"This Inter-Regional Visit took a deep dive into the thriving economies of the Raleigh, Durham, and Triangle region to determine best practices to improve our economy,” said Bryan K. Stephens, President and CEO, Hampton Roads Chamber.
The Hampton Roads Chamber recently facilitated its annual Inter-Regional Visit (IRV) which took place from September 23-25, 2019. The IRV is a comprehensive visit where a mix of business, academic, and municipal leaders from Hampton Roads travel to another region to analyze the successes of thriving economies. In recent years the Hampton Roads Chamber has traveled to Nashville, TN, and Pittsburg, PA, landing in Raleigh, Durham, and the Triangle this year.
Critical sentiments gleaned from the IRV are economic growth through regional collaboration and maintaining diverse and inclusive talent acquisition and retention efforts. “Innovation, inclusion, and diversity are a common theme wherever we go throughout the IRV,” said Dr. Richard West, Mayor of Chesapeake.
The visit covered what makes Raleigh, Durham and the Triangle such a prosperous region. Delegates were absorbed in discussions on Economic Development, Sports Marketing, Transportation, Workforce Development, and Innovation. From panel to panel, business leaders including Adrienne Cole, President and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Chamber, Corey Branch, Pro Tempore Mayor of Raleigh, Bill Bell, Former Mayor of Durham, and Geoff Durham, President and CEO, Durham Chamber of Commerce, echoed the theme of regional collaboration, diversity, and inclusive talent acquisition and retention efforts. “Collaboration, innovation, diversity, and inclusivity are the four pillars of our regional strength,” said Durham. Adrienne Cole echoed the praise of regionalism stating, “We are not going to big against each other.”
One of the salient points discussed throughout the visit focused on economic growth through regional collaboration. “The three key takeaways are a purposeful partnership,” said Michael Haley, Executive Director of Wake County Economic Development. “Second is pride and place, which is important because it doesn’t negate regionalism. Finally, many hands make light work,” said Haley.
Former Durham Mayor Bill Bell discussed regionalism and partnership efforts between Raleigh, Durham, and the Triangle as they worked together to advocate for a new rail transportation system to connect the region. Although the attempt failed, regional collaboration still played a significant role as leaders worked toward a common goal. Michael Haley reiterated that for regional cooperation to work, many hands are in the cookie jar. Haley stressed that it’s more than just a group of chambers driving regionalism through Raleigh, Durham, and the Triangle. The educational system, the private sector, and an engaged audience are the drivers behind regionalism.
Since 2005, the Raleigh, Durham, and Research Triangle region has seen more than $3 billion worth of developments completed, adding a new convention center, office spaces, an art center and more. The local economy is thriving, producing more than 81 new and expanding job announcement opportunities for the city of Raleigh in 2019 alone.
The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission traveled with the Hampton Roads Chamber delegation and provided stats comparing the two markets. Raleigh Durham MSA has seen 10 year employment growth of 27.7%, while Hampton Roads has had just 1% growth.
Jeff Ainslie, President, Ainslie Group, a delegate on the IRV said, “A continued focus on career path development for both our existing and emerging workforce (all the way down to Pre-K) coupled with improving an already great livability index should provide businesses throughout Hampton Roads the talent and expertise necessary to compete and succeed in this global economy.”
“Many great things are happening in Raleigh,” said Pro Tempore Mayor of Raleigh, Corey Branch. Throughout the visit, construction is all around the region as companies are being built and expanding, generating job opportunities and revenue for the district.
Another driving force for talent acquisition and economic growth are the top tier research universities, community colleges, and prominent state universities clustered closely together throughout the Triangle Region. Having so many higher education institutions grouped not only attracts a wide-ranging and diverse group of talent, but it also makes the area a powerhouse for innovation and research.
IRV delegates visited the largest research park in the country: Research Triangle Park (RTP). “Research leads to discovery, innovation, and new technologies,” said Kristie VanAuken, Vice President of Stakeholder Engagement, Research Triangle Park. The RTP attracts startups and prominent technology companies such as IBM, BASF, and CISCO. The innovation hubs and companies within the RTP help drive economic growth and job opportunities within the region, which has been a catalyst for growth in Raleigh, Durham, and the Triangle.
VanAuken urged Hampton Roads business leaders to promote what the region of Hampton Roads offers and to create a lifestyle that is attractive to people migrating into the Hampton Roads region. “Presenting our self as a diverse, welcoming place matters,” ended VanAuken.
In summary, the overarching purpose of the IRV is to evaluate how regions thrive and what drives their economic success and what can be replicated in Hampton Roads. One of the main takeaways from the 2019 IRV is that regionalism is not achieved in one day or by one person. It takes collective planning, collaboration among seasoned thinkers, business leaders, educators, and many people to make regionalism work. The Hampton Roads Chamber hopes to implement the best practices learned from North Carolina leaders, to grow our economic success, attain regionalism through collaboration, and to attract and retain a diverse talent pool.