More than 60 members of the Boards of Directors and Trustees from the Hampton Roads Chamber and Virginia Peninsula Chamber met on November 28 in Suffolk. Deborah Stearns, Chair of the Hampton Roads Chamber, and Mark Hanna, Chair of the Virginia Peninsula Chamber presided over the hour and a half meeting.
Judy Stewart, PhD and Caroline Martin provided the group with a presentation about the Virginia Science, Technology, Engineering, and Applied Mathematics (STEAM) Academy. Stewart and Martin, Co-Founders, explained that the Academy is intended to be a uniquely challenging experience for students with ability and potential in science, engineering, or mathematics. The Virginia STEAM Academy is patterned after The North Carolina School for Science and Mathematics (NCSSM). The Academy will serve approximately 1,000 9th-12th grade students, with 250 9th graders being admitted each year. Stewart and Martin explained that they plan in 2014 to welcome the first class of freshman. They have secured an MOU to pursue Fort Monroe in Hampton as the site of the Academy. Graduates of the STEAM Academy would have a positive impact on the local business community.
Additionally, Dwight Farmer, Executive Director of the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, addressed the group and discussed a November 16 meeting in Richmond among the Urban Crescent Mayors and Chairs and CEOs of Chambers of Commerce. He explained that 121 people attended the meeting to develop and sign a letter to be sent to elected officials addressing the transportation funding problems facing our regions and the need to find solutions.
Farmer warned that in 2017 the state will run out of transportation funds for construction as well as maintenance. Delegate Mathew James was in attendance of the November 28 meeting, and said that one of the reasons Virginia was downgraded from its previous position as “the best state for business,” is because of our transportation problems. The challenge is to find the revenue streams. The consensus was that this issue would need to be handled in a “special session” outside of the General Assembly’s 2013 short session. James said, “If we don’t fix transportation, we will become an economic development cul de sac.” It is expected that all the Urban Crescent Chambers along with the Virginia Chamber will sign on to the letter. For more information, visit http://www.hrtpo.org.
Leaders from the Hampton Roads Chamber and Virginia Peninsula Chamber agreed to continue to conduct joint meetings in the future, as both organizations face many of the same issues. By working together, our Chambers will have a more powerful regional voice in public policy matters.