NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Hundreds of local leaders gathered in Norfolk Wednesday to see how Hampton Roads’ economy is shaping up, and after reviewing the region’s strengths and challenges, economists say the 2017 State of the Region is improving.
“This year is the most optimistic in my opinion because we are seeing each of the major pillars of growth in Hampton Roads show positive signs, defense has increased slightly and we are expecting congress to pass a bigger defense budget and it’ll increase in 2018 more people are working in Hampton Roads then we have seen before,” said Old Dominion University Economic Professor Robert McNab.
Additionally, a record breaking year at the port, a housing market that continues to show improvement and developments in Downtown Norfolk added to the positive review.
Welcomed news for local leaders at the State of the Region address at Norfolk’s the Main hotel where experts explained the latest ODU report.
“Its had an immediate impact, so we’ve seen an increase in hotel revenue and a big increase in tourism expenditures,” said McNab.
The room was packed for an in-depth presentation analyzing the highs and lows of the region. According to the report produced by the Regional Studies Institute at ODU, the region has yet to recover from thousands of jobs lost years ago; but its making good headway.
It all boiled down to finding long-term solutions not just for one city, but the region as a whole.
“We have not been creating enough jobs, think about the college graduates who cannot find jobs, what are they going to do? They are going to go to another place where there are jobs,” said Professor Vinod Agarwal. “We need to work together.”
The message was well-received.
Another major challenge for the region is the scourge of opiods. According to the report, on average, about 25 people in Hampton Roads die each month from overdose. Professor McNab said this is a public health issue and an economic issue, as well.
“It’s also an economic issue because people who take opiods tend to get out of the labor force and stop working and we estimate that one billion dollars in economic activity is lost in Hampton Roads each year because of opioid addiction,” he said.
There was something for almost everyone to take away. Some of the other topics addressed were health care in Hampton Roads, Airbnb in Virginia Beach, affordability and access in Virginia’s public high education, and foreign language instruction in the region’s public schools.