Preparing for the future

Published 8:37 am Wednesday, January 13, 2010

With proper foresight, continuous planning and dynamic economic development, Hampton Roads will be recognized as a region fueled by innovation, intellectual and human capital, infrastructure and a sense of place.

That’s what a group of regional organizations and community leaders set forth as a regional goal as part of new collaborative strategic planning for Hampton Roads’ future as an impactful global leader.

Since early 2009, a group of more than 150 volunteers served on one or more of five committees and sub-committees established to oversee development of a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. Yours is called “Vision Hampton Roads,” and you can read more about the whole process at

The U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration’s CEDS process provides Hampton Roads with a roadmap, i.e., a regional plan, and includes broad strategies and specific actions of prioritized importance.

The Vision experience in Hampton Roads is about creating an ongoing economic development process that is embraced region-wide. Vision planning has placed Hampton Roads on a path to regional transformation by embedding a working process in all that we do … to think, live and act regionally.

We all recognize that Hampton Roads is a region dependent upon its maritime-rich geography, including all the blessings that come with it, i.e., commerce derived by its ports and tourism, drawn to its beaches and history and the most concentrated naval strongholds on the planet. Those same geographic attributes, however, bring with them vulnerabilities that, if not managed and planned for properly, have the potential to overpower the positive.

Hampton Roads is increasingly vulnerable to changes in defense spending, including the military dynamic of an increased reliance on “boots on the ground” over naval ships and aviation. Our geography demands a transportation infrastructure reliant on a complex and expensive system of bridges and tunnels — a system that today is inadequate. That inadequacy results in traffic congestion that has negative ripples throughout our economy. Firms will not move here, and some will not stay here, if they cannot move their product in and out of the region. Tourists will not come here if they cannot easily get into and move around the region.

Hampton Roads has dealt with the closure of Ford Motor Co.’s Norfolk plant with more than 3,000 workers. In 2011, Fort Monroe, home of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, closes as a result of Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) actions. The recession of 2009 also placed a strain on our economy with reductions in workforce within a number of large firms such as Smithfield Packing Company and TeleTech. International Paper Co. will close its Franklin-based paper mill, eliminating about 1,100 jobs. The closing could trigger an additional 2,400 job losses in the region. These reductions, coupled with the threatened movement of an aircraft carrier group and closure of the Oceana Naval Air Station, all place strains on the region’s economy.

The Vision Strategy Committee decided to focus on the three main pillars of the current Hampton Roads economy — the port, tourism and federal/military assets — and explore opportunities to diversify the regional economy and identify areas for the improvement of our quality of life.

The Vision Hampton Roads document (draft) was released on Jan. 5, beginning the 30-day public comment period. You can view/download the document at We also encourage you to take the public comment survey and pass this link along to your friends, family and colleagues.

What’s in it for citizens? An alignment of the region with common goals means we’re more competitive, we’re more efficient and we attract more and better paying jobs.

We’re depending on your word-of-mouth to create meaningful public participation so as to promote democracy and civic engagement, build public trust in government and enhance credibility within our communities. Your comments via the survey will help prioritize the opportunities ahead as the region aligns itself to embrace and work toward a common, cooperative vision for Hampton Roads.

A Public Responsiveness Summary will follow the 30-day comment period, showing commenters how their feedback impacts the plan. In early February, the final document will be developed for final review, approval and submission to the EDA.

Progress with Vision Hampton Roads will be monitored on the region’s Web site for measuring quality of life indicators:

When commenting on the draft Vision Hampton Roads, please consider: How can you make a difference in the Hampton Roads region?