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Convergence 2020

Convergence 2020
Convergence 2020
Convergence 2020

On October 13th, the Hampton Roads Chamber and ChamberRVA hosted the Convergence 2020 conference at the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation facility.

The event allowed members of the business community from both Richmond and Hampton Roads to learn from different community leaders on why merging together to form a Mega Region would be beneficial.  There were 50 people in attendance, and 175 people attended virtually through the live stream. 

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Tom Frantz, who is often referred to as the “Father of the Mega Region”, gave a brief overview of why forming the Mega Region is so crucial before the event dove deeper into the specific areas of focus. “We are innovating. Not only do we have a growing center, we have a juggernaut in the center. If we could market ourselves as one, we could be the 17th biggest in the country and could attract economic development,” said Frantz.  Frantz then introduced the keynote speaker, Jonathan Barnett.

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Jonathan Barnett is one of the pioneers of the modern practice of city design. He has helped educate more than a generation of city designers. Barnett spoke to the group virtually from his home in Philadelphia.  He opened his talk by praising the group for coming together, saying, “Groups like yours are so important.  The emerging Mega Regions across the US are an important trend. It’s great that you all are taking the initiative to have success in growth”. Barnett displayed the current Mega Regions in the US and highlighted initiatives those regions have taken. He then explained what he calls the “Three Big Issues of Mega Regions”; Environmentally Sustainable Growth, Balanced Transportation, and Rezoning Vacancies along Commercial Corridors for Housing.

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In the next presentation of the day, the audience got to hear from Adrienne Cole and Adam Klein, two key players in the successful formation of the Raleigh-Durham Mega Region. They spoke on how to intentionally work together, and how to look at one area’s success as a success for the Mega Region as a whole. “Working together for us is intentional. It’s not perfect, and it’s not to say we don’t have work to do on key areas, but we do work well together, and it’s an intentional practice,” explained Cole. Klein and Cole spoke on issues their region’s faced, Transportation being the biggest. “We need to think of a regional approach, so we are involved in a study called FAST, as we look to tackle our regional transportation issues,” stated Klein.

Bryan K. Stephens, President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber, echoed the importance of collaboration. “The idea that Hampton Roads cannot collaborate is old rhetoric. There is more collaboration happening in Hampton Roads to solve problems every single day. Success leaves clues, and we are looking to other people and organizations that are doing well and we are learning from them,” stated Stephens.

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John Martin, President and CEO of RVA-757 Connects, gave an in-depth update on how RVA-757 Connects is accomplishing and what needs to be done to assist their goals.  After recently officially becoming a 501c3, they are seeking leaders from all areas of the Mega Region to join their board. They are looking for individuals who are passionate about their mission and are looking to be innovators and thought-leaders. Martin spoke on the Demographic Factors, Tech Shifts, and Societal and Cultural Shifts that all indicate we should be moving towards a Mega Region. He stressed the mindset of “stronger together” and went into detail on topics like talent pipelines, power of place, region-wide diversity and inclusion, and workforce models.

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Next, James White, Regional Director of Safelite AutoGlass, and Harry Turton, Central Virginia Regional President Atlantic Union Bank, spoke on how they’ve had opportunities to grow their businesses in both Hampton Roads and Richmond, and how the Mega Region would be a great opportunity to grow their workforce.

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Howard Kern, President and CEO of Sentara Healthcare, and Michael Rao Ph.D., President of VCU and VCU Health System, discussed collaboration, telehealth, new technologies, and the future of healthcare in Hampton Roads and Richmond, Virginia.  Healthcare is an emerging pillar of our economy, and Richmond and Hampton Roads medical providers are working together and merging programs to better serve the Mega Region.

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To discuss education, Shawn Avery, President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston, President of Norfolk State University, and Paula Pando, President of Reynolds Community College, came together to speak on how the region can foster relationships with colleges to keep talent in the region. Pando urged the business leaders in the room to invest in the young talent in community colleges and to hire them knowing that their education has prepared them to be successful in the workforce. “If we are building our programs with you [businesses] at the table, and we make and build curriculum designed for the industry standards, then I am going to ask you to hire my students, because I am ensuring they are workforce ready,” said Pando.  As for how to keep young talent in the region? “We need to tell our story better. To those graduating from our universities, and coming out of military service, we need to communicate what careers and opportunities are here in our region,” stated Avery. Dr. Gaston stressed the need for internships, specifically paid internships by saying, “No student should leave college without an internship, and we need to them be a paid internship. This will help students see what opportunities are in the region and to experience the industries hands-on.”

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Jim Spore, President and CEO of Reinvent Hampton Roads, spoke on GO VA, and grants, and how combining to form the Mega Region will help qualify for more growth and economic opportunity.

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Bill Murray, Senior Vice President – Corporate Affairs and Communications of Dominion Energy, spoke on off-shore wind and how that opportunity benefits the Mega Region. He cited that there is a supply/chain opportunity and a chance to leverage our Port for economic development.
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Bob Crum, Executive Director of the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, spoke on the updates of the I-64 expansion, and their plans to help the Hampton Roads transportation needs up to the year 2025. Crum cited that the 29-mile gap between Hampton Roads and Richmond is an important connection to link the regions and should be a priority for future transportation planning.

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Raymond White, a Business Development Coordinator for the City of Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development, spoke on the information highway, and how Virginia Beach holds the only Transatlantic Landing Location in the center of the East Coast, and how this can be used as an opportunity for the Mega Region.

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Chris Lloyd, who leads the McGuire Woods Consulting Infrastructure and Economic Development team, spoke on the new political realities of Virginia.  He explained that now nine of the Committee Chairs in the Virginia Senate are from Northern Virginia, only three are from Richmond, and only one is from Hampton Roads.  He spoke on how this lack of representation at the Committee Chair level is hurting our Mega Region. Lloyd stressed the importance of reframing the “them vs. us” mindset when thinking of Northern Virginia, and how there are opportunities to have a working relationship. Lloyd also spoke on affordable housing needs, workforce and talent development, the future of our airports, and large institutional investments.

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This concluded the Convergence 2020 event.  Thank you to our sponsors Atlantic Union Bank, and Sentara Optima Health for making this event possible. Thank you Jamestown Yorktown Foundation for hosting this event.

 

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