"We look at this as connecting opportunities. Connecting opportunities that we work together and we leverage the collective impact and work for big buckets." Hampton Roads Chamber President and CEO Bryan Stephens discussed the importance of Convergence and working together not as two separate regions but as one Mega Region. Megaregions are the new competitive unit in the global economy and define the movement of goods, people, and capital between nearby metropolitan regions.
The Hampton Roads Chamber is proud to serve this region as an Impactful Advocate, Regional Collaborator, Inspiring Ignitor, and Powerful Economic Partner, setting the conditions for businesses to succeed. ChamberRVA, RVA757 Connects, and The Hampton Roads Chamber brought leaders from 757+RVA regions for Convergence 2021.
John Martin, President & CEO of RVA757 Connects, presented four goals for Convergence 2021; Celebrate, Understand, Grow, and Engage. Martin touched on various topics such as creating data centers, innovation, retaining the workforce, and education. "We're educating the right people here, but they're leaving." Martin discussed the need for the region to establish ourselves as a "Global Internet Hub," implementing new data centers that will bring corporate headquarters to advance the regional economic development.
Sentara Healthcare and Optima Health were the Speaker Sponsors for Convergence 2021. Layne Jr expressed his gratitude for the Sentara community efforts. "Very proud of the things Sentara is doing, and proud to be a Sponsor today, and be apart not only as a Sponsor but as an economic engine. Sentara and its employees, and what we bring to the community; but also helping the communities as we strive to move forward in what the future may hold."
International speakers provided insights on how Marseille, France, became a global internet hub in 5 years. Vinay Nagpal is the President of InterGlobix, Chairman of NVTC Data Center & Cloud Community, and Executive Director & Founding Member, IEIC. "The success of any region hinges upon the collaboration both on the public and private sector side, which is very important." Mike Hollands, Senior Director, Market Development in Marseille, France, spoke of the importance of regional collaboration that leads to the implementation of developments. "The magic happens when multiple parties come together and invest in their region." Alexander Antonakas is The Head of Diversification & Innovation for Digital IT and Equity Projects at Grand Port Maritime Marseille. Antonakas addressed a key that should be in work in any region's economic growth plan. "Connect and collaborate with stakeholders of the region, and develop a global strategy with all the territory stakeholders." He supports where those that invest in the projects should have the majority decision-making of the future economic developments.
The Dean of VCU's College of Engineering, Barbara D. Boyan, led a panel discussion to get a perspective from local leaders on becoming a global internet hub. Raymond K. White, Business Development Coordinator for Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development, emphasized a first critical step to introduce itself as a Global Internet Hub. "One thing that the communities have to do to get ready for this is that they have to clear out barriers."
Anthony Romanello, Executive Director of Henrico Economic Development Authority, referenced I-64 and I-95; and how they correlate to the presented information on infrastructure. "What we're talking about with the infrastructure today and we been talking about, is to the 21st Century of our Region of what I-64 and I-95 were to the 20th Century." The barriers presented are:
Morris W. Foster is the Executive Director of Strategic Development at Old Dominion University. Foster spoke of the value of supercomputers for data centers with collaboration with Jefferson labs that in the plan will attract the next generation of workforce. "We can use those supercomputing facilities really from anywhere. So the real value is not so much the hardware of the facility, as it is the talent that they attract. So first, the national lab must have a sophisticated data science staff at those facilities, and then the universities around them hire data science people. With that collaboration of talent, you get startups, IPE, and all sorts of things that make those attractive places to locate your data analytics or data science business, or any kind of business you might have."
Paul Rocheleau is the Executive Director of Strategic Development and a Founding Trustee of VCU's College of Engineering. Rocheleau mentioned points of discussion with the entrepreneurial community and summarized a central point from those discussions. "We need to go and refine all of our private and public sector partnerships, and how do we create a linkage that is more flexible, faster, and allows us to capture these opportunities."
Recap this live event below.
Thank you to the Convergence 2021 sponsors: Speaker Sponsor: Sentara Healthcare, Optima Health; Supporting Sponsors: Atlantic Union Bank, Cox Communications, Dominion Energy, and Henrico EDA.