"Why don't we have a community conversation about resilience?" This question, posed by Mike Herron, Publisher of Inside Business, was answered with the inaugural Hampton Roads Resilience Forum on August 22nd. Herron expressed this to the forum in his opening remarks as he explained how Inside Business joined the Hampton Roads Chamber, RISE Resilience Innovations, and Old Dominion University to provide an opportunity for the Hampton Roads community to learn how the region continues to work with water.
Resilience, as it relates to coastal flooding and sea level rise, is an important topic for the Hampton Roads region. "This impacts and affects all of us in Hampton Roads in a variety of ways," said John Broderick, President of Old Dominion University. "We started this initiative on campus in 2010," said Broderick, "what people didn't realize was how quickly it would grow to include other disciplines."
The breadth of fields resilience touches was evident at the forum. Over 200 people came to listen to panelists from the business community, academia and local and state governments discuss resilience and resilience technology. The forum encouraged the interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration the Hampton Roads Chamber strongly supports. "The Hampton Roads Chamber aggressively takes on issues for the business community in the region, but we don't do anything by ourselves," said Bryan K. Stephens, President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber. "Too often we work in silos. This forum should serve as a unifying venue to bring all our efforts together. We want to see resilience and the challenges presented by recurrent flooding turned into opportunities for Hampton Roads."
Keynote speaker, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security and Chief Resilience Officer for the Commonwealth of Virginia, Brian Moran stressed the importance of resilience efforts to the business community. Moran cited a FEMA statistic that almost 40% of small businesses never reopen their doors after a natural disaster. "Hampton Roads is subject to the highest rate of sea level rise on the east coast. We can't afford to wait until after the next storm," Moran said. "Resilience has become embedded in our language and our laws but there is more to be done. We need to partner with academic institutions and we need the business community. We can create jobs by making our community resilient."
Chris Stolle, Delegate, Virginia House of Delegates stressed the importance of collaboration moving forward. "How do we turn (resilience) into an incubator for ideas and technology?" he asked.
With academics, industry experts, and local and state leadership in attendance, cross -disciplinary discussions continued throughout the luncheon portion of the event. As the forum came to a close, Bryan K. Stephens encouraged attendants to continue these discussions. "I hope this is the start of some dynamic collaboration in Hampton Roads.”
(Pictured here left to right: Mike Herron, Publisher, Inside Business; Ron Carlee, ODU Center for Regional Excellence; John Broderick, President, Old Dominion University; Bryan K. Stephens, President & CEO, Hampton Roads Chamber)