From April 9-11, a group of 25 leaders from Mississippi’s Gulf Coast visited Hampton Roads and met with local leaders to gain insight on the region’s assets. LEAD Hampton Roads, the leadership program of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, hosted the group during the two and a half days. They toured some of the region’s assets and spoke with experts regarding the region’s three key economic drivers: the military, the Port of Virginia and tourism. The group visited the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Newport News Shipyard, APM Terminals and spoke with representatives from Old Dominion University, Visit Norfolk, the City of Norfolk, and the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. As the region’s premier business organization, the Chamber was honored to host the group and showcase the region’s assets.
The Masters Leadership Program, developed after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, was launched by the Gulf Coast Business Council Research Foundation in 2007 to identify and develop leaders of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The program brings together 20 of the Coast’s leaders to become the regional “think tank” for one year. Each year, the class learns, challenges assumptions, and develops solutions on elements that lead to making the Gulf Coast region the most livable place in the United States. As part of the program, the class visits another city that is a model for success in this area, and learns how they have drawn upon their own regional assets to effect change in their communities. At the program’s conclusion, the class develops a position paper on recommended solutions and courses of actions that are presented to the Business Council.
Brent Henley, CEO of The Pyramid Group and facilitator of the Masters Leadership Program, said, “Our topic this year is ‘Leveraging the Gulf of Mexico for Economic Sustainability.’ We selected three cities that we thought had the most common elements with the Gulf Coast: Hampton Roads, VA; Jacksonville, FL; and Savannah, GA. Upon further research we decided on Hampton Roads because we share significant shipbuilding industries, military assets and tourism. We also share big bodies of water that support commerce and recreation. In addition, sea level rise, associated insurance costs were other contributing factors.”
Henley said the group learned that regionalism is an important concept and difficult to implement. He said, “Climate change will impact coastal cities sooner than we thought and Department of Defense cuts will significantly impact our economy and engaging your citizens in the conversation about the community’s future is critical.”
As far as take-aways that the group can implement in their region, Henley said that their region needs a deeper draft in their Port. In addition, he said, “’Envision Hampton Roads’ is a brilliant idea that could get some traction on the Gulf Coast.”
In the fall of 2013, the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) authorized the creation of a process to develop Hampton Roads’ first Regional Strategic Plan entitled, Envision Hampton Roads. In developing Envision Hampton Roads, the HRPDC will follow a six-step Community Based Planning approach with the first step: establishing Community Values followed by Vision, Strategy, Plan, Fund, and Build.