Economic Recovery in Hampton Roads
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, the Hampton Roads Alliance sought to provide much-needed support to businesses and the Hampton Roads community. Over the last year, the Hampton Roads Alliance has strengthened regional partnerships and facilitated stronger regional cooperation, both of which enabled it to adapt quickly and efficiently to the changing business climate.
With the help of their partners including the Hampton Roads Chamber, Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, Reinvent Hampton Roads, Hampton Roads Workforce Council, Greater Peninsula Workforce Board, ODU’s Strome College of Business, and the CIVIC Leadership Institute, the Alliance developed a central repository for economic recovery resources at 757Recovery.com. This website has an interactive interface, allowing individuals and businesses to gain access to answers, resources, and the support they need. Bankers, lawyers, accountants, educators, executives, and more have contributed to the site by writing blogs, participating in forum discussions, and hosting webinars.
During the peak of the pandemic, a message board offered a place to ask experts questions during weekly live Q&A sessions, helping business leaders understand topics including the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the Employee Retention Credit and PPP Loan Forgiveness among others.
The Alliance also launched a survey series of Hampton Roads business leaders and the business community to collect meaningful data about the severity of the pandemic’s impact on businesses. The data from these surveys is being used to inform elected officials about issues facing the community and to shape the future resources offered by the Alliance and their regional partners.
This summer, the regional groups launched the 757 Recovery & Resilience Action Framework, which was advanced by 11 committees composed of over 125 regional business leaders, with young professional vice-chairs and Old Dominion University Student Liaisons. Each committee represented a different sector or topic area and its members offered analysis, challenges, and recommendations in a series of white papers.
Since the committee work wrapped up in late summer, the first draft of the Vision Statement for the Hampton Roads economy and the identification of five pillars upon which the Alliance's actions will be built was developed. In November, this plan will be made public for the business community to review and share feedback before the plan is finalized. The plan will be implemented beginning in January 2021 with clear duties and lines of responsibility outlined for the region’s lead business organizations – who does what, and when. A public performance dashboard and scheduled meetings will report on the progress and hold everyone accountable. The overall goal is to build a better economy for the people of the 757 and accelerate the region’s economic rebound. This will ensure that the economy and local companies are more resilient to future shocks and that more residents are empowered to benefit from this new economy.
To further support the recovery and resiliency effort, the Alliance launched a video series that featured local thought leaders sharing their perspective on how to leverage the trends and changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Accomplishments Over the Year
Despite limitations imposed by the pandemic, the Alliance has accomplished a great deal in the last year. In March 2020, the Alliance received 501c3 status that has allowed for investments to be charitable. In May, the Alliance launched an organizational rebrand to help better tell Hampton Roads' story. This rebranding effort included debuting a new name, logo, and website, redeveloping targeted marketing materials, launching national advertising campaigns targeting c-suite executives and site location consultants, and revitalizing the Alliance’s social media strategy to increase its reach and engagement rate.
The Alliance has also continued its efforts as the leading economic development organization for Hampton Roads, focusing on business attraction and business retention & expansion (BRE). Since January, the Alliance has opened 35 new attraction projects with companies considering relocating to the region. The organization has held 28 meetings with key site selectors and 37 meetings with corporate decision makers in a mix of in-person and virtual conference call settings.
The Alliance has conducted a total of 29 project meetings with companies considering expansions in the region this year and is actively working with seven companies on their expansion needs. To date, Alliance staff has led or engaged in 19 activities related to BRE and business recovery to include presentations to community and regional groups and regional webinars on recovery and business resilience topics. They also facilitated regional in-person events prior to COVID-19.
The Alliance is currently working on a project with site selection firm Wadley Donovan Gutshaw to determine how to best position Hampton Roads to recruit higher-paying “office sector” jobs. The study will recommend corporate office targets as well as technology sectors that would be a good fit for the region. In this same vein, students at the Strome College of Business at Old Dominion University (ODU) researched the region’s strengths and weaknesses as a corporate office market and provided recommendations for how the region can best attract and retain talent.
Year to date, the Alliance has been directly involved with seven project announcements for the Hampton Roads region including companies such as Amazon, Apex Systems, and Huntington Ingalls Industries. These projects represent more than $300 million in capital investment and will create 2,150+ new jobs for the region.
To learn more, please visit www.HamptonRoadsAlliance.com.