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Newport News Now

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Newport News Now is a daily e-newsletter that launched in March 2016. Articles that ran in our newsletter between March 2016 and March 2018 are available on these pages. Newsletters produced beginning in April 2018 can be viewed on our new daily newsletter page.

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Jan 03

Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance Charts Course for Region

Posted on January 3, 2017 at 7:59 AM by Communications Department

For almost 20 years, the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance has charted a course for the economic development for the region. The Alliance, funded by both local governments and private companies, is governed by a Board of public and private executives. While the region may not have recovered from the recession as quickly as many would have liked, there has been a great deal of progress this year. Before considering the New Year, let’s takeHREDA_logo_SC a quick look at some of what’s been accomplished Hampton Roads this past year. Under the guidance of outgoing Board Chair, John Padgett, the Alliance hired a new CEO and President, Rick Weddle who, who began his duties in April. Newport News City Manager and incoming Chair of the Board of the Alliance Jim Bourey says, “Rick brings a wealth of skill and experience to Hampton Roads and is known for highly successful tenures in some major regions in the country. We have already seen a very positive impact from his first few months with the Alliance.” The leadership at the Alliance feels that 2016 may prove to be a turning point, a time when we moved beyond the analysis paralysis that has characterized our region for too long. The Alliance has moved from statistical comparisons, competitive assessments, recurring rationalizations and a long series of coulda-woulda-shouldas, to a new sense of community and regional spirit, a new standard of cooperation, new opportunities for collaboration and a dramatically new bias for action.

Nowhere was this more evident than at the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance and its major leadership partners like the City of Newport News and the Newport News Economic Development Authority.

Rick Weddle believes that 2016 brought the Alliance a new focus on increased stakeholder engagement, improved communications, enhanced cooperation and a greater value proposition or return-on-investment for our funding partners. He indicates, “Since joining the team early in the year, I have worked with leadership, stakeholders and investors, to refocus, reorganize and reposition our organization with an ear tuned to stakeholder guidance and an eye focused on measurable results and meaningful impact.”

Research and evidenced-based approach led to a new industry cluster-based diversification and economic growth strategy. Input and guidance from a broad cross section of partners this past August led to an ambitious five-year plan to diversify the regional economic create long-awaited new jobs, investment and growth.

With strong public and private leadership support and encouragement, the Alliance has assembled a strong and effective marketing and sales team correctly positioned to generate and deliver new business investment and job creation opportunities to our partners in Newport News and other communities across the Hampton Roads region.

The Alliance isn’t alone in this new approach. The work of Reinvent Hampton Roads came culminated in two “call-to-action” summits held in December at Old Dominion University and Christopher Newport University. More than 600 civic leaders, citizens and economic development partners came together in those summits to take stock in where the region is and help map a plan forward to create much needed jobs, investment and industry diversification across the entire Hampton Roads region. While it’s clear that more work needs to be done, Weddle believes it is equally clear that the region is finally on the right track and taking the right actions.

It should be no surprise that these efforts are starting to pay real dividends. The Alliance is finishing 2016 with the best job creation performance in a decade. The 2,000 plus jobs being created by companies like ADP in Norfolk, Sanjo in Virginia Beach and Peet’s Coffee in Suffolk are a good first step in the journey to get Hampton Roads back on a positive economic growth and quality job creation track.

If one listens closely, the sounds of economic progress breaking out all across the region can be heard. Independent but aligned job creation efforts in the communities are creating new quality jobs and much needed capital investment at a steady clip. From the Dollar Tree expansion of 600 jobs in Chesapeake, to the Maximus decision to create 189 new jobs in Hampton, to the Newport News Shipyard addition of 1000 jobs beyond those already slated to come, to Endurance IT Services’ new headquarters in Virginia Beach, to the Port of Virginia’s decision to invest over $200 million in 86 new rail mounted gantry cranes, the business of Hampton Roads economic development is making news. Indeed, 2016 was a good year for Hampton Roads.

Weddle says much more, however, needs to be done in the year and years ahead. He feels as we look to the New Year, we must resolve to keep the energy for positive change and economic growth alive and the agenda for progress moving forward.

Simply put, Weddle has charted an ambitious agenda that includes:

1. Stay focused on clear job creation goals. The Alliance’s ambitious five-year higher wage job creation strategy and plan is a clear roadmap for success. The plan calls for the creation of 32,000 new higher-wage industry cluster jobs that will drive the creation of 71,000 new jobs in the region overall. More specifically, the plan calls for over a quarter or 9,500 of these new jobs to come from the Alliance’s new-to-market business recruitment and attraction efforts with the balance coming from accelerated growth and expansion of priority industry clusters in our communities. The specific goals and targets in this plan are gaining support. In November, the Newport News EDA was our first partner to take the lead and endorse the plan. To date, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Chesapeake and Poquoson have endorsed the new jobs plan and other endorsements are planned early in 2017.
2. Build on our strengths and merchandise our success. Our region is rich in human and material resources with great opportunities for success. Nowhere is there a better example of this than Newport News and the Hampton Roads Peninsula. With a strong asset base and sound business environment, exciting new investments are underway. The December announcement of Elite Airways decision to provide new non-stop service from the Newport News/ Williamsburg International Airport is an excellent example. The new Brooks Crossing office development anchored by over 600 engineering and design-related Newport News Shipbuilding jobs is another. 2017 will bring a steady stream of good news. The point is, we have a great story to tell and we need to be busy telling it – both at home and across the world.
3. Continue to find new ways to work together better. Economic development is a team sport that requires everyone to work together. In 2016, we formed the Regional Economic Developers Team or “RED Team” to better focus and improve how we and our regional partners work together. We made good progress in this area but much more can and will be done in 2017. The City of Newport News and its EDA has an excellent economic development team that does a superb job working with companies and closing deals. Our job is to generate more opportunities to give the Newport News team and all our regional partners more “at bats,” or more chances to do what they do so very well – closing deals and bringing quality jobs and economic development to their community.
4. Leverage our resources and efforts for maximum impact. A core element of regional economic development programs is leveraging resources to achieve greater collective impact. Marketing, advertising, public relations, trade shows, industry research, economic development sales missions and direct sales activities are expensive and must be sustained over time to be successful. Few communities have the resources to fund such programs at the scale needed to compete on a global stage. By pooling public funding and matching it dollar-for-dollar with private funding, the Alliance offers its member communities the opportunity to put their dollars to work more effectively and efficiently. That is the real bargain of regional development efforts. Communities can leverage precious limited resources and gain direct access to a larger opportunity pipeline than would ever be possible on their own. The return-on-investment or ROI from such collaborative and leveraged efforts makes it a good deal for everyone.

To be sure, there is much more to do in 2017 than this. Even so, it seems abundantly clear that all these things should be done together in a true partnership that can lay the groundwork for a new civic architecture for economic progress, sustainable success and a durable competitive advantage for the future. Weddle remarks, “If we stay focused on clear goals; if we build on our strengths and merchandise our successes along the way; if we build each other up and work together as never before; and if we fully fund these efforts and fully leverage our limited resources, we will have accomplished much. We will have gone a long way to get the region back on the right track and creating the kind of breadwinner payroll opportunities our citizens need and deserve.”