Isle of Wight economic development director, chamber president stepping down

Published 6:27 pm Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The day after Isle of Wight Economic Development Director Chris Morello announced his resignation, the county’s Chamber of Commerce announced its president would also be stepping down.

Morello, according to a county news release dated Oct. 3, will be leaving on Oct. 20 to take a new position as the assistant director of economic development for the city of Newport News.

Joey Bikkers, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, announced in his own news release on Oct. 4 that chamber President Jessica Jones-Healey had also tendered her resignation effective Nov. 3.

Both have been in their current roles since 2018.

Morello began his tenure with Isle of Wight in 2017 as its assistant director of economic development and was promoted to director a year later. According to his LinkedIn profile, he previously worked for Newport News for 18 years, from 1999 to 2017.

“These past six years serving in Isle of Wight have been extremely positive, and a privilege working with colleagues, appointed officials and elected officials so tirelessly committed to the county’s continued success. The timing of this opportunity to work again in economic development for Newport News, my hometown, plus many personal and family-related factors, contributed to the decision,” Morello said.

Jones-Healey, who moved to Isle of Wight County in 2015, said she plans to stay in the area.

“I began my professional career as a small-business owner for over 10 years and I am excited to get back to my roots and join our local business community full time,” Jones-Healey said. “This decision does not come easy as I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Chamber these last six years. I am very proud of the work we have accomplished during my time there, and I know the board will continue this success after my departure.”

The Chamber, according to Bikkers, has been “the voice of business” for Isle of Wight since the late 1980s.

In 2019, Coastal Virginia’s business magazine, CoVA Biz, recognized Jones-Healey as one of 30 “Millennials on the Move.” She was later named to Inside Business’s “Top 40 under 40” in 2021, and appointed to the state’s Commission on Youth by Gov. Glenn Youngkin in 2022.

Isle of Wight County has seen a flurry of new residential and commercial developments during Morello’s tenure, including the start of construction on Riverside Health System’s planned 50-bed Smithfield hospital that’s set to open in early 2026, and a mixed-use community in Carrollton known as The Crossings, which is now building out its commercial phase after stalling from 2002 through 2021. Earlier this year, Morello and the county’s Economic Development Authority were involved in luring what will be the first tenant of a long-planned third phase of the Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park.

According to census data, Isle of Wight’s population has increased 4% over the past two years, making it the seventh fastest-growing county in Virginia.