organizations like the Boy Scouts that help children and the community we live and work in,” said ST Billingsley, owner of HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

Among the silver sponsors for the program were the Management and Training Consultants, Inc. and the Rotary Club of Lake Ridge, Virginia.

*This promoted post was sponsored by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

Sterling Women group provides business women with networking, opportunities


11539005_730080840447405_7482248177901374553_oThe Sterling Women of Prince William want to help you network and grow your business.

The group, which was founded in 2008 in Reston by Kristina Bouweiri – president of Reston Limousine – started as a way for business women to meet and has grown to include chapters all over Northern Virginia.

“When you’re a business owner, you’re running around and you’re running to all of these events and if you’re the kind of owner where your hands are in everything…your time limit is very small, on events you can attend. So for her, she wanted something where she could take a lunch once a month, have it close to her workplace, network with a bunch of women and then go back to work,” said Shateaa Holmes, head of the Sterling Women Prince William group and president of Excelsior Pay Group.

According to Holmes, the Sterling Women’s group filled a void in the community for business women.

“Kristina’s business is a huge business – it’s over $20 million in revenue, and she has more than 300 employees. And for a woman owned business to have that kind of success is rare. So she wanted to market to other women because you don’t really have that type of networking event. We have the fun and fluff [in the community], but we don’t have the get down to business – where you’re coming in and networking, and your purpose is to make connections and grow your business,” Holmes said.

The group got so popular, they began to expand and add locations.

“It’s turned into this huge networking event and late last year, [Bouweiri] started allowing people to open up different locations,” said Holmes.

Holmes started the Prince William chapter in November, which meets the third Wednesday of every month in Woodbridge. Women are able to see vendors, network with one another and hear from a speaker.

Holmes decided to open her own chapter of Sterling Women, following her own positive experience with the group.

“I went to my first Sterling Women event in February 2013. I started my business in July 2012, at the same time I was working a full time job…and from July to February, I had no success in my business. I was about to close my business. Someone told me about Sterling Women, and told me I needed to go…and after all of the connections I had made…there was no way I could close my business. And I want to pass that on to other people…You’ve got a room full of women, and you’re starting out, or you’re on the spectrum where you’ve got a multi-million dollar business, and you can walk up to any of these women, and connect with them…and learn from them. I wanted to bring that to Prince William County, because I didn’t see anything like that in the county,” said Holmes.

By March 2014, Holmes was able to quit her full time job to focus on her business and currently has 7 employees.

While the group is targeted towards women, Holmes stated that men are welcome to join.

$100K winning Virginia lottery ticket bought in Manassas, still unclaimed


According to the Virginia Lottery, an individual who purchased a winning lottery ticket in Manassas has not come forward to claim their winnings – and the ticket is about to expire.

The ticket was purchased on January 12 for a Cash 5 night drawing from a 7-Eleven location on Cockrell Road in Manassas, said Virginia Lottery.

The ticket was a winner and is valued at $100,000. Virginia Lottery stated that the winning numbers were 3-7-10-20-25 and that the ticket matched all five numbers.

But the owner of that ticket has not come forward to claim their prize.

More on lottery ticket expiration and unclaimed prizes from the Virginia Lottery:

By law, winning tickets in Virginia expire 180 days after the drawing. In this case, since the 180-day period ends on a Saturday, the winner has until close of business the next business day, which is 5:00 p.m. on Monday, July 13. If it’s not claimed by then, this $100,000 ticket will become worthless.

All Virginia Lottery unclaimed prize money goes to the state Literary Fund. The Literary Fund is used solely for educational purposes, such as upgrading technology in schools and teacher retirement funding. Since its inception in 1988, the Lottery has transferred more than $244 million in unclaimed prizes to Virginia’s Literary Fund.

Cash 5 drawings are held daily at 1:59 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. The chances of winning the $100,000 top prize are 1 in 278,256.

The owner must reach out to the Virginia Lottery in order to claim their prize.

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