Hampton Roads chamber alliance moves regionalism beyond rhetoric

Hampton Roads chamber alliance moves regionalism beyond rhetoric
An Op-Ed by Bryan K. Stephens, President of Hampton Roads Chamber

Regionalism! We in the business community have been advocating it for years because we clearly understand its importance to economic development and the creation of a more pro-business environment. We understand the region is the organizing structure of the economy. Yes, we have multiple cities and counties but their economies are inextricably linked by tremendous economic overlaps and commonality of interest.

The old adage “a rising tide floats all boats” is certainly applicable in Hampton Roads.

At the Hampton Roads Chamber we’ve been boisterous proponents of regionalism for a long time. We’ve penned op-eds, we’ve held forums and panel discussions and we’ve even written it into our mission.

 

Well, enough talk. The local chambers in Hampton Roads mean business. We want to get things done for the business community in a big way so we’re moving past simply talking of regionalism and creating a Hampton Roads Regional Chamber Alliance.

The alliance will be made up of six local chambers: The Hampton Roads Chamber, Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce, Isle of Wight-Smithfield-Windsor Chamber of Commerce, Greater Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Alliance, Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce.

Working together, we will have a collective impact that will facilitate greater regional economic prosperity, growth, vitality and greater strength in shaping public policy related to regional business issues. There are no dues. There are no turf wars. There is no competition. The Regional Chamber Alliance will only focus on regional issues where there is unanimity among the members; local chambers will continue to focus on local issues. Each chamber stands on its own, as we always have, yet we come together to pool the businesses we represent to create one powerful voice on issues impacting the business community of the region.

The Hampton Roads Regional Chamber Alliance will be a win-win for the region and the local chambers. Local chamber executives will control the information sent to their members with a voluntary sharing of information. Now we can increase communication between the chambers and increase the visibility and mutually benefit from promotion, as appropriate.

Local chamber senior executives will meet on a routine bases to discuss regional issues and mutually support local issues as appropriate and desired. And the local chamber boards of directors will hold an annual meeting to work on business community collaboration and networking. We will start working regionally as a chamber alliance, learning from each other and putting steps in place to align our focus to benefit the entire Hampton Roads business community.

The formation of the Hampton Roads Regional Chamber Alliance is an important step in achieving the regional identity Hampton Roads needs. With one united voice behind regional issues like economic development, workforce development, infrastructure development and quality of life, we can make a bigger impact in our advocacy efforts.

A united Hampton Roads becomes an influential part of the Virginia Urban Crescent. The Virginia Urban Crescent includes Hampton Roads, Richmond and Northern Virginia and represents 75 percent of the state population. That’s an incredible force working together on areas of common interest at the Capitol.

 

With the formation of the Regional Chamber Alliance, we’re joining the majority of Hampton Roads residents in being regional thinkers. A 2015 study by Old Dominion University economists found that 65 percent of the region’s workers live one municipality and work in another. As such, Hampton Roads residents have a vested interest in the development and regulations of multiple localities. Hampton Roads residents are already living a regional existence, and the business community is following suit.

The Hampton Roads Chamber “means business.” It’s our new tagline and the backbone of our new brand and mission. Our strategic direction pledges we will work to be an impactful advocate, powerful economic partner and inspiring ignitor for the Hampton Roads region.

With the creation the Hampton Roads Chamber Alliance we’re partnering with the other chambers in the region to take a major step to create actionable change for the region. We are devoted to promoting the importance of regionalism and the power of collective impact in Hampton Roads. We hope we’ll inspire you to join us.

 

The Chamber’s staff continues to be focused on helping you and your business find greater success.  Remember, this is YOUR Chamber – we work for you!  Let’s keep the conversation going.  

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