757 economic recovery plan focuses on cooperation
Community pride, encouraging new and resilient industries part of new framework
At a Thursday news conference, Hampton Roads regional leaders unveiled a new economic recovery plan for the next two years that focuses on cooperation and resiliency.
Hampton Roads Alliance President and CEO Doug Smith presented a report detailing multiple goals for the region to help it recover financially after the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting job and business losses. It is based on input from more than 200 nonprofit, government and business leaders who participated in meetings with the organization during the past six months.
The 757 Recovery & Resilience Action Framework focuses on the following broad goals: building regional unity; growing new jobs; growing, retaining and attracting talent; building resiliency and advancing regional infrastructure.
With a self-set deadline of October, the group hopes to recruit 1,000 “757 Champions” — a diverse group of leaders who will volunteer to promote different business sectors and create a more welcoming atmosphere, especially for minority business people. So far, Smith said, more than 100 people have indicated interest. Another goal to meet by October is the launch of the “Did You Know” regional marketing campaign, which will include a free app that can be used to award prizes to participants who answer quiz questions about the region. Smith noted that to encourage cooperation and local pride, residents need to know more about the full 757 region and its 17 localities.
According to the framework, the group will focus on the following goals this year: attracting young professionals to participate in the 757 recovery project; building a performance dashboard; attracting new companies and increasing productivity and growth of target industries; cultivating new industries, including offshore wind; and providing diversity and inclusion education and business-model training.
In 2022, the group’s goals will include growing the region’s startup ecosystem, as well as creating a business approach to energy and sea-level rise issues and attracting talent from outside the region, focusing on tech industries. In the longer term, the group hopes to address systemic problems that have held the region back.
Smith noted at the start of his presentation that the Hampton Roads region took more than eight years to fully recover from the 2008-09 recession, about three years longer than comparable communities, and its 2019 average per capital income of $52,011 and GDP of $50,609 is behind other regions, including Columbus, Ohio, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Smith and others say the region needs to bounce back faster this time.