State of the Region 2015 shows room for improvement

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Hundreds of local leaders gathered in Norfolk Tuesday to see how Hampton Roads’ economy is shaping up, and after reviewing the region’s strengths and challenges, economists say the 2015 State of the Region is leaving plenty of room for improvement.

“The overall story is we’re not doing well, but we’re not doing too badly either,” said James Koch, ODU President Emeritus and Professor of Economics. “I think we among other things should help our port grow. It’s one of our growth engines right now.”

The room was packed for an in-depth discussion analyzing the effects of changes in defense spending that is just not what it used to be. According to the report produced by the Regional Studies Institute at Old Dominion University, the region has yet to recover from thousands of jobs lost years ago. And it all boiled down to finding long-term solutions not just for one city, but the region as a whole.

“We have been too dependent on the Department of Defense,” said Professor Vinod Agarwal. “And the DOD is not going to continue to grow at the same pace as it’s done earlier and we need to diversify the economy.”

The message was well-received.

“We might be different cities, but we’re all in the same boat especially if you look at how the water’s rising,” said Sen. Louise Lucas. “So we all have to work together for what is in the best interest of the entire region.”

“It is inspiring,” said Scott Miller, President of Virginia Wesleyan College. “There are challenges, but those challenges are also opportunities, and I find two or three items that I’m going to take back and discuss with my staff and see how we can address them for the improvement of quality of life for this area.”

There was something for almost everyone to take away. Some of the other topics addressed were improving the ports, early childhood education, non-profit organizations, a shortage of nurses, and the economics of a casino in Hampton Roads.

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