We’re working diligently to make Hampton Roads the best environment for business in the nation, and we’re determined and unabashed in our efforts.
Part of our efforts are focused on “pivoting to the positive,” changing the perception of Hampton Roads as a repressed cul-de-sac and making it a “gateway” to prosperity.
Quite frankly, we are tired of the old rhetoric that Hampton Roads is a cul-de-sac, caught up in our own feedback loop of inter-regional issues and cut off from the rest of the state. It’s simply too easy for “legacy thinkers” in Hampton Roads to sit back and complain about what we lack, what obstacles are in our way, and continue to conform to the complacency of the status quo.
We need to stop letting the obstacles of the past cloud a bright vision of our future. Being unapologetically pro-business is about taking matters into our own hands. It’s about creating an environment that allows us to move away from the cul-de-sac mentality and come to the realization we are a global gateway, a juggernaut for economic prosperity.
As we do this, we need to be mindful and intentional in our efforts. A pro-business environment is made up of various interconnected pillars like economic development, workforce development, infrastructure development and quality of life. These pillars are the qualitative and quantitative measures of a region’s business environment and we must be deliberate and unified in our efforts to improve them.
If all of these pillars are strong, they create an ecosystem hospitable to business and our economy flourishes. If we neglect one, we falter. The work of the Hampton Roads Chamber touches each of these areas. We have a vested interest in each of their continued growth.
Economic development is likely the pillar the Hampton Roads Chamber is most typically connected with in the minds of our members and the regional business community.
Economic development is simply the growth of the local economy. Economic development is jobs! And there are only three ways a region grows jobs: new businesses moving into the area, local entrepreneurs starting businesses and established businesses expanding. The Hampton Roads Chamber works in various ways to encourage growth in all three areas.
From our Small Business Development Center and programs on leadership and business education to our lobbying efforts for business-friendly legislation on the local and state level, to working alongside our neighboring chambers to develop one voice as the Hampton Roads region, we’re committed to the economic development of our region.
That commitment, however, goes far beyond job growth. It flows into strengthening the other pillars of a pro-business environment.
We know that for any of these three economic development gains to occur, the other pillars of the pro-business environment need to be strong. We need to have infrastructure that allows companies to relocate to our area or entrepreneurs open up shop without needing to worry about energy shortages, sea-level rise flooding issues or insufficient transportation.
Infrastructure development is one of our key legislative concerns as the Hampton Roads Chamber has taken positions of support on issues such as passenger rail, light rail, transportation funding, air service, the Atlantic coast pipeline, waste management and the gas floor tax. We also need to have a solid workforce development environment that focuses on readying local talent to shift into the workforce gaps we currently have in Hampton Roads, and anticipate we will have in the future, via education and vocational training.
Finally, workforce development bleeds into quality of life as talent retention relies on good schools, family-friendly neighborhoods, leisure attractions, quality medical facilities and more.
The Hampton Roads Chamber works tirelessly to help Hampton Roads strengthen all of these pillars. We mean business, and that encompasses every component of the pro-business environment. Hampton Roads has made great strides in recent years and we’re gaining momentum.
If we can collectively focus on a future where Hampton Roads develops strong pillars of a pro-business environment — focused workforce development, business enabling infrastructure and increased quality of life – we will continue to attract and retain additional economic development.
Let’s help Hampton Roads leave the cul-de-sac mentality behind and become the gateway to prosperity on the East Coast!